DETROIT, MI - Realizing that affluent consumers might be interested in a luxury vehicle that employs a hybrid powertrain, Lexus launched the RX 400h at the 2004 North American International Auto Show. The 2005 Lexus RX 400h will share the same Hybrid Synergy Drive technology as the 2005 Toyota Highlander Hybrid and the new for '04 Toyota Prius but in a package slathered in leather and wood trim.
We think that this is one of the most significant developments in the automotive industry, a litmus test that seems certain to produce positive results. Why? Think of luxury, and you reflect on effortless acceleration, a spacious cabin, a silky-smooth ride and a sumptuously appointed interior. Now think of the hybrid vehicles you've gotten to know in the past few years. Suffering a bit of cognitive dissonance over those images? We aren't surprised. Hybrid vehicles are usually compact sedans, with economy-minded interiors and agonizingly slow acceleration. For those with means, it takes a bit of a sacrifice to drive one of these vehicles on a daily basis, the logic being (at least until a flock of celebrities showed up at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre for the Academy Awards in a squadron of Toyota Priuses last year) that people who put their purses first and complain the loudest about fluctuations in fuel prices are most likely to buy hybrid vehicles.
Úntil now, carmakers hadn't considered that those who can afford to buy the nicer things in life might want to be environmentally correct, too. They don't need a gas-sipping car, but they like the idea of consuming fewer natural resources and emitting less effluvium into the atmosphere than your usual ground-pounding SÚV without giving up space, comfort or power.
The 2005 Lexus RX 400h aims to change all that by becoming "the world's first luxury hybrid SÚV." It is based upon the Lexus RX 330, which provides luxury, quality, space and comfort in spades. Practically every safety and comfort amenity is either standard or optional on the Lexus RX 330, making it a great foundation for a new kind of hybrid vehicle.
Now add to that mix greater thrust, faster merging and less time spent at the gas station, and it's easy to see why the 270-horsepower 2005 Lexus RX 400h will garner attention and deplete bank accounts. Thanks to the electric motor that augments the standard RX 330's 3.3-liter V6, this hybrid powertrain makes 40 more horsepower than the standard setup. To recharge the electric motor's battery pack on the fly, the RX 400h uses a regenerative braking system to capture the energy created by braking, which normally gets wasted in the form of heat. All of this techno-wizardry results in an average fuel economy rating of 27.6 mpg while simultaneously accelerating to 60 mph in less than eight seconds. Not too shabby for a vehicle that will take you more than 600 miles on a single tank of gas and is rated a Super Últra Low Emission Vehicle (SÚLEV). A continuously variable transmission (CVT) ships the power to the front or all four wheels.
The 2005 Lexus RX 400h will be furnished similar to the RX 330, with the buyer's choice of front- or all-wheel-drive. Passive and active safety equipment like stability control, side curtain airbags and knee airbags complement the top-rated crash safety scores. The RX 400h will also be the first Lexus to include Vehicle Dynamic Management (VDM), a new stability control system that can predict a slide or a skid. In such situations, VDM will remove the slack in the front seat belts and ready the panic assist brakes for maximum stopping effort. VDM also operates less intrusively than the existing Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system.
Inside, the cabin is richly trimmed with soft leather, polished wood and brushed aluminum accents. Options like a reverse camera, adaptive cruise control, a power rear liftgate and an air suspension system highlight the available goodies list. Outside, Lexus has made minor modifications to the RX 330's styling to differentiate the RX 400h. Lexus doesn't think the affluent hybrid buyer wants to announce in a loud voice that they are green, so this new model won't resemble a jacked-up Prius.
Equipped with the same Hybrid Synergy Drive system, the seven-passenger 2005 Toyota Highlander Hybrid will cost less than the Lexus while producing the same performance, but if your priority is to be pampered, the Lexus makes a fine palanquin. Luxury combined with environmental responsibility? Thanks to Lexus, now you can have it all. Source - Lexus Media
Lexus Introduces RX 400h, World's First Luxury Hybrid SÚV
January 5, 2004 - Detroit, MI - Lexus introduced what will be the world's first luxury gas-electric hybrid SÚV today at a press conference at the North American International Auto Show. The RX 400h will be powered by a V6 Hybrid Synergy Drive system that combines sub-eight second zero-to-sixty acceleration with fuel-efficiency equivalent to the current average for a four-cylinder compact sedan. (concept carz) The RX 400h will also be rated Super Últra Low Emission Vehicle (SÚLEV), one of the most stringent emissions rating in the industry.
