Motorcheck Used Car Guide: Lexus RX400h

Years built: 2005 to 2012
Bodystyles: Five-door premium SUV

What is it?

We’ve become used, in the last few years, to Lexus being a hybrid-only brand. Toyota’s luxury division, which has been upsetting the expensive German apple cart for more than 25 years now, has even ditched diesel models in the Irish market, so keen is it to spread the word of clean, efficient hybrid power. Given all the bad publicity currently being suffered by diesel, that suddenly seems pretty prescient.
The 2005 RX400h was not only the first of Lexus’ hybrids (the LS600h limo would follow a year later) but it was the first hybrid 4x4, and therefore the first to try to sidestep the environmental brickbats being thrown at big, luxurious, thirsty SUVs.

Which one should I buy?

lexus rx400h 1If you want a hybrid, then there’s only one model – the RX400h which uses a 3.3-litre petrol V6 tied into an electric motor and a stack of batteries. This is mid-2000s tech we’re talking about here, so there is no option to plug it into the mains to charge those batteries up, and you won’t see the same ultra-low Co2 figures that Lexus is able to extract from its newest RX model, which has just been launched.
That said, if you drive it very, very gently (and the combination of big petrol engine, heavy batteries and tricky CVT automatic transmission means you have to learn its ways carefully to get the best from it) you can achieve some fuel consumption figures which are remarkable for a big, petrol-engined 4x4. Will you do better than a conventional, rival diesel? That probably depends largely on your driving style and where you do most of your driving – the RX will show off its fuel-saving abilities best in town, where the hybrid system can do its best work. Fully charged, and being incredibly gentle with the throttle, you can potentially squeeze 1.5km out of the batteries without troubling the petrol engine.
Inside, you’ll find a hugely luxurious interior with very comfy seats and the RX was one of the first cars to come with a touch-screen infotainment system as standard. It’s a bit clunky now, compared to the current generation, but still pretty posh looking.
There was a non-hybrid RX350 V6 petrol too, but very few Irish buyers went for it and it was quietly dropped from the price list, making the RX an all-hybrid model.
How much should I spend? Around €11,000 for a 2007 RX400h SE
Here’s one we found:
2007 RX400h. 134,000km, three owners, FSH, €11,945 from a Toyota main dealer.

What goes wrong?

lexus rx400h 4Almost nothing but that in its own sense creates a few problems. The only recurrent fault we can find on the RX400h is that the boot latch can sometimes stick shut or open. That’s it, which for a car with this many complex systems and sub-systems is truly remarkable. Now, that’s good news in the sense that even if you buy an old one, with high mileage, it’s probably going to continue to operate more or less flawlessly. The hybrid batteries don’t seem to degrade over time and even fiddly electronics continue to work without major issues.
Now, the downside to that is that it’s easy to disguise any potential trickery. Cars with mileage that has been turned back, even significantly so, may not display the tell-tale wear and tear that you’d expect to be the giveaway. Cars that have been abused and improperly looked after may also not show the signs of having suffered that kind of treatment. So, make sure you carry out a full and complete history check of the car, speaking to former owners if possible. When a car is this reliable and solidly built, it kind of becomes a canvas for the less scrupulous sort of car seller.

Anything else?

While the RX400h is technically a four-wheel-drive car (the rear wheels are powered not by a propshaft but by an electric motor connected to the hybrid system) don’t try and take it off-road. Even a very slightly bumpy field can be the undoing of an RX, so keep it on the road where it was designed to be driven.
And when you’ve found your perfect Lexus RX400h don’t forget to get hit history checked by motorcheck.ie.