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February 09, 2005

Lexus Hybrid SUV Aims for 30 mpg in City Driving


A photo of the Lexus 400h.

The Lexus 400h, the world's first luxury hybrid SUV, will hit the road in April.
Credit: Lexus

Lexus is gearing up for the launch of its hybrid electric sports utility vehicle (SUV), the RX 400h, in April, and announced on February 1st that the vehicle should achieve 30 miles per gallon (mpg) in city driving, a 67 percent improvement over the comparable RX 330. Lexus estimates that the RX 400h will achieve 26 mpg on the highway, for a combined mileage of 28 mpg. The RX 400h will draw on a maximum 268 horsepower and 3,500 foot-pounds of torque from a standstill to accelerate faster than the RX 330, reaching 60 miles per hour in only 7.3 seconds. Lexus has not yet announced its suggested retail price for the vehicle.

The RX 400h employs three motor-generators in its powertrain. The engine-driven generator can charge the battery pack or power other electric motors as needed, and serves as a starter motor for the engine. By regulating the amount of electrical power it produces, the generator also controls the output speed of the transaxle, eliminating any need for a clutch or viscous coupling in the transmission. Power from the engine and a 123-kilowatt front drive motor is distributed to the drive wheels via a continuously variable transmission, while a 50-kilowatt motor drives the rear axle. The RX 400h combines all that with Electronic Power Steering and a new Electronically Controlled Brake system to yield a new integrated control system for stability and traction, called the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management System. And if that's not enough technology for you, the RX 400h includes enough high-tech features to make a gearhead dizzy. See the Lexus press release and preliminary product sheet (PDF 128 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.

A new report from J.D. Power and Associates says that the growing number of hybrid vehicles available in the United States will not translate into significant market share. Although the report anticipates that 38 hybrid vehicle models will be available by 2011, it also expects the hybrid share of the U.S. automotive market to peak at 3 percent around that time. See the J.D. Power press release.

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