Lexus RX450h hybrid and Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon
Not too long ago a hybrid gas electric vehicle was viewed as some sort of science experiment. Fast-forward a decade and hybrid vehicles are now all the rage and moving into the premium segment. Lexus was one of the pioneers in offering a hybrid in its line-up of luxury vehicles so it was only natural for Lexus to offer a hybrid version of its popular RX350 SUV in the form of the RX450h hybrid.
Style-wise, the RX450h is almost indistinguishable from its gasoline-powered sibling, the RX350. Only a trained eye will spot the hybrid’s specific styling cues, such as the unique wheel design, subtle blue hybrid badging and light blue tinted tail lamp lenses. A cool exterior feature is the available LED headlamps that give the RX450h a high-tech appearance.
Inside, luxury abounds with an inviting cabin environment, complemented by soft supple leather, highly polished wood grain trim and lots of high-tech gizmos. One driver-friendly feature that really stands out is the Remote Touch control for items like the audio, navigation and climate system. Of all the hand controllers offered by premium brands, the Lexus system is by far the easiest to operate, with intuitive controls, unlike the frustrating iDrive interface system offered in BMWs.
The driving experience is also unique as the power comes on in a seamless fashion and allows the RX450h to operate either in electric mode or a combination of gas engine and electric motors. A huge benefit is that in electric mode there are zero tailpipe emissions and zero use of fuel, which allows the RX450h to sip gas like a compact car. It’s no slouch either as the acceleration is shockingly quick for a 4,800 pound SUV.
At the other end of the utility spectrum is the newly introduced Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon. From the rear doors forward, the Sport Wagon shares the same sharply creased body design as the CTS sedan. The unique wagon shape extends from the rear doors and stretches the roof line offering added cargo carrying utility. Don’t be fooled by the ‘Wagon’ label as the CTS Sport Wagon leans more toward the sport side of the equation. The utility part offers tangible benefits only when the rear seats are folded down, greatly increasing cargo carrying capacity. Just make sure that it is held down securely, as the CTS begs to be driven enthusiastically. A big difference between a wagon and an SUV is in the vehicles’ handling dynamics. The CTS has a much lower centre of gravity than an SUV like the RX450h and is able to handle corners at higher limits. The downside is the lack of higher ground clearance for deep snow or light cottage trails.
Powering the CTS is either a 270-horsepower 3.0-litre V-6 or a higher performance 304-horsepower 3.6-L V-6 with Direct Fuel Injection. What is totally unexpected is the availability of a six-speed manual transmission for enthusiasts. Typical of Cadillac, the CTS Sport Wagon offers a long list of available features such as a Sport Package, Panorama Roof, 19-inch wheels and a host of luxury items like the “Sapele Pommele” wood accents on the steering wheel and various interior panels for added style.
Lexus RX 450h, 5-passenger SUV
Engine: 295hp 3.5-L V-6 with front and rear electric drive motors
Fuel economy L/100km: City – 6.6 / Hwy – 7.2
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
Drivetrain: On-Demand All-Wheel-Drive
Base price: $59,500
Cadillac CTS, 5-passenger Sport Wagon
Base engine: 270 hp 3.0-L V-6 or avail. 304 hp 3.6-L V-6
Fuel economy L/100 km: City – 11.8 / Hwy – 7.5
Transmission: Six-speed manual or automatic with sequential shift
Drive train: Rear-Wheel-Drive or avail. All-wheel drive
Base price: $40,650