The pioneering Lexus RX 450h hybrid SUV combines a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with two electric motors, delivering seamless power to all four wheels. Thanks to the instantaneous torque generated by the electric motors, you can accelerate to 0 – 62 mph in 7.7 seconds, while emitting just 120 g/km of CO2.
You can tell a lot about a car by the people who admire it. When young men swarm it in the streets, you know it is renownedly fast and has red piping. When people at the school gates like it, you know it looks new (there is something about playgrounds – they dampen the petrolheads and amplify a love of tidiness). And when a car, much like the Lexus RX 450h, attracts the attention of men who look like advertising executives (slouchy attire, confident hair, always in their 40s) you know it’s both right-on and a status vehicle.
It’s a tricky combination, being fundamentally contradictory: if you care about climate change, you forget about status, surely? Except not really: the Lexus speaks to the crazy mixed-up people we truly are. Its hybrid efficiency has to be weighed against the old-fashioned inefficiency of its two-tonne bulk. It is modern all the way from its shapely headlamp cluster to its cavernous front grille; old school in its leather interior, and the fact that a lot of its not inconsiderable bulk is given over to driver comfort. It’s an SUV in which the passengers feel like they’re in a hot hatch, and the boot could belong to a 70s saloon. Yet the driver feels like she’s in an armchair, and that’s what counts.
Emissions are impressive, given its size, but not in the grand scheme of things; so the irritants of a hybrid irked me more. It has a soundless take off, which techies admire, being difficult to achieve; I can’t stand it, because if there’s one thing that really harshes my mellow, it’s nearly running people over. It glides through town, striking but silent, like a getaway vehicle in a Triffids dystopia (Trifftopia?) where people can only hear. It’s luxurious, almost statesmanlike. The seats are not just heated, but ventilated, the satnav is so attentive it’s like having a butler, the speakers are amazing, and there are a gazillion phone chargers, for the busy executive with multiple devices. If it’s a bit cumbersome for city streets, well, those other people should just get out of the way.
Motorways are more fun, when the petrol takes over. The hush of the cabin, the precision of the steering and the insouciance in the face of dodgy road surface: all of these shout “class”. I smiled, papally, at other drivers: “Yes, fellow motorwayer. I am as virtuous yet as rich as I look.” And I guess that’s the point. I remain unpersuaded, however, that “looking expensive” is the proper business of the automobile of modernity.
Lexus RX 450h: in numbers
Top speed 124mph
Acceleration 0-62mpg in 7.7 seconds
Combined fuel consumption 51.4mpg
CO2 emissions 127g/km
Eco rating 7/10
Cool rating 6/10
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