Lexus

Rarely do the terms “luxury” and “green” go together as they relate to saving the world’s finite fuel resources. You either want the “goods,” or you don’t. There can be no middle ground. Well, Lexus will dispute those statements and back up its claim that you can go green while going luxe, all in a reasonably priced package.

Their answer: The all-new 2010 RX 450h Hybrid.

The RX 450h Hybrid could be called the “Ultimate Urban Machine,” as it adds 40 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats in the upright position, and an amazing 80.3 cubic feet of space when you fold flat the 40/20/40 split rear seats. This “Adaptable Cargo Area” also has rear seats that can slide backward and forward, and features a two-part tonneau cover to conceal valuables or cover loose gear. For convenience, the rear seats fold remotely via levers on both sides of the cargo area.

Styling for 2010 RX models breaks no new ground, as the 450h strongly resembles the 400h it replaces. And there is nothing wrong with that, as the RX lineup, gas or hybrid, has always been attractive.

The RX interior is very inviting, blending somewhat odd dashboard angles into a pleasant and informative driver-oriented cockpit. Wood and aluminum trim meld with high-quality plastics to surround passengers in luxury. New for 2010 is the “Remote Touch” controller, The RX answer to rotary controllers favored by German car makers. It resembles and operates like a computer mouse, allowing you to highlight your center console screen choice (radio, navigation, etc.) by moving the controller, then selecting by clicking a button on the controller’s left side. It’s fairly easy to use (provided you are right-handed), but to me it represents a step backward for Lexus. I loved the simplicity of previous touch-screen units. No need to copy the Germans on this one, as you must take your eyes off the road longer to make choices than you would with a touch-screen system. One must-have interior option is the Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System ($1,610). This 7.1 system features 15 speakers and sounds awesome.

On the safety front, the new RX features 10 airbags (including driver and front passenger knee airbags), stability and traction control, and available Pre-Collision System (PCS).

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PCS uses a front mounted radar sensor to monitor the distance and closing speed to a vehicle in front of you. If the system determines a crash is unavoidable, PCS tightens seat belts and pre-charges the brake assist system for maximum braking power. The system costs $1,500 and is only available on AWD models.

Oh yes, the RX is good on gas, but you knew that already. EPA numbers are 28 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. On the center console screen, you can view how your RX is sparingly using fuel, and recapturing energy through regenerative braking. Also new for 2010 is the ability to travel briefly (and at low speed up to 10 mph) in electric-only mode, as long as there is sufficient battery reserve power to do so.

RX models with front-wheel drive start at $42,110 (add $875 for delivery and processing), and $43,700 for all-wheel drive (again, add $875).

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So go green and look good doing it. Lexus would have it no other way.