by Kristin Varela of MotherProof
To Do: Finish dishes; Fold laundry; Fuel car; Grocery shop; Bank deposit; Ballet recital; Fuel car again; Play group; deposit more money so I can FUEL CAR AGAIN! Isn’t summer supposed to be less hectic than the rest of the year? Well, listen up fellow moms, I’ve found a revolutionary way to cut down on our ‘To Do’ lists while helping us manage our budgeted fuel costs. The 2006 Lexus Rx 400h (the world’s first luxury hybrid SUV) can accomplish both of these things.
Now, I’m not recommending running out today and spending $50,000 on a car just to save a few bucks on gas, but if you’re in the market for a vehicle in that price range, you might want to stop and take a second glance at this one.
First thing’s first. Hybrid technology 101; a hybrid vehicle is a car that combines electric and gas operated engines. The Lexus is a “full hybrid” meaning that it can operate in strictly-electric or strictly-gas modes as well as a combination of the two. The electric battery is charged by capturing heat from the breaks and transforming it into electricity, so you do not need to plug it in.
The benefits are of course, higher fuel mileage and lower emissions. According to Lexus’ media relations, the Rx 400h gets an estimated 31 MPG city (exceeding other luxury SUV’s by more than 100%) and 27 MPG highway (a 67% increase over its non-hybrid version). A hybrid vehicle is unique in that it gets better gas mileage in city driving. This is because the electric engine is used in its electric-only mode when coasting and it’s charged when braking (so the more braking and coasting you do, the more you use the electric engine which requires no fuel). The gas engine is used when accelerating, so you use more fuel during highway driving when your foot is on the gas peddle most of the time.
Now, I’m not a power freak when it comes to cars. I’m simply interested in finding the quintessential mom-mobile that gets me and my brood from point A to point B safely and effectively. However, other hybrid vehicles I’ve driven thus far have an extreme disadvantage over non-hybrids because they’re lacking in the power department. Most noticeable they stink when trying to get up to highway speed quickly if running late for preschool pickup.
The Lexus Rx 400h actually performs better than the gas-only version. It accelerates faster and simply has more power, making it fun to drive. This is the first hybrid I’ve driven that doesn’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything to get the hybrid technology.
Standard equipment on this car includes a navigation system with rear back-up camera. Despite a grainy appearance, the touch-screen navigation proves to be easy to use. On the rare occasion that I get to an appointment super early, the navigation system helps me find the nearest shoe store to kill time browsing the latest flip-flop fashions.
The rear back-up camera is essential on this Lexus. Most children are taught to “stop, look, and listen” for cars pulling out of driveways. But, the undetectable sound of the electric engine when starting the vehicle up makes the “listening” part virtually useless. This combined with its jellybean-on-wheels appearance (causing a slight decrease in visibility out the back windows) makes the back-up camera and must-have safety feature.
Other family friendly features of the Lexus Rx 400h include standard leather seats, rear seats that slide back and forth (bringing your children closer to you, or creating more leg room when needed to install a rear-facing infant seat), a power rear tailgate (making it easy to load and unload the cargo area), and an easily accessible first aid kit (don’t tell my kids who look for every excuse to use Band-Aids).
On the flip side, the leather seats in my test vehicle are black. My
first impression is that they look very sleek and modern. After two
weeks of use, I discover that black leather highlights every footprint
and cracker crumb that my kids leave behind, making my car look
constantly filthy. It also seems to be much hotter in the summer than
lighter color options – so stick with grey.
The 2006 Lexus Rx 400h is a great way for an SUV family to get in on the hybrid craze. It’ll save you time at the gas pump and help you do your part in cleaning up our air so that our children’s children’s children will thank us.
LET’S TALK NUMBERS
LATCH Connectors: 2
Seating Capacity (includes driver): 5
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On
2006 Lexus Rx 400h Specifications
Base Price: $48,535
Price as Tested: $52,703
Engine: 3.3 Liter, V6 Hybrid, AWD
Fuel Economy: 31/27 MPG
Length: 187.2 inches
Width: 72.6 inches
Step In Height: 7.1 inch ground clearance
Turning Diameter: 37.4 feet
Cargo Space: 38.3 – 84.7 cubic feet
NHTSA Crash Test Ratings:
Driver’s Side: Not Tested
Passenger’s Side: Not Tested
Front Occupant: Not Tested
Rear Occupant: Not Tested
Rollover Resistance: Not Tested
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