We drove the Lexus RX 450h: reaching perfection in hybrid Four Wheel Drive…

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This new Lexus RX 450h reaches new heights in subtle smoothness, power and driving dynamics, and also pleases with very bold, contemporary angular looks. Its daring proportions really turn heads, but otherwise it remains a true Lexus: offering its happy passengers a very smooth, civilized ride, soothing and relaxing, vibrationless and (almost) silent. Easy to drive, handle, full of useful accessories and loaded with well thought out driving helps. Life is truly grand in a Lexus. This is what the RX450 h shows here again…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Dramatic looks…

The new RX 450h looks rather dramatic from the front, and Lexus sets out to win hearts with a very boldly styled, angular grille, which is now getting increasingly typical for the new Lexus model range. The bold line and volume treatment continues on the sides, with well accentuated wheel arches, and the rear end of the car is again rather classic and conservative.

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Altogether the RX looks quite harmonious, accentuating its SUV and 4WD character with confidence, but never too aggressive or ostentatious. A truly fine balance has been drawn by the Lexus styling people. The interior is also styled in keeping with the Lexus tradition, with dual tone upholstery and classic round dials on the dashboard with of course a wide, ample dimensioned console with very ergonomic and self explaining disposition of handles, and (round) selector knobs.

Massive V6 power, combined with potent electric motor…

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Sliding behind the wheel, just push the starting knob and the steering wheel and seat whirr into your chosen position. Indeed, one feels immediately at home in this Lexus. Put the lever in “D” and, with the round selector knob in “Eco” or “Normal” mode, the “EV” tell tale light will lit up and off you go in utter silence, driven only by the Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor, which has a maximum power of not less than 50 kW and a maximum torque of 139 Nm.

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After a few initial meters, a deep subdued growl sets in, as the impressive 3,5 liter V6 24-Valve, DOHC, Dual VVT-iW comes to life. Hardly audible, yet clearly there. A thoroughbred engine, delivering not less than 193 kW @ 6000 rpm, but revving here very lowly somewhere between 1000 and 1500 rpm, as not much more power is needed for you to drive quietly away. Depending on whether you just coast or accelerate more or less with verve, the electric motor(s) again takes over, the V6 engine merely charging the batteries at optimum revs, or just shutting down. So ingenious, and expertly computer controlled.

This makes the Lexus a civilized companion in everyday urban traffic, with all the massive power immediately available when you want it, We always find it an experience to feel the utter smoothness of the power transition between the engine and electric motor, which is almost imperceptible, and this in all driving modes you choose.

 

Indeed, besides the “Eco” and the “Normal” mode, there is the “Sport” mode, which remains also totally civilized and delivers smoothness along with breathtaking performance and responsiveness.

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This “Sport” mode is totally marvelous and really shows what pinnacles of refinement and engineering expertise the Lexus people have reached.

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First of all, the left dial on the dashboard, which normally indicates power level, and whether you gain energy when decelerating and braking, is now transformed into a classic rev counter, and a subdued red backlight is now seen on the instruments.

The car is now also transformed. Suspension and steering are now ideally set for more responsiveness, as is the engine. It now really shows its mettle, and revs up freely with the most exhilarating, but altogether very refined, subdued growl. 24 valves, double overhead cams, you guessed it, this means business. In a vibrationless staccato, impressive performance is put on the tarmac.

This Lexus will accelerate with seamless smoothness, thanks also to the CVT type transmission, and will hurtle from 0 to 100 km in merely 7,7 seconds, and you really don’t have to be a racing pilot or rally driver to do this. The two electric motors, front and aft, help too of course to enhance this performance.

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Fuel consumption is, as could be expected, quite moderate, and it is in slow, urban traffic with many stops and varying speeds that the system really comes into its own. We measured an average consumption of 8,1 liters/100 km in mostly dense, slow traffic.

That is what we call a fast and powerful car. It will continue to gain speed with impressive urge, and reach a top speed of 200 kmh. In the meantime, one is impressed by the total absence of any mechanical effort or strain, so even when driven with total abandon, this Lexus remains relaxing and refined.

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The chassis and suspension is totally up to the task, and its nimbleness and responsiveness gives you true driving pleasure. It steers with precision, and remains well behaved and neutral up to very high cornering speeds. The electronic driving aids help of course to keep you on the right path. There is even more put for your safety, and that of passengers and bystanders. For instance, there is the pre-crash safety system, which also distinguishes pedestrians.

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On the open road, there is Lane Keeping Assist, High Beam and Adaptative Cruise Control to make your journey safe and relaxing.

Triple Led Headlights will light your way, it has a distinguished daylight Led illumination, and sequential directional lights.

Off road qualities are also of very high order, and the vast experience of the manufacturer, gained in building the iconic and legendary Land Cruiser amongst others really tells. The Lexus 4WD system is dubbed E-FOUR, and indeed, a 50 kW electric motor drives the rear wheels if called for.

Creature comfort

The Lexus pilot and his (her) passengers are very well cocooned in the cabin. Its dual tone color scheme is pleasant to say the least, and creates a joyful ambiente, exuding also luxuriousness, which has become the standard into this class. The seats are excellent, and remember also their setting, as they whirr backwards when you stopped the engine and are getting out of the car. The same is true for the steering wheel, which also automatically recesses when you step out.

Of course, there is state of the art infotainment, and again we appreciated that this Lexus has retained a classic slot for CD’s and DVD’s, so we can enjoy the velvety sound and voices of our favorite Jazz musicians and singers. The Lexus offers also this unique refinement and silence which gets you in the right “velvety” mood just to sit back, enjoy a very relaxing and “zen” drive. Indeed, we rarely have found a car which is more enjoyable and soothing to drive in our dense, modern day, slow urban traffic.

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Note that the rear passengers can also enjoy the superb sound of the Levinson system, which provides a rear passenger entertainment module consisting of not less than 15 speakers…

Nor are you disturbed by the dense fumes of urban traffic. A filter built in the ventilation system will clean the incoming air, so you are breathing freely in your Lexus.

Parking is also a breeze with the usual warning systems to help you out.

There is of course ample room for four and their luggage, and the tail lid opens electrically to a nice flat loading space. This Lexus is also designed and build to be your practical, allround companion, on whatever road or path you will take it…

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The Lexus RX 450h has gained in style, pure panache and character, with a feline, powerful, thoroughbred engine, encapsulated in a velvety smooth hybrid system, which has become the hallmark of Lexus engineering and “savoir faire”.

In all its refinement and comfort, it is of course frugal, practical, and offers genuine driving pleasure for the more sporting hearts. It will seduce many, and has already won our heart(s) and we can only say, join the unique Lexus experience, and get behind the wheel of one…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

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