Lexus RX 400h
PRICE $48,410 (as tested)
ENGINE 3.3-liter V-6/electric, 268 hp
The Lexus RX 400h couldn't have arrived at a more opportune moment. A luxury hybrid SUV that gets a respectable 31 mpg, it's a lush alternative to the conventional gas-guzzling giants now getting squeezed by skyrocketing fuel prices. But for the members of Hoobastank rolling in the Lexus near the beach in Palos Verdes, California, fuel-efficiency is the last thing on their minds. "The big question is whether this thing will help us pick up chicks," says drummer Chris Hesse from the front passenger seat. The L.A. schlock rockers have spent the morning editing lyrics for the upcoming follow-up to their double-platinum second album, The Reason. Singer Doug Robb, Hesse and guitarist Dan Estrin seem glad to be out of the house, munching on Chicken McNuggets amid a roomy interior loaded with goodies, such as a video monitor that displays the area behind the car.
Instead of throwing on some new tracks, Hesse surfs the NASA-grade 210-watt sound system for Tejano music. Just then a blond beach bunny in a BMW convertible cruises past in the opposite direction. Estrin whips a U-turn and floors it. "Easy, dude!" yells Robb, as the acceleration pushes him back into his seat. "I'm gonna spill my barbecue sauce." The Lexus has enough horsepower to slingshot from zero to sixty in just over seven seconds, but since the hybrid has an unconventional transmission that works with four separate power plants, it does so in complete silence.
"This car is smooth," Estrin notes, blowing a stop sign in hot pursuit of the blonde. "What if this turned out like a porno and we all get to fuck the shit out of her?" Eventually the band catches up to its prey atop a hill. "What do you think of our hybrid SUV?" Hesse shouts. The woman smiles, then burns into the intersection.
As Estrin heads back to the beach, he reflects on the merits of the hybrid that neither looks nor feels like your typical hybrid. "This car is kind of like anal sex," he says. "It's not an everyday thing, but when you do it it's cool, and it's good for the planet."