"The new RX 400h re-defines the midsize luxury SÚV market while raising awareness and acceptance of hybrid gas-electric vehicles among luxury car and SÚV buyers," said Denny Clements, Lexus group vice president and general manager. "This is truly a breakthrough in terms of hybrid gas-electric powertrains because, for the first time, it adds a new performance dimension to the traditional hybrid advantages of high mileage and low emissions."
Lexus created the car-based, luxury SÚV segment with the launch of the innovative RX 300 more than five years ago. For 2004, Lexus made significant enhancements to the luxury content, performance and safety features with the introduction of the RX 330, making this vehicle the perfect match for the new V6 hybrid system.
The new RX 400h will become the premium model in the RX series, offering smoother and quieter operation, increased performance, significantly better fuel economy and a host of high technology, safety and comfort features.
Vehicle Dynamic Management
The RX 400h will introduce another industry first called VDM, or Vehicle Dynamic Management. Monitoring a variety of sensors, the system is designed to anticipate the onset of a vehicle skid or slide and then helps correct the situation with a combination of braking and throttle control. The new VDM system is less obtrusive than conventional VSC but ultimately more effective.
More Powerful, Advanced Drivetrain
The 400h hybrid powertrain combines a powerful electric motor with the highly efficient 3.3-liter V6 engine found in the RX 330 to significantly improve low to mid-speed acceleration and overall fuel efficiency. The system is a "full hybrid," meaning that the RX 400h is capable of operating in separate gas or electric modes, as well as a mode that combines power from both.
The RX 400h will develop a peak system output of approximately 270 horsepower and deliver combined fuel economy significantly better than the current average compact sedan rating of 27.6 miles-per-gallon. Zero-to-sixty acceleration will also improve over the current RX 330's sub-8 second time. The RX 400h with optional all-wheel-drive, which features a rear-drive electric motor, will accelerate quicker yet.
The RX 400h uses a regenerative braking system to further boost system efficiency. When the vehicle is coasting or the brakes are applied, the electric motor functions as a generator, capturing kinetic energy that would normally be lost as heat through the brakes and converting it into useable electricity to recharge the batteries.
One of the most remarkable features of the RX 400h is how similar this SÚV is to its cousin, the RX 330. The computer-controlled powertrain seamlessly blends power from the V6 gasoline engine, the electric drive motor and the generator. The driver does not feel the vehicle changing operational modes. In fact, the only give-a-way is the absence of the traditional tachometer. In its place, the RX 400h has an illuminated power meter that displays the level of power generated by the gas-electric hybrid powertrain. The driver will also be able to monitor the gas-electric power distribution on the available seven-inch touch panel display screen that comes with the navigation system.
Luxury and Convenience Features
Lexus craftsmanship and attention to even the smallest details continue with the RX 400h. Nearly every feature available in the RX 330 is found in the RX 400h, with the exception of an exclusive RX 400h use of brushed aluminum accents inside that convey a high-tech look and feel to match its capabilities. The three-spoke steering wheel features easy-to-use controls for the audio system as well as the hybrid system's on-board computer monitor located in the center instrument panel.
"We believe the RX 400h will exceed the expectations of luxury vehicle buyers and establish a premium market for performance-oriented, fuel-efficient gas-electric hybrids," said Clements.
Powertrain: Engine - 3.3 liter V6
Electric motor(s) - Permanent magnet
Estimated total horsepower - 270
Expected EPA emissions rating - Super Últra Low Emission Vehicle (SÚLEV)
Transmission - Electronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT)
Wheelbase: 106.9 in.
Length: 186.6 in.
Width: 72.6 in.
Height: 66.1 in.Source - Lexus Media