As I mentioned in the first part of our Lexus RX450h review, Twenty Minutes In post, I’d forgotten the unique feel of Lexus build quality. Even today, with the intense competition chasing the quality mantra very hard indeed, it has an ambience unlike other luxury brands. The combination of technology, soft compliant ride and that quality atmosphere. It’s not that Mercedes, Jaguar, BMW are poorly built, far from it. But the Lexus brand has certainly developed a unique feel to it these days. Bear with me while I think of a way to describe it.
Lexus RX450h Review
The car we were driving was the RX450h F Sport specification. Discrete bodywork changes including deleting the wood veneer interior in preference to grey trim and a full leather wheel is a good thing for me, it suits the car well. Were I buying one myself, I’d also go for the panoramic sunroof option, just to lighten things a little. The biggest change is the F Sport chassis package, with the Lateral Damper system working across the car. Rather than a fixed bracing between the suspension towers to the left and right of the vehicle, a front lateral damper is used instead. At the rear, a second lateral damper is added to connect the two sides of the F Sport’s lower back panel. By adjusting to their surroundings, these dampers are able to deal with variations in noise, vibration and in the rigidity of the vehicle’s body.
The F Sport chassis is good. It suits me. On a personal note, standard Lexus damping has just a little too much bias to ride comfort for me. I understand totally why, it’s not a problem, it’s just not for me in standard form. F Sport simply sharpens things up a little, without going for the full blown, sports chassis thing. Enough to let you feel the dampers working, get the road undulations and have a little less roll but without any crash, bang and tyre noise. Given that the F Sport retains the standard RX450h power output, it’s the perfect compromise.
“So to the hybrid technology. It’s amazing, seamless, smooth.”
So to the hybrid technology. It’s amazing, seamless, smooth. Unless you select the power monitor on the display, you’ll never know what the system is doing at any one time. It moves seamlessly between electric / petrol / energy recovery KERS all in an instant. The monitor shows you what the Hybrid Drive is doing and it does become mildly addictive.
We achieved an average of just over 35mpg with the car, calculated from mileage and fuel receipts. The car’s own computer showed slightly less for some reason. Now while that may be some way off the official figures, you need to consider that this was across a whole range of driving cycles, from a fully laden 130kph cruise on motorways with climate control and other ancillaries running, to short runs down to the Boulangerie for the morning Baguette. On the urban cycle, I was constantly surprised at how little the petrol engine kicked in. It’s perfectly possible to undertake an urban journey, keeping pace with the prevailing traffic, yet still run the petrol for as little as a few brief periods.
“Did I change my driving style? In some ways, yes I did.”
Did I change my driving style? In some ways, yes I did. There’s no rev counter, instead it’s a power meter, almost like a turbine helicopter, with sectors for regenerative power, full electric, economy and Power. The point at which the petrol engine commences is in direct relation to how far down your right foot travels. You quickly realise that the extra few centimetres of pedal travel that trigger the petrol have a negligible affect on progress, so just a shade less throttle and you’re on full electric power. An alternative technique in town is to accelerate fairly firmly to your desired speed, then lift the throttle momentarily to switch to electric, then re-apply the power. You’re maintaining speed on electric So yes, I did alter my style to suit the car, but that’s something you would do to suit the characteristics of any engine, petrol, diesel, turbocharged or whatever. My overall pace of driving was no different than normal, as I wanted to test the true, real world, practicality of Hybrid Drive, not creep around on an economy run.
Criticisms? I’ve never been a fan of CVT transmissions, the sound characteristics are odd to me. Using the Sport mode in the RX450h, however, introduces a series of ‘steps’ in the delivery that feel far better, but at the expense of fuel economy. It’s a mode best used for A Road overtakes as it allows the engine to rev harder at a point where you’re just beginning to notice a slight lack of torque. Use the Sport mode and the performance is there, you just need to go find it a little. The CVT is probably a vital part of the whole Hybrid drivetrain, swapping the power modes through planetary gears and for an electric drivetrain with 100% torque at zero rpm, it’s a logical choice.
My own view? Having spent ten days driving the RX450h F Sport down through the UK, across France, around the Brocante and markets of Charente, then returning home, I’m impressed. Any large car, petrol, or diesel loaded with four people, luggage and camera kit, driven at 130+ kph will struggle to return over 40mpg. I’ve owned and driven ‘performance diesels’ in that manner and achieved only 25mpg.
So, we’re back to my original thing of that Lexus build quality. Description? Damn… Even after a fine French wine, bought for with just a few Euros, I’m struggling to give that definitive phrase. Back in 1990, nobody knew of Lexus. Today it’s an established brand with a unique feel. A quality and yet at the same time a softness, luxury feel, a non-motorsport aspect, no stiff, thin walled low profile tyres, but a suppleness, I guess you’d call it. The F Sport damping suits the way the car ought to be driven. The steering is super light at low speed, giving a foreboding that is unfounded. Once you’re rolling it quickly firms up and while it’s no air cooled 911 or Lotus, it’s perfectly fine for the pace at which most owners will drive it. The F Sport chassis lends itself to the hybrid drive, as you’re more likely to carry speed around the corners with less body roll. It became a personal challenge for me to drive the F Sport as quickly as possible, but still retain what I considered to be an acceptable economy figure.
Anyone buying the RX450h will need to spend time setting preferences in various aspects. Gone are the days of simply jumping in and turning the key. Spend time to get the best from the navigation systems, in particular how you want the system to guide you, the routes you prefer and whether you want automatic traffic diversions, something that I personally found frustrating if left without the option to override. Personal display layouts need to be configured and saved, but once done, the whole car integrates with your life in a seamless way, stretching beyond being just a car and fitting into your style of driving in a seamless way. When it was time for the RX to depart, it was like losing a family pet.
Further information http://www.lexus.co.uk/