Priced from £41,600 to £55,505 with S, SE-I, SE-L and SE-L Premium specification levels the Lexus RX 450h will be bought, or probably leased, by the well off.
Most often in the UK it is found in and around London where being a hybrid it cheats Congestion Charges.
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The Lexus RX has been and will continue to be the preferred Chelsea and Knightsbridge tractor and probably the only inclines it will see during the weekdays are Primrose Hill, Muswell Hill and Notting Hill. At weekends of course the Lexus will be found in rural parts as the owners move to their place in the country.
No matter who owns this vehicle they will be getting the most sophisticated state-of-art hybrid with image, build quality and specification to match.
Drivetrain, performance and economy
This vehicle uses the second generation Lexus Hybrid Drive system which has a 3.5-litre, V6 petrol engine which produces a healthy 246bhp and 317Nm of torque but in addition it has a 174bhp front electric motor and a rear axle mounted 67bhp electric motor which provides the rear wheel drive traction making it all wheel drive. The combined power outputs are up by 10% over the RX 400h.
So with three power sources and new 288V high capacity batteries now positioned under the rear seats getting all the combined power of the three propulsion units falls to a sophisticated drive system making it a full series/parallel hybrid.
The vehicle starts off from standstill using just the main electric motor, if the batteries have enough life in them, before the petrol engine seamlessly cuts in and the rear electric motor drives the rear wheels when all wheel drive is required.
The main electric motor cuts in automatically to use battery power at speeds up to 25mph and the driver can also select to run the 450h on electric power alone for almost two miles for in town stop-start driving.
In addition to the on-board generator the battery pack is also topped up by energy capture, braking and so forth. Drive to front or all four wheels is via a CVT automatic transmission which has a fully automatic mode or a manual tiptronic gearchange position.
Also the driver can choose ECO, EV (electric) and SNOW driving modes which improve the hybrid system fuel efficiency and driving performance.
No words can clearly describe the driving experience, and it is really an experience, the RX 450h offers. The driver just pushes the start button, there is no noise but the instruments come to life, then select drive or reverse gears and press the accelerator gently and the SUV glides away using electric power only. Press the accelerator more sharply and the silky smooth and very quiet V6 petrol engine comes to life.
The petrol engine and electric motors also work in tandem to boost acceleration at high speeds but the car cruises at speed using petrol power alone. Top speed is governed 124mph and 0-62mph takes just 7.8 seconds.
Handling, driving and ride
Whilst the drivetrain is without fault, the handling and ride are tuned for comfort rather than being dynamic. Lexus say the suspension and handling has been tuned for the European market and includes a new double wishbone rear layout.
The top models have, instead of the conventional steel springs and dampers, a suspension layout which is electronically controlled. It has a four position self leveling air system with an electric Active Stabiliser control which results in 40% less body roll.
In truth the ride is set for comfort which most users will like but the ride can be fidgety with little feedback to the driver.
The electronic power-saving steering is numb and again on the open road offers little in the way of driver information but in traffic it is light to use and it makes parking very easy as does the rear and side view camera and large door mirrors. The latter item does produce wind noise at cruising speeds.
Inside the Lexus RX450h the specification and quality is very high, luxurious and the 'clunk' as the doors are closed confirms the quality of this vehicle. Seating is for five people with a large 490-litres load area to match.
Only the steeply raked rear tailgate limits height in the rear so the family dog might suffer for headroom. All other passengers travel in comfort.
The controls are generally well positioned but complicated and it takes a fair length of time to get acquainted with everything the vehicle offers including a brilliant multi-speaker Mark Levinson sound system with DAB digital radio.
There is some interior wood finished, leather upholstery, thick pile carpeting, heated and ventilated and electrically adjustable front seats, dual zone climate control, cruise control, keyless entry and push-button start, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic wipers and lights, electrically operated tailgate and a remote touch control which replaces the previous touch-screen control system.
The touch control is like a computer style mouse but it takes time to find the cursor in the screen display and then direct it to the many functions it controls. I'm not convinced it is safe to be doing this whilst driving but it means the driver doesn't need to lean forwards to touch the screen as previously was the case.
Parking sensors and the rear and side camera aided parking are needed as the RX 450h is a little larger than the replaced 350/400 models, now being 4,770mm in length and 1,885mm wide.
The RX 450h is full of technologies and I have only mentioned just a very few of the main ones. It is perhaps not a totally perfect vehicle but it wears the highly respected and desirable Lexus brand label very well.
Lexus hybrid technologies and customer satisfaction go hand-in-glove; the new RX 450h will be no different. A memorable test drive.
Lexus RX 450h MILESTONES
Lexus RX 450h SE-L
Power sources/transmission: 3.5-litre, V6 petrol engine, front and rear electric motors, total power output 295bhp, petrol engine torque 317Nm (234lb ft), planetary gear set combines and allocates petrol/electric drive as required via a CVT automatic transmission
Performance: 124mph, 0-62mph 7.8 seconds, 44.8mpg combined cycle, (36.1mpg actual), CO2 148g/km, VED Band F £105, BIK company car tax 14%
Insurance group: 17E
Dimensions: L 4,770mm, W 1,885, H 1,715, boot 439-1,500kg, maximum braked towing weight 2000kg.
For: A refined and luxurious premium brand 4x4 SUV, low CO2 hybrid gives low road tax, lower company car taxes and is Congestion Charge free, high safety specification and luxury equipment levels.
Against: Pricey but technology costs, fidgety ride, steering lacks feel and air suspension provides very little feedback to the driver but ride comfort is high.