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Family Friendly and Green: 2014 Lexus RX450h

It’s easy to see why minivans would get the awards for being best vehicle choices for families. But some sport utility vehicles get tapped for those honors, as well. U.S. News & World Report recently named the 2014 Lexus RX 450h as one of their “2014 Best Cars for Families.” What caught the editors’ attention? The back seat, apparently, writes our automotive editor Sally Miller Wyatt.

(Above): Exterior view of the 2014 Lexus RX.

Ask any parent of more than one child: a cramped back seat can be a deal breaker when it comes to selecting the family car. If the seat is too small, someone is going to be complaining about having personal space invaded by the baby’s sticky fingers or an annoying older brother.

So, the 2014 Lexus RX gets the award for its large, accommodating back seat that offers lots of foot, hip and headroom. These seats also fold in a 60/40 split, and can slide and recline. There is also an available dual screen rear seat entertainment system, located in the front passenger headrests, that includes a 120V AC outlet for those rear passengers, audio/video inputs, dual wireless headphones and a DVD player with wireless remote control. All this is very handy to have if you take frequent long trips and that will help to entertain the children. But, for this Mom, on those short runs from home to school, the orthodontist or sports practices, I prefer to keep the entertainment system off, and the captive conversation on. When else are you going to have a chance to hear all the latest playground goings-on?

(Above): Interior view of the 2014 Lexus RX.

Lexus first introduced its luxury RX SUV back in 1998 and then brought a hybrid version into the line-up in 2004. For 2014, you’re going to find a host of bells and whistles on board any one of the five Lexus RX models, not only when it comes to for safety features, but for technological gadgets, as well.

We had an opportunity to test drive the RX 450 RX Hybrid version. A full hybrid, it can operate in gas-engine only, or electric only modes. It combines a 3.5-liter Atkinson-cycle V6 engine with a front-mounted 116-kW electric motor generator. It’s a powerful pairing, offering a quiet, smooth driving experience with only the slightest bit of hesitation at hard acceleration from a stop. Gas mileage for the hybrid runs around 30 mpg for city driving, 28 for highway driving.

The list of standard features is very long. They include 10-way power front seats; bird’s eye maple accents; dual-zone automatic climate controls in front and back; a nine-speaker Lexus Premium Audio System that includes an in-dash CD player; Bluetooth audio streaming, and Sirius XM Satellite Radio. If you opt for the Display Audio/Rear Back-up Camera feature, you also upgrade to 12 speakers.

(Above): Exterior view of the 2014 Lexus RX 450h.

Of course, seats are covered in soft leather, and the vehicle has a power rear lift gate. That is a must-have for busy parents who always have their arms full of packages and kids. Vehicle settings can be customized, including personal door-lock preferences, interior/exterior light adjustments, driver’s seat easy exit, and even window closure settings.  A Luxury Package adds ventilated front seats, HD Radio, a navigation system with voice command, and a back-up camera.

Safety features include a host of air bags, including one for the driver’s knees; active front headrests to help reduce whiplash injury; and Smart Stop Technology, which automatically reduces engine power when the brakes are applied in an emergency.

(Above): Exterior view of the 2014 Lexus RX 450h.

Behind the wheel I found the driver’s seat to be very comfortable, and sitting up higher than you might expect. Visibility to the front and sides for the driver is very good, and to the rear, as well. Rear seat passengers have good views, thanks to large side windows.

The rear cargo area, with its more than 40 cubic feet of space, easily swallows up all the trappings of a family’s daily life.

The 2014 Lexus RX 450 offers families a luxurious way to travel, whether you all are just going about your everyday business, or off to some fancy adventure.

Sally Miller Wyatt is a freelance writer who writes family-oriented auto reviews for newspapers, magazines and the Web.


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OPINION: Siding with Sachin
TRIBUTE: Father of Modern Yoga
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