I’VE always struggled getting my head round people who opt for large SUVs instead of a better-driving estate but as my years advance, it really isn’t hard to see why they do.
I blame my little boy, Arthur. He’s almost three and extremely precious to me so I want him wrapped up in the tough, protective metal cocoon SUVs enable.
There are some good ones, and some not-so-good ones, but Lexus’ clever RX450h absolutely falls into the former basket as it’s got everything you’d want and the fact that footballers don’t seem to be lured to them appeals massively.
Whereas they’ll opt for the Range Rover Sports and Porsche Cayennes of this world, the RX - available from £50,000 - passes under the radar as although it’s a large chunk of metal, it cannot be describe as garish nor vulgar like most in its sector can.
Outside, there’s no doubting it’s a striking-looking thing with the ultra-modern front end, but it loses marks elsewhere because it looks too bland from behind.
Inside it’s huge, comfortable and although the switchgear is perhaps looking a little aged and some of the plastics are far too cheap, the design is still good. You can tell the platform is a few years old now and they’ve cheekily used a few parts from cheaper models, but the gigantic tablet-style screen works well and the ‘mouse’ - controlled by your fingertip - is easy to use.
Press the starter button and you’d be forgiven for prodding it again as your ears are met with silence. By default it’s in its hybrid mode which is where the RX’s unique selling point comes to the fore. There’s a petrol-powered 3.5-litre V6, which produces 295bhp and a satisfying growl under acceleration, and the battery pack which adds another 18bhp.
A green ‘EV’ emblem appears on the dash when you’re using electric power, but the hyper-sensitive throttle soon awakens the engine meaning it’s difficult to drive far in EV mode alone. The amalgamation of the two power forms is seamless, though - the RX shifts between them with ease and you’ll be hard pushed to tell when the changeover occurs as this is Lexus’ forte.
While plug-in hybrids might be becoming more prominent, the RX uses technology Lexus has perfected over the last decade and it’s better than ever in 2020. I’ve criticised regenerative braking systems - which recharge when you’re slowing down - but the RX’s pedal has none of the grainy feel you used to get on lesser, older models when the tech was pretty new. Teething problems have been ironed out and the package is a good one.
It’s better suited being on motorways and dual carriageways, as it can feel a bit boat-like when you’re on tighter, narrow lanes. There’s lean, it lurches and its steering is a little dim-witted, but it’s a big old bus is the RX so you never really want to grab it by the scruff of its neck. What it is brilliant at is wafting along and crunching long-distance journeys with absolute ease.
It’s also surprisingly brisk: a two-tonne car has next to no right to boast a 7.7-second 0-60mph time, but it’s the V6’s torque and decent burst of hybrid power which combine well to not only give respectable performance but admissible fuel economy, too. During a week, the leviathan averaged 34mpg.
It’s not perfect, then, but it’s a genuine alternative to familiar SUVs and is definitely one to try if you’re on the lookout for a car in this ultra-competitive sector.
You know what you’re getting with Lexus: handsome looks, well-made interiors and clever technology.