Hybrid power moves to a new level

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IF there was a motor industry award for the car with the most dramatic frontal styling the new Lexus RX450h would surely be among the favourites to win the top prize because it has now got a massive overall street appeal especially up front writes Bryan Longworth.

For nearly 20 years after the revolutionary RX was launched Lexus has just introduced the latest version with its huge attention grabbing grille that makes sure it creates the maximum impact in dealer showrooms and out on the streets although judging from some comments the dramatic styling is not to everyone’s liking.

Lexus rightly state that it is their sharpest ever model featuring hybrid power with the latest RX450h combining a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with two electric motors delivering power to all four wheels via six speed CVT automatic transmission.

This fourth generation five seater RX luxury SUV which is larger than the previous model with more rear leg room is a deceptively big car with considerable care having to be taken when passing large approaching vehicles such as farm tractors on narrow country roads and it is also rather big on price for the RX450h Premier test car cost £52,995 on the road with an extra £1,295 for a rather cool panoramic roof.

For the record this latest Lexus has a top speed of 124mph a zero to 62mph time of 7.7 seconds with a combined fuel consumption of 51.4mpg CO2 emissions of 127g/km and there is a 20% Benefit in Kind rating for business users.

Inside the leather clad Lexus is the epitome of luxury at the highest level with standard kit including heated and ventilated front seats, a very useful electric steering wheel adjuster, a huge central colour display panel for the satellite navigation and other functions, powered tailgate with no touch sensor, heated steering wheel and a 15 speaker Mark Levinson audio system.

There is also a head up display for showing the speed of the vehicle on the windscreen in front of the driver which I found to be extremely useful for in certain light conditions the numerals on the speedometer in the instrument cluster were rather hard to see.

At the rear the powered tailgate is extremely easy to open and close and this provides access to the load area which has quite a sizeable space above the hybrid unit battery.

On the road the combination of the V6 petrol engine and electric motors provides what is arguably the smoothest and quietest power output in this sector which was emphasised by a passenger who exclaimed that it was impossible to hear any noise from the power system making it the quietest car they had ever been in!

The RX450h also provided an extremely comfortable ride with impeccable handling and overall this latest premium four wheel drive SUV from Lexus proved to be the ultimate refined hybrid powered car.

My only grumble concerned the mouse like control to the left of the driver for the various functions on the screen which was fiddly to operate especially when on the move when it was rather distracting.

Since the original RX was launched there is now considerable competition especially from plug-in rivals in this sector but Lexus has an established hybrid reputation at the highest level and I reckon this latest RX450h will attract many admirers.

Verdict: Hybrid power moves to a new level.

Fact File

Model: New Lexus RX450h Premier.

Power: 3.5-litre V6 petrol and two electric motors.

Drivetrain: Four wheel drive.

Transmission: Six speed electric CVT.

Top speed: 124mph.

Acceleration: 0 to 62mph: 7.7 seconds.

Fuel consumption: 51.4 mpg combined.

CO2 emissions: 127g/km.

Benefit in Kind: 20%.

Price: £52,995 on the road.