Thursday – Another Flawed Masterpiece

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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…

Tuesday – The Beating Heart

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Jeremy One of my favourite touches in the XKR-S is the ‘start’ button on the centre console. It’s surrounded by warm charcoal leather and dark aluminium veneer that rather steals the limelight.

But climb into the Jaguar at dusk and that start button glows in rhythm with a beating heart. It’s just there to tempt you to press the brake pedal, then gently caress the button and bring the Big Cat to life. Subtle or what?

There is actually the minimum of fuss about the main dashboard. Apart from the touchscreen sat nav and music display, there are just controls for ventilation and very little else. It’s a masterclass in unclutteredness, so pay attention Mercedes…

The door trim is more complicated, with no less than nine buttons for seat adjustment, all trimmed in chrome. It’s a little overwhelmed but you get used to it.

Issues? Well, the sat nav is a nightmare to understand, my backside gets sore sometimes because the seats are so firm and don’t close the tailgate without warning tall passengers! Mind you, they will be doing extremely well to squeeze in the rear anyway.

Tuesday – Knuckles

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Jessica Well done Peugeot for creating a hybrid diesel, it must be the way forward. The problems of battery weight and power storage are still areas where everyone is looking for answers but without getting these cars into the mainstream it will be slow progress.

The RXH is a lot of car. It even feels weighty and the steering adds to the mood as it requires more than the usual amount of effort to turn the wheel.  Furthermore, the gears seem to be very ponderous, which again is something drivers don’t expect with modern cars.

The beautiful dashboard is laid out with many buttons and safety gadgets, all offering a range of noises and alarms. There’s certainly enough here to give Volvo a run for its money!

The 508 has a sporty and well designed speedo, while a range of clearly laid out options for the transmission allowing a sense of choice  and ultimately, control.

For a family estate though which is clearly aiming to compete with the Audi estates and possibly Mercedes it is a handsome car with well designed seats, a considered external and internal aesthetic, plus a sense of presence.

And I’m not sure if it’s mothers who will potentially be driving this car but they will need to have sensible short nails! I had some awkward moments trying to open the central arm rest via a side-mounted button. In the end it became a fumbld knuckle job!

Thursday – Think Electric

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Jeremy It doesn’t matter what you think of pure electric cars, hybrid models are popping up all over the place at the moment. There’s no escaping the rash of new models coming onto the market, nipping away at our conscious over environmental issues and offering the opportunity to save money at the filling station.

All that technology costs though and hybrid cars are more to buy than their petrol or diesel counterparts. Just one look at the price tag of the RXH for example and you know it’s not going to be a major seller for Peugeot. What is does do is highlight how far the technology has come and presents a very real alternative to some of the premium band 4×4 estates out there.

Driving the 508 today I love the fact that it looks so different to the familiar Audi, BMW and Mercedes estates on the road. It has a unique look and that in itself counts for a lot. The questions is, is it worth the premium you pay for the RXH’s hybrid power unit and will the car suffer from  poor residuals if you sell it in three years time?

It’s probably too early to answer both of those questions but on image alone, I’d say the RXH is definitely worth a look. Yes, it is a Peugeot and not a German premium brand but the quality and attention to detail in this car are quite exceptional. I’m looking forward to many hundreds of miles getting to know the RXH, seeing how the economy fares in real-life conditions – and working out what all the buttons do (I’ve not seen a car with this complicated a dashboard for a long time!).