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…
30.8mpg – I thought I was seeing things! The RX 450H may be super refined and comfortable but I imagined that bolting two electric motors to the V6 petrol engine might also boost economy.
Not so, it seems. In fact, quite how Lexus achieved the official 44.8mpg figure is a mystery. I’ve been on a big economy drive today, treating the accelerator pedal with the utmost respect. However, it appears to have made no difference to my mpg figure at all.
I accept that the 145g/km emissions is exceptionally good for a big SUV but it’s really no better at the fuel pump than the Range Rover Sport we tested two weeks ago.
This might make you question why you would buy a 450h in the first place. Yes you save £120 per annum in road tax over other diesel SUVs. Yes you get a feel-good ‘Hybrid’ badge on the side but is that enough for your £50,000?
Let’s get one thing clear from the start – the RX isn’t the prettiest SUV on the market. It’s not as muscular as the BMX X5 and even looks skinny next to a Freelander.
To address this issue, opt for the next model up, the F Sport. It boasts a little more visual panache and at least looks like it could pull the skin off a rice pudding.
I’m walking around our ‘standard’ 450h now and I just can’t seem to find an angle where it excites me – unusual for a car in the £50k bracket.
From side on, only a ‘Hybrid’ badge catches my eye and I suppose that’s what this latest RX is really all about – technology.
Over the next week we’ll be seeing just how good that technology is. And whether it’s enough to make the Lexus worth your hard-earned cash…
The truly great cars are the ones you long to drive every day. Like a faithful hound, they are always there, ready to please and entertain. So does the Lexus IS300h tick that box?
To be honest, I can’t fault the engineering. The petrol-electric hybrid engine is an astonishing performer, returning 49.3mpg during the week and responding in every sense like a conventional car.
The IS is very easy on the eye too, with that BMW-esque rear-end and some neatly cut sculpting on the side panels. Not sure about the bug-eye headlights but still a great looking saloon.
But let’s face it, it’s going to meet very stiff competition in the premium brand sector and there are a few areas where the Lexus simply doesn’t measure up.
First is the painfully designed centre column of the dashboard that houses the sat nav. It doesn’t look anything like premium brand material to me. Then there is the sat nav itself, which doesn’t input full postcodes. Come on Lexus, that’s just not acceptable any more.
And finally, the driver’s seat, which didn’t marry up with my back in all the right places. It probably works for a lot of people but that also isn’t good enough these days.
Overall, a worthy rival to the best of BMW and Mercedes but a class-leader? I think not…
There’s a slightly secret group of people out there dedicated to Lexus. They’re definitely ‘in the know’ and appreciate something a little different.
They’re very likely to corner you after a dinner party and remind you that Lexus is a brand that regularly tops the JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey – the respected industry stamp of happy car ownership, voted for by real drivers, in the real world.
And they are the sort of drivers who stick with a make, year in, year out and can be rather smug about it too. Well, apart from that rather tasteless dashboard described yesterday, I’m starting to see why that is.
The IS300h is beautifully screwed together and oozes quality from every angle. Disappointing our SE isn’t equipped with leather trim or heated seats but I can forgive that when I know I’m driving a brand that has been proved to gives years of happy motoring.
Remember when BMW introduced the infamous iDrive system in their cars? Ooh there was a fuss. Hated by both technophobes and those with conventional hands alike, BMW stuck with it. After a period of ‘refinement’ it’s now a relatively straightforward joystick for the navigation, media and telephone functions alike.
Lexus has a similar type of system in the IS but for some reason it has an oblong joystick, rather than round. That’s oblong in the sense that it’s not that easy to hold, or actually operate for that matter. This morning I was clicking through the screen options and found my cursor skipping all over the place.
It makes a sympathetic ‘bing’ when you want to connect, annoying but I’m sure you can switch it off. It’s my least favourite feature – that and the rather cheap looking centre console in the SE. I mean, this is a luxurious business car but it just doesn’t marry with the rest of the interior design, which is a cut above.
Apparently, the cockpit was inspired by the limited edition and very cool Lexus LFA. At least its bigger than previous IS cars, thanks to a wider wheelbase.
I’ll admit it. I’ve just walked past the rear of the IS300h thinking it was a BMW 3 Series. I was on the mobile and distracted but I suddenly found myself down the wrong end of the car park looking for a Lexus.
Have a peep at the boot in our photo above – is there a BMW designer moonlighting in Japan I wonder? No mistaking the front end though, with those bug-eyed headlights on the IS.
There are also more welcome similarities with the BMW when it comes to handling. This latest IS is incredibly precise around corners and feels every inch a driver’s car, although it’s not as fast to 60mph as the diesel Beemer.
And then there’s the artificial noise generator! The Lexus delivery driver told me our SE had a system that sent sound into the cabin to simulate the sound of the engine, sometimes missing in a hybrid. As of today, I’m not entirely sure when the SE has it or not.
To be honest, I don’t want to know if it is fitted because it’s much more fun trying to work out whether it is there or not! I’ll get to the bottom of it, once I’ve had time to open the manual….
Pretty from most angles and, it seems, sponsored by Nike? Subliminal advertising has obviously reached new levels of cunningness when you consider the shape of the IS300 daytime running lights.
Yes, I should be writing about the petrol-electric lump sat under the bonnet, the stylish bodyshape that will have BMW 320d drivers spitting blood, and the bizarre engine noise switch in the cabin (more on that tomorrow!).
However, as we are talking couture here, look at those swooshy lights! Maybe the designer was checking out his sneakers when he found that moment of inspiration…
What the front lights do well is distract your attention from the bizarre grille. The shape suggests that it has melted in the middle. Weird and slightly scary, if you suffer from migraines.
That aside, the styling of the Lexus is light years ahead of the corporate BMW. Of course, most buyers of both will spend their days in a suit but the baby IS is genuinely a thing of beauty.