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Eco Worrier: Road Test of Lexus Hybrid RX 450h

Lexus RX 450h Review and Road Test | © Lexus

Adrian Foster of Hertford-based Drivelines Motoring Media Services tests his theory about hybrid vehicles on the new Lexus RX 450h car released in 2009.

I have a theory that it’s not the eco technology that drives sales of hybrid vehicles, it’s the owner’s guilt. I’ll explain: if you buy a hybrid engined car then you assume you have carte blanche to bore everyone with your green credentials at parties and still take two overseas holidays a year. Or you can drive something that looks like a fairground dodgem on steroids and still claim that you are doing your bit for the environment. In short, if you play your cards right, you can live your new eco life without actually having to make any sacrifices along the way.

Hybrid Hype

Although the Toyota Prius initially copped all the hybrid hype, Lexus then showed that a hybrid car could be powerful and luxurious with the RX hybrid SUV. Like the original, the engine is complemented by a hybrid system with electric motors and, as with the old version, the V6 engine and one motor/generator drive the front wheels. But you can spec it up to all-wheel-drive with a second motor/generator added to power the rear wheels.

‘Flashy Thing’

The new Lexus looks slightly better than the outgoing car, but the RX is still so lacking in charisma that one could pass you in the street and be instantly forgotten, as though it had zapped you with a Men in Black ‘flashy thing’! But perhaps that’s the point of the Lexus Hybrid anyway?

Inside, the driving position is easily adjustable while the leather seats are soft. Meanwhile, the dashboard area is a surprising mix of shapes, textures and colours but while the jury’s out over the design, the quality of the finish inside is beyond question. Lexus’s attention to detail ranges from soft-close windows to the computer mouse-style controller for the various cabin functions. The rear seats offer lots of room and a one-touch mechanism sees them fold 60:40 to increase the boot’s 496-litre capacity.

Hybrid Driving

134 Around town, the RX can travel up to two miles using just electric power and it’s quite eerie the first time you pull away silently in such a large car. The clever electronics manage the almost seamless transition from battery to petrol power and when both power sources work together, the 7.8 seconds Lexus claims it takes the RX 450h to get from 0-62mph seems entirely plausible. Admittedly most RXs will spend their lives avoiding the congestion charge in London, so it’s no surprise that it’s easy to see out of and manoeuvre. The RX deals with smaller potholes well, but speed bumps and larger imperfections send shudders and thumps through the body.

Would We Want One?

The fact that the Lexus RX is a better city car than the one it replaces means it’ll probably be a success. And that magic hybrid badge is still enough to mollify even the most ardent of SUV haters. But the fact that you you’re paying a premium for a car this understated means it will struggle to compete against luxury 4x4s such as the BMW X5, Mercedes ML and Range Rover.

Prices for the Lexus RX 450h start at £43,175. Find out more by visiting the Lexus RX range website.

If you would like to contact Adrian, please email him on drivelines@ntlworld.com.

 

Adrian Foster.