Lexus revs up for a multi-talented sports star ; A powerful 4x4 that still offers respectable economy figures? Step up the new F Sport version of the... [Hull Daily Mail (England)]
(Hull Daily Mail (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Lexus revs up for a multi-talented sports star ; A powerful 4x4 that still offers respectable economy figures? Step up the new F Sport version of the Lexus RX450 hybrid. Roy Woodcock reports ...
Athree-and-a-half litre petrol engine might seem a bit of a extravagance in this day and age. Put one in a 4x4 and it could be construed as waving a red rag to the bullish green lobby.
But wait, this is a Lexus RX450h we're talking about, a car that has been demonstrating the benefits of hybrid power for a good eight years.
That's hybrid as in a dual-drive system that links the petrol engine to an electric motor, allowing the driver to call on either system under certain conditions and reap the benefits of frugality all the time when the powerplants are operating in tandem.
The revised, second generation RX brings a whole raft of improvements to the vehicle and there is now a new F Sport grade, which sits one level below the top of the range Premium spec.
F Sport adopts a whole new sport persona with sharper looks and performance and it was this car that we were testing on the roads of East Yorkshire this week.
Style-wise the F Sport stands out with a deeper, more vertical front bumper and a dedicated mesh treatment for the upper and lower grilles, which together make the new spindle grille shape an even stronger feature.
There are also dark-finish 19in alloy wheels and F Sport badging on the exterior, while in the cabin the model's sporting character is reflected in aluminium-effect sports pedals and trim inserts, F Sport smooth leather upholstery and scuff plates with the Lexus logo in black. There is also a black roof lining and a bespoke steering wheel with a leather trim.
Other equipment features include a head-up display (the sort of system developed for jet fighter pilots), and LED headlights with the I-AFS adaptive system that angles the light beam in line with the vehicle turning angle through bends and at junctions.
And as with all RX models, expect to find alloy wheels, auto wipers, a rear parking monitor, leather upholstery, heated and powered front seats, dualzone climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and a ninespeaker sound system. There are also a number of detail improvements throughout the cabin. There is a revised steering wheel, incorporating a new selector switch for the hybrid system's drive modes, and the operation of the Remote Touch controller has been revised so that it works more like a computer mouse.
RX450h F Sport customers don't get any extra power than is offered elsewhere in the range. So customers still get that wonderful 246bhp 3.5-litre V6 supplemented by an electric motor on each axle, which gives the fourwheel-drive Lexus a maximum potential output of 295bhp.
Still, this is enough to endow it with quite a crisp turn of speed, resulting in a 7.8s sprint to 62mph and a top speed of 124mph. Like every hybrid RX, you will get a creamy smooth pull away even first thing on a cold morning, with none of the chugging you would associate with a big-banger of a diesel.
What F Sport customers do exclusively get, however, is a clever lateral damper system that increases stability and improves ride comfort by absorbing small vibrations.
One damper is mounted like a strut brace at the front and there is another at the back that adjusts in line with changes in the body rigidity, noise and vibration of your surroundings to give the best possible absorption of body torsion, flex and vibration.
Lexus has also introduced an additional Sport mode for its Lexus Hybrid Drive system. Selecting Sport by using a switch on the redesigned steering wheel modifies the throttle and electric power steering settings to gain faster responses, and also programmes the Vehicle Stability Control and traction control for less intrusive operation, letting the driver exploit the car's dynamic abilities.
The cost issue (the range starts at Pounds 44,495 on the road and the F Sport costs Pounds 51,995) will be central to determining whether the faith Lexus has shown in hybrid technology is justified and the figures attached to the RX450h are certainly encouraging.
Lexus claims the car can achieve a creditable 44.8mpg on the combined cycle and emits just 145g/km of CO2, the kind of returns that you might expect from a 1.6-litre family hatchback and figures which certainly better or at least put it on a par with big dieselpowered 4x4s, such as the BMW X5 and Mercedes M-Class The electric motors assist the petrol engine when the RX450h is operating at lower speeds or when extra acceleration is called for but the car is capable of operating solely on electric power for short periods.
Drivers are able to select ECO, EV and SNOW modes which assist the driver in different circumstances. EV is the fully electric setting which shuts down the V6 petrol engine, while ECO smoothes out throttle inputs and encourages a smoother, more economical driving style. SNOW mode works to increase stability and maximise traction on slippery surfaces but it is not an off-road mode. Lexus is very clear that the RX450h is a roadgoing 4x4, to the extent that it usually refers to the car as a crossover in its promotional literature.
As usual in the rear, two passengers will be comfortable but three will need to be on friendly terms. The bench conceals the three battery packs that power the Hybrid drive system but that doesn't stop it being extremely flexible, sliding backwards and forwards so that either luggage space or legroom can be prioritised and reclining for greater comfort on longer journeys.
The adoption of a double wishbone rear suspension design reduces the degree of intrusion into the luggage compartment, increasing loadspace floor width by 150mm and overall volume to 446 litres. New levers are also located on the side wall of the load area to enable remote one-touch folding of the rear seats.
The Lexus RX450h has proved a worthy contender in the premium 4x4 market for some time now; these new revisions and the introduction of a F Sport model make it more competitive.
On your marks PERFORMANCE: 7 Styling: 8 Comfort: 9 Equipment: 9 Finish: 8 ECONOMY: 7 Overall score: 8 FACTS AT A GLANCE MODEL Lexus RX450h F Sport ENGINE 3456cc, six-cylinder, petrol engine linked to electric motor, together developing 295bhp at 6000rpm and 234lb/ft of torque at 4800rpm.
CO2 EMISSIONS 145g/km.
PERFORMANCE Maximum speed: 124mph. 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds.
ECONOMY In town, 43.5mpg; out of town, 47.1mpg; overall, 44.8mpg.
TRANSMISSION Continuously variable automatic transmission driving all four wheels.
BRAKES Ventilated discs all round with ABS, electronic stability programme, traction control and brake assist.
FUEL TANK 65 litres.
INSURANCE GROUP 42.
WARRANTY Three years/unlimited miles.
PRICE Pounds 51,995 on the road. Range starts at Pounds 44,495 What the Lexus RX450 hybrid is up against BMW X5 Price: Pounds 45,560 - Pounds 83,800 Does offer the option of seven seats, which the Lexus doesn't, and also has a more engaging drive (well, one that suits me better). But to go with that comes a little sacrifice in terms of the ride - some will find it a tad firm.
Overall score: 8 Range Rover Sport Price: Pounds 51,500- Pounds 81,550 Second generation model new this year. Smaller than its Range Rover sibling but every bit as good off-road as well as on. And it is leaner, meaner and greener than the model it replaced. Comfortable with a good range of engines. Overall score: 8.5 Porsche Cayenne Price: Pounds 47,390 - Pounds 107,784 Sports car performance in a huge 4x4? Here's the car that proves that is not impossible. In many respects this is a car that should never have succeeded but in the crazy world of motoring certainly has. Love it.
Overall score: 8
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