Lexus RX 450h SE-L car review
- We like...Low emissions, good fuel economy
- We don't...Jittery ride at low speeds
The big challenge for car engineers is to fashion something that’s big, luxurious and can go off-road but that’ll still be economical with fuel and keep its CO2 count low.
This latest version of Lexus’s upmarket 4x4 posts figures to beat others hands-down. How does 44.8mpg best overall and 148g/km of CO2 grab you? And this despite a 3.5 V6 petrol motor nestling up front, bolted to an auto gearbox and with all-wheel-drive on tap.
The extra ingredient that makes this possible is a pair of electric motors driving the front and rear wheels. They’re capable of up to 174bhp and 67bhp, adding to the petrol motor’s 246bhp max output. So, although it’s all but 4.8m long and weighs 2.7 tonnes, it can hitch its skirts to dash from rest to 62mph in 7.8secs.
Those with a head for maths will maybe have totted up the power outputs and come to a bhp figure above the ‘450’ that figures in the car’s name. If you’re puzzled, though, don’t be. For complicated reasons the sums aren’t that simple so we assume the ‘450’ must be spot on.
Setting off, the car powers itself from its electric motors, the petrol joining in if there’s insufficient charge in the batteries or otherwise from about 20mph. This feels weird at first, piloting such a big vehicle but slipping silently along. Then again, Lexuses are all about moving with the least noise possible, so the change isn’t that big a deal if you’ve owned one before.
If you want a RX like this, it’ll have to be patrol-electric hybrid: it’s the only version on sale. This is a bold approach when its chief rivals – like the Range Rover Sport - are diesel powered. This Lexus has lower emissions figures – its 148g/km is a real achievement – but fuel economy? The official economy figures of 44.8mpg sound impressive. Our experience, though, is that where diesel 4x4s can and do equal their published figures, hybrids seldom do. Here, try as we might, we couldn’t persuade this RX to improve on low-30s mpg. Even so, that still easily improves on a Range Rover Sport diesel’s 30mpg.
Although the RX’s top-drawer electronic safety, grip and stability systems promise to get you there whenever the weather turns tough, the car’s at its best wafting you across huge distances, where its comfort, quiet and easy power best come into play. Despite its speed it’s not one to reward press-on drivers - it just doesn’t respond quickly enough or with sufficient precision. It'll foidget, meanwhile, over poor road surfaces in town but it settles at speed to cope easily and silently with joins in motorway tarmac. The air suspension's clever, though, and permits four different settings to improve ground clearance or help when loading.
With its angled rear it hasn’t the space to match its slabby-backed rivals but it is a doddle to load and unload thanks to its powered tailgate and rear seats that flop flat to extend the load area at the tug of a lever.
It’s beautifully made and – so long as highly lacquered wood panels are your thing – luxurious inside. It’s also crammed with standard kit – a 15 speaker stereo, heated and ventilated front seats with 10-way adjustment, hill start assist, keyless entry, a rear parking camera and 10 airbags come as standard. The one item we liked most though was the sat-nav controlled by a ‘mouse’ pointer (pictured, above left) built into the console next to the driver. It’s so easy to use and such a good idea, we’re amazed we’ve not seen it elsewhere.
Should you buy one? We would. Its low CO2 output and fuel economy are reasons enough – but for us the sheer depth and cleverness of its engineering would sway the decision.
- Engines3.5-litre V6 petrol two electric motors
- Power246bhp (V6); 174bhp & 67bhp (electric)
- 0-60 mph7.8secs
- Insurance groups41E
Motors.co.uk value verdict: