August 2020 What Drives Us
Hybrid Mid-Sizers Are Top-Sellers for Lexus and Toyota
By Beverly & Steve Smirnis
Lovers of luxe will gravitate toward the 2020 Lexus RX 450hL. The L adds 4 extra inches onto the back of the Lexus RX to give you a third row; albeit a little tight, those that need the occasional third row will appreciate it. The 2020 model has restyled headlights and a new bumper and a well-finished and well-appointed cabin for that sophisticated look inside and out. Advanced safety features, all-wheel drive, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. The 450hL is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that works with a pair of front-mounted electric motor-generators through a continuously variable automatic transmission to drive the front wheels, while a third electric motor powers the rear wheels. Total system output is 308 horsepower, and it gets 29 MPG combined.
Our RX 450hL test car showed MSRP at $56,400 with the Luxury trim level including a sunroof, wood interior trim and heated wood steering wheel, rear side sunshades, auto-dimming /power-folding side mirrors, and perforated-leather seating. The final price was about $65K after fully loading it with Intuitive Parking Assist, Panoramic View Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Braking, color heads-up display, touch-free power rear door with kick sensor, signature LED lamps, a 12.3-inch touchscreen with trackpad interface, and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system.
Compare the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid if a little more room legroom and more cargo space strikes your fancy and you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of power for even better fuel economy. The 2020 model has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine replacing the previous model’s V6. The gas engine was paired to three electric motors in our all-wheel-drive tester. Power is routed to the driven wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The total system power rates at 243 hp, about 60 hp less than before, but fuel economy is improved to a whopping 35 MPG—even more with the front-wheel-drive configuration, and you’ll only need two electric assist motors to power the CVT. You’ll notice improved quality of interior materials on the newest Highlander. The top-trim Platinum model with AWD, priced around $52K, will please luxe seekers without requiring a bunch of add-ons. Second-row captain’s chairs are standard with a bench optional if you need to seat eight.
Though optional hybrid powertrains are more expensive, one in every seven Lexus vehicles sold last year was a hybrid and Toyota expects hybrids to make up at least 15 percent of its 2020 sales. These automakers are banking on their continued focus on hybrids stacking up favorably against the coming onslaught of range-limited battery-electric alternatives.