“Wow!” Said the small boy, “Is that a spaceship?”
“Not really,” I replied with a smile, “it’s a Lexus!” In more detail, a Lexus RX 450h. The little ‘h’ on the end being the magic clue revealing that the car was a full hybrid.
But what struck the young chap, and, me, I have to admit, were the very sharp looks that the RX 450h displayed, all pointy and swooping. Yes, maybe it could transport us to the moon…
Some years ago, one of the manufacturers (BMW, I think) boasted that the model they were then introducing had more technology on board than it took to get Neil Armstrong to make that small/giant step. This Lexus has plenty, too, of course. As the Americans would say, this Lexus is fully-loaded.
From the safety angle, twelve features are listed that help prevent an accident in the first place and a further six, mainly in the form of airbags all round and including the driver’s knee, should a collision unfortunately occur in spite of the preventatives list that still has to obey the laws of physics. One of the more novel features is the Sway Warning Alert, but I did not want to try this out, so I take Lexus’ word for it.
I had trouble working out the Lane Departure Warning. This seemed to sound its alarm or vibrate the steering wheel on a whim: I was able sometimes stray on purpose over a white line without an alert, and sometimes got the vibration when the car was close to the white line. On narrow country roads with faded old white lines that needed repainting, I really had to switch the system off before it drove me mad…luckily, a simple press of a button does this, once I’d found where it was.
The owner’s handbook has a strangely illogical index. For example, in wanting to find Bluetooth, I eventually found it not under the letter ‘B’, but under the letter ‘U’ for ‘Using Bluetooth.’ And so on.
The satellite navigation was also a feature that should be far more user-friendly. Bletchley Park might have succeeded, but not I. Unlike the instructions in the handbook, the word ‘enter’ for entering your destination just did not appear on the screen (which, by the way, is a generous 12.3 inches).
After a frustrating half-hour, I eventually cottoned on to realising that the word ‘replace’ was what I had to touch in order to ‘enter’ my destination. Presumably, my entry was replacing one previously in there…all very unnecessary; perhaps there was a way, but I’m damned if I could work it out. Also, I noticed on several occasions that, although a road sign said, say, 50 mph, the satnav said 30 mph. I’m sorry, but I also found the multi-function display similarly vexing. The rest is all good (thank heavens!).
Driving this car is really enjoyable. A sense of security is provided by the automatic all-wheel-drive system that engages only when it needs to.
You sit high up, of course, in such cars, but there is no lean or pitching or yawing. The ride is good, nice and supple, with, depending on your own preferences, possibly a shade too much ‘information’ about the road surface if it’s not a smooth section.
Visibility outwards is good, with just a little difficulty over the shoulder, but the excellent camera system reveals all you need for parking and other tight manoeuvering. Cameras show all round the car and there’s also the rear cross traffic alert. The head-up display has more information than most and helps you keep your eyes straight ahead.
When pushed, the engine emits a satisfying growl as the CVT gearbox does its work. At other times, the car is nice and quiet. Of course, a lot of this is down to the fact that, being a hybrid, the conventional engine is not always providing the power. The system is continuously working hand-in-hand at all speeds, and, if you want, you can set the screen to show you how it’s all happening. And it has to be said, in any case, that the 3.5-litre, V6 engine is a smooth and refined unit. A total of 308 bhp is available and the car can sprint to 62 mph in 7.7 seconds. Maximum speed is 124 mph.
The Test car being the Premier version, topping the range, weighs in at a hefty 2725 kilos, so the power is much needed. You can select three different driving modes from Eco to Sport to Sport Plus.
I was almost always in Eco mode and my best fuel consumption figure, as recorded by the trip computer was 39.3 on one particular journey that covered mainly motorway conditions. Another example was a quiet, rural eight-mile overall downward gradient trip that came out at 38.3 mpg and, on the return drive over exactly the same route but now with a mainly uphill gradient, 31.5 mpg.
Although, as I wrote earlier, there were some frustrations, I very much like the RX450h. The interior was very comfortable and beautifully knitted out. Japanese piano craftsmen provide some of the attractive console woodwork, and some of the warning alarms had an appropriately piano sound to them.
I liked the traditional clock in the centre of the dashboard and the look of the dark brown leather with soft-red stitching. The front seats have all the electrically-powered adjustments you’d need. There are powered rear seats, too, in the Premier version.
Five adults can fit reasonably comfortably, with more room in the back than in the previous model; boot space has not been compromised by this and is well-finished. The tailgate can be opened simply by placing your hand, with the key on you, over the top of the Lexus badge; naturally, it can be closed by pressing a button.
Nice touch: the Dual-speed electric Windows…when you close them, the operation speed slows just before they shut to reduce noise.
It all costs, however. The insurance group is 42E, and the total price, including the optional full panoramic roof, is £59,995. Emissions are good, though, at 127 g/km.
The Lexus RX 450h range priced from £46,995. Price as tested: £59,995
Maximum speed: 124mph,
combined mpg: 51.4
Engine layout: 3456cc 4 cylinders in-line, turbocharged petrol, fwd.
Electric motors: AC permanent magnet, synchronous motor 165bhp front and 68bhp rear
Max power: [email protected] – 5600rpm.
Max torque: [email protected] – 4000rpm.
CO2 emissions: 127g/km
VED Band: D
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Smooth & Refined
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