We Tested It: Lexus RX450 Hybrid – A Friend in Winter

During the recent holiday break, I took the Lexus RX 450 hybrid on a 2,000km tour which included snowshoeing in central Ontario, skiing in New England and vile driving conditions everywhere.
This luxury crossover transports up to five passengers in profound comfort with space galore for ski gear, luggage and presents. It’s also excellent on gas, tippling a modest 6.8 L/100km in combined city/highway ratings. But this story celebrates its safety features. The Lexus RX450 h is definitely your friend in ugly weather.


All-wheel drive: Being able to apply power in four places instead of two is a definite advantage on slippery, unstable surfaces. One night we were forced to queue on a severe angle in nasty winds near Jay Peak, Vermont while cars ahead and behind were towed away. After a half hour, police finally reopened the road, but we were among the only cars to move; two more slid off the verge.

(Careful! Just because all-wheel drive can get you going, it won’t stop you. 4x4s full of baffled urban skiers littered the ditches of Vermont’s Highway 105.)

TRAC: Lexus’s site reports that its traction control system “improves straight-line control in rain, snow or ice.” We had all three for three straight days. On the aforementioned icy hill, alone, the feature kicked in three times within 400 metres, automatically braking spinning tires, straightening us while, all around, others slipped and slid.

Anti-lock brakes: I nearly skidded past a stop sign on a sharp angle, and steep hill. The ABS kicked in. A rapid-fire snap and release of the brakes, it’s reminiscent of a Magic Fingers massage. Genuine snow tires that remain soft in extreme cold would have been preferable to the ‘mud + snow’ all-seasons supplied but, luckily, we only skidded for a couple of feet.

Hands-free nav
: You don’t normally think of GPS as a safety feature but it became one. In southern Quebec, whiteout conditions became so bad we couldn’t see turn-offs. The navigation system recognizes your voice (unlike my phone company’s, it actually works) and directs you. Twice it showed us, accurate to the inch, roads that we wouldn’t have noticed in the blizzard.

Double wishbone suspension: Again, you don’t think of it as a safety feature. That is, not until every surface you’re on is uneven. Then you appreciate every extra centimeter of tire that the cleverly designed suspension searches for on the road. Of course there are other benefits. When the storm abated, throwing it hard into corners became a joyful defiance of physics. This crossover handles more like a fun coupe.

What of the other safety features? Among them are airbags for your knees, also pretensioners and force limiters, which anticipate crash conditions and ready your seatbelt to cradle you while inflicting minimal damage to your torso. They merit mention but, thankfully, we didn’t need these because the others worked so well.

As tested with the Touring Package: $62,300

– by Steven Bochenek