ROAD TEST: Lexus RX450h F Sport

Can you believe the £54,145 Lexus RX 450h F Sport we have on test here is the forth generation of the luxurious Japanese SUV?

Yup, the once leftfield, now much more mainstream, uber-cool, young and oh-so-Hollywood helicopter, VIP night clubbing RX has been on the market since 1998, when no-one even knew what hybrid technology was, let alone that it'd be creeping into more and more cars, eventually all...

Lexus must be laughing it up, as their "full hybrid" technology (electric motor always operating) leads the field, and has been doing so for two decades. They own the no-fuss, all-fancy, get-in-and-drive hybrid technology scene... allowing drivers to tap into the technology effortlessly, seamlessly switching from electric motors driving front and rear axles, to silky smooth, great sounding V6 petrol engines. It's a winning formula...

Especially in the SUV market, where the impending "toxin tax" on diesels here in the UK (soon to be followed elsewhere...?) somewhat limits your options if you like a high on ride height, big on space and lavish on luxury all-wheel-drive cars that do more than 15mpg and don't get spat at by eco-warriors!

In theory, the RX 450h can knock out insane fuel efficiency – offering up a class-of-its-own fuel consumption of 54.3 mpg and ultra low emissions of 120g/km CO2 on one end of the scale. And at the other... a 7.7s dash to 62mph (despite weighing 2,000Kg+), a very swiftly reached top speed of 124mph and ultra-accessible, e-torque performance from its 3.5-litre, 24V, DOHC V6 and twin electric motors - combing to produce 259 bhp in old money, or 335 bhp with the e-power. It adds up to a very fast and useable eco-power package.

How's that for a tempting 'Living the RX life' modern offering?

The levels of attraction grow even deeper the further you go with the RX 450h, with a spaceship like level of tech on offer – including a stunning sound 15-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio get-up (with the best digital radio we've ever had on test), ultra-wide and easy to read and configure Head-Up Display, fast touch-free tailgate and the party piece, enormous, intuitive, informative and innovative infotainment screen, sitting surrounded by well-placed, tactile dials and a stunning dash design that's a privilege to drive around.
Especially for a serial button pressing faffing bloke like me. Heaven.

Then there's the best leather seats we've sat in since the launch of the Saab 9000 Aero! Insaney comfortable and cosseting, with heat and cooled options (coming into their own taking my hot and bothered sister-in-law to a recent job interview, after her transport broke down!). And the interior is all nicely wrapped up and finished off with laser-cut dark wood inserts by Yamaha furnishing the door trims and centre console "hand polished to perfection."

In fact the only thing our test model lacked in the spacious, well-appointed cabin with its Nanoe© cabin air technology was the Lexus panoramic roof options, which would have only served to enhance the wafting, wonderful and special driving experience and lighten up a marginally dark feeling interior.

Next up is the RX's pioneering levels of safety with 5* EURO NCAP rating supported by Lexus' Safety System + as standard, which includes (deep breath!) Dynamic Cruise Control, Advanced Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alerts, an adaptive Automatic High Beam and Pre-Crash Safety from the radar set-up, to name but a few. This all adds up to a highly advanced preventative and active safety bundle to be in awe of, for a family man like me. 

And don't think safe is dull. 

The RX is far from dull - with its all-new angular and aerodynamic styling and absolutely enormous 20-inch alloys adding a fresh, edgier, more modern look and feel to the range. Exterior enhancements for the new F Sport include a larger Lexus signature spindle grille with ‘L-mesh’ inserts, brake cooling ducts and aerodynamic fins for increased downforce. It's very effective and individual. And it'll certainly stand out at the golf club... if not cause a few stent failures. 

Then there's the all-new stiffer, sportier longer wheel base chassis and adaptive damping/self-levelling, four position suspension and ECU programs – developed by the genius Lexus LFA team – for the trick engine and hybrid drivetrain, adding greater dynamism to the handling and producing a potent performance package. 

We did long and comfortable motorway cruises, silent EV-Mode city drives, twisty back roads and sweeping coastal road drives in the RX and it's more than capable of excelling in all environments, not to mention showing most cars a clean pair of sexy high heels.

Downsides? 1. The suspension edges towards the stiffer side and to handling prowess than ride quality, for a luxury SUV (seemingly regardless of the subtle shifts of the Eco, Normal or Sport, Sport + settings, which are most reactive to ECU engine modes). And one has to ask if this is a downside, as the handling is superb, as are the drive modes. 2. We wouldn't want to clean dead flies out of that intriqite plastic honeycomb grille – and there are a LOT of dead flies in a two-tonne beast that is this fast. 3. A small bit of door trim came unstuck on the rear door of our test car the first time we opened the back door... raising a tiny question mark over build quality in some areas, which is surprising (although most likely uncharacteristic). 

Would we still have one? Yep. You bet, especially at just £499 PCM right now! There's nothing else like the stylish, sexy and superior RX 450h on sale. Thanks to the advanced, tried and tested technology, superior blend of power, economy and environmental responsibility and classy levels of luxury, it's in a league of its own really: A genuinely modern SUV for a genuinely modern marketplace.

Go test one. You will be impressed... 


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