Think of the 2013 Lexus RX 450h as the ideal vehicle to carry you along the path to spiritual enlightenment: It is supremely quiet, enshrouds you in the comfort and safety, and moves you forward without feeling the need to compete with anyone else on the road.
Of course, to get all of this you have to pay a small premium, but silence is golden -- particularly if you're a parent of small children -- and the promise of enlightenment is too tempting to forego.
The "h" stands for hybrid and 2013 RX 450h runs about $6,600 more than the non-hybrid RX models. You'd spend that much going to an ashram in India, and driving this car is like an everyday mini-retreat.
If you demand driving excitement, the RX 450h is not for you. It glides along the street; there's no burly acceleration, just an easygoing build-up to higher speeds. However, don't be fooled into thinking it's not powerful. The RX 450h makes a combined 295 horsepower that ensures it easily gets over the highest peaks.
The RX is a midsize crossover that's not ideal for larger families like mine, but if you have two children or fewer there is plenty to recommend it. It's been refreshed for 2013, with updates to the grille and rear taillights as well as a few new exterior paint color options. A power liftgate and a USB input are now standard.
The 2013 Lexus RX 450h with front-wheel drive has a starting price of $47,205, including an $895 destination charge. Choosing all-wheel drive adds $1,400. My all-wheel-drive test car with a DVD entertainment system, navigation, blind spot warning and an upgraded stereo cost $64,339.
The 2013 RX 450h features Lexus' new horizontal grille. A rear spoiler as well as all-new headlights, daytime running lights and taillights complete the crossover's sleek look. Overall, the car's exterior has a demure quality that allows you to slide in and out of traffic, parking spots and the many roles you play with ease.
The doors and step-in height were all manageable for my kindergartener. Younger ones will need some help, but you're so blissed out in this crossover that you don't mind doing it.
The cargo area is sizable with 40.0 cubic feet of space behind the backseat. The rear seats are split 40/20/40 and fold to create 80.3 cubic feet of space.
The RX 450h has a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that's paired to electric motors and a high-voltage battery to provide 295 hp. On all-wheel-drive models, like the one I tested, there's an additional electric motor to power the rear wheels. The all-wheel-drive RX 450h gets an EPA-estimated 30/28 mpg city/highway; the front-wheel-drive version gets 32/28 mpg. It runs on premium unleaded gasoline.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
As any guru will teach you, interior comfort is paramount to the pursuit of enlightenment. Thankfully, the RX450h provides plenty of it. The center console, steering wheel and interior trim and accents have all been refreshed for 2013. Everything looks and feels soothing.
One fun new feature is the ambient blue lighting around the gauges whenever you're driving efficiently. It's understated but especially fun for nighttime drives and subtly challenges you to drive with greater consciousness.
My test car's rich, cognac-colored leather seats are part of the Luxury Package ($6,135). There's plenty of support in all seating positions, and with the 10-way power adjustable front seats and sliding and reclining rear seats, it's easy to make room for the people you'll tote around on a daily basis.
Storage is a mixed bag. There are five cupholders plus four bottleholders, a glove box and center console that don't fit larger items, and a small fold-down storage bin in the middle of the rear seats. There is also a storage area under the center stack that can't fit a large purse but can hold some DVDs and a small bag of bite-size cupcakes (essential to my children's Friday afternoon enlightenment).
The available DVD entertainment system has dual screens that can display different shows, giving you the omnipotence to calm the warring factions in the crossover's rear seats. However, like many entertainment systems, it's controlled predominantly by a remote control. This is great for older kids, but for younger ones like mine, the onus of operation falls to the driver (me) and that's tough. It eventually involved pulling over. The multimedia system, however, is controlled more easily with a mouse that allows you to navigate the various screens. It's also worth noting that for a high-tech system, the center stack is refreshingly uncomplicated.
While this car has all the trappings of a peaceful, luxurious family car, it is not a viable everyday car for a family like mine with three small kids. Fitting three child-safety seats across the backseat was a stretch, and we had to forego some things (like my husband's skis) for a weekend trip to the snowy mountains due to limited space. If we had one less child, we could have put the 40/20/40-split seats to use, folding the middle section down and fitting my hubby's skis in the RX. Alas, we couldn't decide which child to leave on the side of the road so we left the skis instead.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
The 2013 RX 450h with all-wheel drive has earned an overall safety score of five stars and the front-wheel-drive version received four stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There are two sets of lower Latch anchors in the outboard rear seats, and they're relatively easy to access, though not a breeze to use with the somewhat stiff leather upholstery. Three top tether hooks sit at the midway point of the rear seatbacks, but don't let that fool you into thinking you can fit three car seats. Read Cars.com's Car Seat Check to find out how the RX deals with child-safety seats.
Standard features are front-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, an electronic stability system, traction control, active front head restraints and 10 airbags, including knee airbags and side-impact airbags for the front and rear outboard seats. As if that weren't enough, you get a free year of Lexus Safety Connect, which alerts the authorities in the event of a serious collision and puts you in touch with a 24/7 response center at the touch of a button.
Optional features are all-wheel drive, auto leveling xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights, a blind spot warning, lane departure warning, precollision warning system, adaptive cruise control and front and rear parking sensors. There's also an optional head-up display, which projects driver information onto the windshield thereby keeping your eyes on the road.