First drive: 2016 Lexus RX450hJan 11th, 2016
The RX has always been an SUV for people who want to get about with minimum fuss, not maximum fun.
This new model doesn’t change that. But with a stiffer chassis and longer body, more cabin space and the promise of better ride and refinement than the ooutgoing version, it’s still a very different vehicle.
Also unlike the old model, there’s a choice of powertrains. We’ve got the hybrid RX450h version here; it mates a 3.5-litre petrol engine to a pair of electric motors to achieve a total output of 308bhp for only 120g/km of CO2.
First things first: refinement is indeed excellent. Whether or not the V6 engine is spinning, it’s beautifully hushed in the cabin – and however fast you get it moving, there’s also next to no wind, road or suspension noise.
Ride quality is very good, too, though bigger bumps can upset it – even with the variable-rate dampers on our Premier-spec test car. And the blend of performance and handling is ideally set-up for Lexus’ target market – that is, people who don’t intend to go looking for thrills.
It’s strong and linear under acceleration, but the drivetrain and gearbox don’t invite you to become part of the action – even with the latter in manual mode. Similarly, while it would take something unusual to unstick it, that’s thanks more to electronic aids than any great achievements in the field of suspension balance.
The average RX owner won’t care two hoots about that. Much more important is the sky-high level of cabin quality, from the sturdy switchgear and sumptuous trim materials to the obvious skill that’s gone into putting it together.
It’s more spacious than before, too, with plenty of room all round so long as you’re not abnormally tall. You’ll fit plenty of cargo in the boot as well – it’s not the most capacious of SUVs, but it’s big enough for most people’s needs and the back seats do everything you want them to.
Something else you want your RX450h to do is justify your investment in Lexus’ technology at the petrol pump. We got 30-35mpg out of it in typical everyday driving, which is okay but isn’t the 51.4mpg the official figures say.
Putting that to one side, if you seek driving thrills at any level at all the RX450h is absolutely wrong for you. But if you seek relaxed, refined tranquillity in your SUV, it’s absolutely right.