The RX 450h is a slightly baffling vehicle. Just what is the point of hybrid technology when the vehicle doesn’t return exceptional economy and isn’t that quick either?
Admittedly, emissions are fairly low at 120 g/km – making it cheap to run as a company car – but the similarly priced BMW X5 xDrive40e petrol-hybrid reduces CO2 emissions to a lowly 78 g/km.
Not only that, the BMW, like the Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90 T8 hybrid, offers the option of seven seats. A feature missing from the Lexus for some reason.
So while I love the look of the Lexus – by far the prettiest of the bunch – it’s what drives the RX 450h that ultimately lets it down…
There is something rather lovely about rolling around town in the 450h – you sit in a silent cabin as the electric motors do all the work.
The only worry is the pedestrian who doesn’t hear the Lexus approaching and steps onto the road without looking.
And the cabin is a truly great place to sit. I can only imagine the seats were designed primarily for the US market because they are big and squidgy. Perfectly supportive but super sumptuous too.
The Lexus has grown on me but somehow it just lacks the dynamic nature of key hybrid rivals, like versions of the Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC90. It’s an ‘almost car’ – almost rather good…
I’m loving the widescreen infotainment screen in our Lexus 450h test car this week. The sat nav screen is massive, the graphics are clear and somehow the screen doesn’t dazzle you at night either.
So why then is the control stalk that acts as a mouse so damn difficult to use?
BMW suffered abuse when their iDrive system first came on the market about 13 years ago. But the mushroomed-shape mouse in the Lexus requires the dexterity of a neurosurgeon.
It’s so sensitive that any road surface other than smooth will jog the cursor on to the next icon. And every time the mouse is clicked, it gives off an annoying sound.
It’s fiddly and awkward – possibly designed by a five-year-old and lets down the rest of the interior big time…
As already noted, fuel economy is not a strong point for the RX 450h. To the man in the street, this might seem a little odd, given that this is an expensive petrol-hybrid car.
To the long in the tooth motoring writer, it’s a little strange too. Today I drove the Lexus around Cirencester and the slightest blip with the right foot brought the petrol engine in to play.
I know this because the RX has a huge infotainment screen that dominates the top of the dashboard in w-i-d-e-s-c-r-e-e-n. And I mean wide.
In the ‘CAR’ setting, you can monitor a diagram of the Lexus showing where the energy is coming from to drive the wheels.
Now, I tried damn hard to keep it in electric motor only but it’s almost impossible. A decent diesel SUV would do better, if I’m totally honest.
So, just what is the point of the RX 450h. Great technology but rather useless in the real world…
Listen up Lexus. A friend of mine, who invented the phrase ‘does what it says on the tin, has been equally wowed by the Star Wars design job on our RX 450h test car.
Her take on the futuristic design was summed up in the name she would give it – something probably trademarked anyway but here goes… DarthVadermobile.
We’ve had the Ford Probe, the Mitsubishi Lettuce and the Mazda Bongo, so why can’t we enjoy the perfectly formed Lexus DarthVadermobile?
Badminton Horse Trials today. The Lexus will stand out in a sea of Range Rovers and Mitsubishi Shoguns. And hopefully the force will be with us…
The wicked styling may not be enough – the Lexus RX just doesn’t drive well enough to tempt people away from the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5.
The problem is the CVT automatic gearbox. It just doesn’t put the power available to good use. The 450h feels like it’s straining, the steering isn’t quite on the money and there’s body roll on cornering.
This latest RX is far better than the previous model but it lacks the driving dynamics to make it a great SUV – or live up to those incredibly stylish looks.
And why is the fuel economy so poor for a hybrid? Around town you might get up to 45mpg if you drive carefully and the electric motors do the work. But in the real world, I can barely hit 30mpg.
That means the RX 450h with all its technology is trounced by your average diesel SUV – many of which are faster off the mark too….
Let’s not worry about the technology. Just stand back and marvel at the styling of the latest RX 450h.
I’m genuinely surprised – it knocks the style-less X5 for six (not difficult) and gives the Range Rover Sport a kicking too. Is there a prettier SUV out there? I think possibly not.
The angular lines are aided by some gunmetal paintwork. It costs an additional £645 but the result is a fantastic statement of futuristic design. This is a spaceship on four wheels. I’ve been marveling at it all day.
On Friday I will try the RX on the road and see if it lives up to all that promise…
It’s true I do drive a bumbling old Land Rover that probably emits more harmful gasses than a power station but I do aspire to a cleaner, greener lifestyle.
I’d be the first to go zero emissions if I had the money – I do live in an eco house that doesn’t swallow any fossils fuels. Which makes the idea of owning a hybrid 450h even more of a mystery to me.
The problem is that on A-roads and in the country, I have struggled to achieve more than 34mpg from the Lexus. Even with careful driving on the M4 I can barely managed 39mpg, still 6mpg less than what Lexus claim it can do.
Not only that but the RX battery pack is pretty useless. Even in a stop-start urban traffic jam, the range is tiny and once you hit about 20mph, the engine automatically kicks in.
And when it does, the 3.5-litre V6 is a total plodder. It’s less exciting to drive than a Fiat 500 TwinAir and the engine sounds hollow and rather empty.
Yes, I can save £100 or so in road tax every year driving this hybrid but the over-riding question I have about RX 450h ownership is simply this: ‘what’s the point?’
It’s been a ‘relaxed’ Bank Holiday Weekend in the RX – and I mean that in every sense. This is an SUV built for comfort rather than speed. If you want to go fast then pick a BMW X5.
Although the RX has a 3.5-litre petrol engine AND two electric motors, it’s really not that exciting to drive. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if they could have created the same amount of power with a 2.0-litre petrol unit instead and improved the fuel economy at the same time.
My gripes about consumption are still valid but that has been overtaken by issues with the multimedia unit, especially the satellite navigation which does not allow you to input a full GB postcode. That’s pretty shocking for a vehicle costing £50,000.
It’s been terrible frustrating trying to get anywhere using the navigation – instead I have taken to using my iPhone, which is less practical but actually works!
So I’d just finished filling up my Lexus RX in Whitney today (still grumbling over a hybrid that only manages 30.8mpg) when an elderly lady next to me asked if I would show her how to take the fuel cap off her new car.
Judging by the state of the interior, I’d say she’d owned it for years but being a decent chap, I showed her the mechanism. It soon became apparent that she could barely see the car, let alone the filler nozzle! She was so shortsighted I honestly wondered if I should call the police.
It didn’t end there, as I moved back towards the Lexus to fetch my wallet, she then asked if I would fill her car up for her. This presented me with something of a dilemma – should I be polite and oblige, or explain that she really needed to understand how to fill her own car up for the next visit to a filling station.
I opted for the second option. After paying, I returned to my car and there she was, holding the key out to me so that I could put the cap back on again. This struck me as weird but we’d love to hear from anybody else who has had an equally bizarre experience at a petrol station…