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Lexus RX 450h SE-L Review & Road Test (2010) Part 2

Sat, 18 Dec 2010 00:00:00 -0800

Lexus RX 450h Review Part 2

Until January owners of the RX450h can drive through the London Congestion Zone free of charge. But Boris has put the kibosh on that, and from January only cars emitting less than 100g/km CO2 get a freebie. Which has buggered things a bit for Lexus by taking away the RX450′s USP as a posh SUV that’s cheap to own in London.

Still, if we are to believe the official figures – 44.8mpg from an SUV that can do 62mph in 7.8 seconds – the loss of a freebie on the congestion charge should just be a blip. Except we couldn’t get even close to the official figures.

But the good things first.

The suspension and handling are actually better than you’d expect. True, you’re not going to run a Cayenne or X5 ragged round the back roads, but the RX is competent. In fact, it got close to being fun to hustle on a couple of occasions. Which was probably more about the far from shoddy straight-line performance than its astonishing handling prowess. But it did go round corners – almost nimbly.

What doesn’t help the handling – or the sensation of control – is the CVT ‘box and steering that communicates little. With a decent ‘box you could use the power more confidently to push through the bends; with the CVT ‘box you don’t have that luxury. But the power is decent, even if you have to live with the engine shouting before it delivers and the steering not telling you very much at all.

That aside, the RX450h is still a half-decent drive. It is beautifully put together and wants for little in the way of toys. The perfect car for a yummy-mummy or the forty or fifty-something couple who want a bit of prestige and the benefit of a car that can hustle a bit if needed, cruise when wanted and pile a few extra bodies in as required.

That it can cope with a degree of mud and snow is a bonus, and you can even shove a dishwasher in the boot if you need to. Just not a particularly big one. And all the time the RX450h is economical and planet-saving. Only it’s not. At least not if you like to make brisk progress.

We hustle. We know we do. And that plays havoc with a hybrid powerplant. We averaged just over 27mpg, which is a long way off the 44.8mpg the official figures say. And that included a day spent trying to be an eco-driver. Which meant tiptoeing around as if driving on eggshells, a chunk of in-town motoring, avoiding the ‘B-Road Blast’ and keeping the cruising under 75mph.

That day of eco-driving did produce results approaching 40mpg. But it felt tedious. And we suspect that if you drive like a saint you could coax very similar figures from a diesel SUV from any of the prestige makers. And yet…

We warmed to the RX450h by the end of the week. We understand why people buy it. It’s perceived to be a climate-friendly SUV; it can carry you around in safety and comfort and it can – if you don’t hustle it – be economical to run. And it’s quality rather than flash. Which we do understand.

Could we live with the RX450h as a daily drive? A week isn’t enough time to answer that question. We were more favourably disposed to it after a week than after a day. But we doubt its strengths could coerce us in to driving the RX 450h as it needs to be driven to deliver what it promises.

And unless you drive as Lexus intends, the RX 450h fails. Which is a bit of a shame.

Full Lexus RX 450h SE-L  specification, data and price

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By Cars UK