Road Test: Lexus RX 450h

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The latest Lexus RX450h is an impressive all-rounder, reckons John Kendall.

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SECTOR Premium SUV   PRICE From €76,350 approx   FUEL 5.2l/100km   CO2 120–127g/km

Back to the beginning and this is the fourth generation of Lexus’ large luxury SUV. It comes in two forms, the RX200t, powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder 235hp petrol engine and the subject of our test, the RX450h. This model is powered by a combination of a 3.5-litre V6 259hp petrol engine and a 165hp electric motor, for which Lexus claims a combined 308hp. This features all Toyota and Lexus hybrid knowhow, which means that electric motors are always at work, helping to propel the car.

The petrol engine will stop and start at any speed, depending on the conditions at the time, but this is designed to maintain a balance between performance and efficiency, which in our experience on test seems to work well. An additional electric motor in the rear transaxle provides a more responsive E-Four all-wheel-drive system and recharges the hybrid battery pack in recuperation mode. There’s also a sound generator to make the car sound more sporty.

Like all Toyota/Lexus hybrid drives, it features a continuously variable transmission (CVT) transmitting power from the hybrid system to all four wheels. That hybrid system ensures that emissions from such a powerful petrol engine are very well contained and as low as 120g/km, which is impressive and also good news for drivers operating the car in CO2-related tax schemes. That must be an attraction even for a car costing the €62,721 of our F-Sport test car – make that €65,010 with the panoramic roof and paint. The range starts from €45,580 for the SE.

The car has a longer wheelbase than its predecessor, providing more cabin space – the car is 120mm longer than the outgoing model. It is also 10mm wider and ground clearance is 10mm more. Aerodynamics have been improved with a drag coefficient reduced to 0.33. The front seats have been set 19mm lower to improve front seat headroom.

Lexus has introduced its Safety System+. The heart of this is a pre-crash safety system with brake assist that will apply the brakes if it thinks a collision in inevitable and the driver has not responded. The same radar and camera sensors for this are also used for the adaptive cruise control. The system also features lane departure alert and lane-keeping assist, as well as automatic high beam and an adaptive high-beam for the standard LED headlamps.

The F-Sport includes adaptive, self-levelling air suspension giving an excellent mix of comfort and taut handling. I could go on about the long list of equipment, the dashboard displays and much more, but that would fill a whole page. Just the same, the dashboard features a 12.3-inch colour display – 8-inch on lower grade models. Our F-Sport model also features an 8-inch display for the digital instruments.

On the road, the RX 450h is what you might hope for, a blend of fine refinement and leather-upholstered comfort. CVT transmissions are not everyone’s first choice because of the continuous engine note that results, but when it’s the Lexus V6, the sound is worth listening to. It’s deceptively quick too. It will always start off under electric power unless the battery is low, so a quiet getaway is guaranteed and it has surprising reserves of power. When you want to make swift progress you’ll be doing it before you realise. All this and 5.2l/100km.

What we think

Very impressive. The Lexus is effortless, comfortable, spacious, handles very well and can be extremely quick, or impressively economical for such a large, powerful car. A competitively-priced winner.

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