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2016-lexus-rx450h-frontThe Lexus RX 450h is a completely revised model this year featuring slightly larger dimensions, updated styling, and the signature Lexus spindle grille. A sportier F Sport model is also available for those who want to move even farther upscale on the SUV ladder.

This SUV’s hybrid system uses a 3.5-liter Atkinson cycle V-6 with a 13.0:1 compression ratio to eke out 259 horsepower and 257 lb-ft torque. Augmented by a 165 horsepower electric motor, this front-drive propulsion system delivers a combined 308 horsepower. Opting for the all-wheel drive variant adds a rear transaxle with a second 67 horsepower electric motor. The front-drive RX 450h is EPA rated at 31 city and 30 highway mpg, with the AWD version earning 30/28 mpg.

2016-lexus-rx450h-cabinSofter springs, aluminum hood and door panels, and acoustic glass all combine to enhance efficiency and provide a pleasurable and quieter driving experience. An 8-inch EMV display, 12-speaker premium audio system with subwoofer, Bluetooth, HD Radio with iTunes tagging, and backup monitor are standard fare. A 12.3-inch screen is optional.

The RX 450h benefits from the growing array of advanced electronics and connected technologies being integrated in the Lexus line. Key additions this year include a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and Adaptive Cruise Control. The latter maintains a safe distance from the vehicle ahead and brings the RX to a total stop if traffic comes to a halt.

2016-lexus-rx450h-action-rearThe list continues. A Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert keeps a driver aware of surrounding vehicles. Lane-Departure Assist will issue an alert to keep you on track and provide gentle steering input to bring you back into your lane if it senses you’re drifting.

While the base RX 450h is quite the looker, things heat up a bit with the optional F-Sport variant and its sportier styling, 20 inch aluminum wheels, unique grille and lower spoiler, and distinctive F-Sport badging. Inside, the F Sport gets unique gauges, aluminum pedals and trim, and exclusive F Sport seats. All this goodness comes at $3,400 above the model’s base $52,235 MSRP.


2016-rav4-hybrid-rear-viewThe Toyota RAV4 that emerged an all-new generation SUV in 2013 features a stylish refresh this year with a bolder front fascia, restyled bumpers, and sharper rocker panels. That’s not the big news for 2016, though, because the RAV4 now features an important new addition – the first-ever hybrid powertrain in the RAV4.

While an all-electric RAV4 variant developed with Tesla had previously been offered in limited numbers and markets beginning in 2012 and an earlier generation RAV4 EV was offered in small numbers in the late 1990s, this is a very different scenario. Toyota has priced the RAV4 Hybrid base price aggressively at $28,370 and expects it to represent about 10 to 15 percent of all 2016 RAV4 models sold.

2016-rav4-hybrid-energy-monitorToyota's two-motor Hybrid Synergy Drive system is used in the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid, the same as in the Lexus NX 300h hybrid crossover. In this application the RAV4 Hybrid comes with Electronic On-Demand AWD-I, making all-wheel-drive standard in the model. Fuel efficiency is rated at 34 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. Driving range is just over 480 miles.

The RAV4 Hybrid integrates a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder gasoline engine and 141 horsepower electric motor to drive the front wheels. A 67 horsepower electric motor provides torque to the rear wheels when the vehicle’s control system senses power is needed. Electrical energy is provided by a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. An electronically controlled continuously variable transmission is used. Several operating modes are provided. ECO mode favors fuel economy by optimizing throttle response and air conditioning output. EV mode allows the RAV4 Hybrid to run solely on battery power for about a half-mile while traveling below 25 mph.

2016-toyota-rav4-hybrid-limited-dashInside, more premium features are used this year including soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels and a leather steering wheel. A 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display is included in a revised gauge cluster. The five passenger crossover offers ample room for five adults plus 38.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the rear seats, expanding to 73.4 cubic feet with the 60/40 split rear seats folded. Rear-passenger knee room is enhanced with front seats that feature a slim seat back. The rear seatbacks also recline several degrees for added passenger comfort.

The RAV4 Hybrid is one of the first U.S. models to offer Toyota Safety Sense (TSS), a new multi-feature safety system that includes forward collision warning and automatic pre-collision braking. There is also lane-departure alert, radar-based adaptive cruise control, pedestrian pre-collision warning, and automatic high beams. A new Bird's Eye View Monitor with Perimeter Scan provides a live rotating 360-degree view of the surroundings on a 7-inch touchscreen using four cameras mounted on the front, side mirrors, and rear of the car. Limited models include blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts as well.