Lexus has it right on hybrids
The RX450h arrives in showrooms this week and is impressive on both MPG and emissions, writes Martin Brennan
Lexus believes that hybrid technology is superior to diesel power for cleaner motoring and over 10 years ago the RX hybrid was launched into a market segment dominated by diesel power. New developments in hybrid technology and the controversy over 'cheating' diesel engines have put a fresh focus on the environmentally friendly dual-power source and there is a big movement by all the major European premium brand manufacturers to take on the hybrid mantle.
So Lexus and Toyota appear to have got it right and now plug-in hybrids are increasing in popularity as the way to go for those anxious to cut down on the use of fossil fuel and gain more economy with cleaner emissions.
Lexus has introduced the latest RX450h large SUV and the hybrid technology has been improved. Engineers point out that petrol-electric produces less particulate emissions (Nox) than diesel rivals. It has low C02 emissions - 145g/km - and claims fuel consumption is down to 5.2L/100km, about 45mpg.This is impressive indeed for a large two-tonne vehicle.
It is disappointing that the company is not yet offering a plug-in version, which is becoming increasing popular in hybrid circles. Cost factors may be an issue but Lexus wants everything to be just right before moving forward. Reliability and waiting for proven improved battery technology are cited.
And the company is strangely sticking to nickel metal hydride batteries for the electric motors, while many other manufacturers are moving to the more advanced lithium-ion battery power. Lexus is again sticking to the more tried and tested hybrid technology, an improved power source and it gives an indication of intent by saying that in the future fuel-cell technology will play a more important role in providing clean power.
The new model is longer, wider and has a longer wheelbase but designers have not gone as far as offering a seven-seat option. Comfort for passengers has always been a priority and encroaching on a compact boot space was not considered an option, with research showing that a five-seater is a popular choice with buyers at this level.
Arriving in the showrooms this week, the RX450h has fresh new lines and a wind-cheating .32 drag factor, which, combined with excellent sound suppression, gives an exceptionally quiet drive, even when the powerful 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine is at full throttle. The engine produces 246bhp and is helped by two electric motors, a 165 unit which helps drive the front wheels and a rear mounted motor, which produces 68bhp and helps the rear wheels for the 4x4 drive.
As one would expect, the materials used in the cabin and the levels of technology and safety devices are top-quality and the high driving position and heads-up windscreen display make driving relaxed.
Handling is geared more to safety and comfort while cornering and high-speed performance feel safe at all times. There are several driving modes available to suit all driving conditions: Eco, Normal, Sport, Sport S and Sport S+. There is also a 15-speaker audio system available. Prices range from €69,650 for the entry Executive grade, with the Luxury level costing €76,450 and the Premium grade at €86,250.
The F Sport grade model costs €83,950. Levels of trim are exceptionally high, even at entry level, with good safety features as standard.
There is also an F Sport version to rival BMW M Sport and Audi S line Suvs.
The GS model gets a facelift and will be with us in January to rival the BMW 5-Series and Audi A6.
An RC Coupe 300h will be here later this year to compete with the Audi A5 and the BMW 4-Series.