After having only one model of the Toyota Prius since it was introduced as a 2001 model, the company is finally making use of the Prius hybrid platform for other models. At $45,700 with all-wheel drive, the Lexus RX 450h is an expensive way to save money. A CT 200h tuned up by Gazoo Racing will compete in the Adenauer ADAC Rundstrecken-Trophy, a six hour endurance race.
Here’s the math. The combined government city/highway mileage estimate for the all-wheel-drive hybrid RX is 29 mpg. The model starts above $45,000. The conventional V-6 model delivers a combined 20 mpg, says the federal agency, and is closer to $40,000.
Note that premium gas is recommended for both and that it averages about $4.25 a gallon nationally. So, using the EPA estimates and that gas price, in 15,000 miles the hybrid will use 517 gallons costing $2,198. The standard RX will use 750 gallons, costing $3,188 — or $990 more. The roughly $5,000 extra that you paid for the hybrid divided by $990 means a payback time of more than five years. Obviously, the less you drive, the longer the payback time. But it shortens as gasoline prices rise.
Zero-to-60 mph performance is nearly identical for the conventional model and the hybrid RX: a quick 7.5 seconds. Note, however, that the hybrid’s automatic transmission is of the stemless or “continuously variable” type. It delivers better fuel economy but tends to accentuate engine noise. Both transmissions offer the option of clutchless manual shifting.
The 2011 RX gets four out of a possible five stars for frontal crash protection and five out of five for side impacts in the federal government’s new and tougher rating system. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety likes the RX even more, calling the RX series a “top safety pick.”
Gazoo Racing, a Japanese group racing various Toyota and Lexus models, missed an opportunity to also tune up the hybrid system of the CT 200h. A higher capacity lithium ion battery pack and a higher torque electric motor would give the car added acceleration.
The race will be held on Saturday, May 14