Test Drive: Lexus RX 450H - Luxury meets reliability

Sep 17, 2017, 19:40 IST | Sarmad Kadiri

It's radical and a hybrid. An SUV and a Lexus. The RX 450h is just too much of a temptation

Of all the Lexus cars we drove recently, the RX 450H has clearly the most outstanding design. And, being a hybrid at the steep Rs 1 crore price point, it doesn't even have any direct competitors. You definitely haven't seen anything like this on Indian roads before.

What grabs the attention upfront is the distinct Lexus spindle grille. It's massive and pretty much engulfs the entire face of the RX. The fog-light console, running from the skid-plates towards the frowning full-LED headlamp, adds a unique character to the SUV's face.

Infotainment comes with split screen for more information. Pics/ Sanjay Raikar
Infotainment comes with split screen for more information. Pics/Sanjay Raikar

The side profile is equally aggressive with crisp character lines and a black section on the chunky C-pillar giving the impression of a floating roof. The sloping roofline is accentuated by a sporty rear spoiler and the sharp angle of the rear windscreen. There are L-shaped LED tail-lights, while the lines on the boot-lid also follow the spindle design.

There are two variants on offer: Luxury and F-Sport. The latter has a sportier cabin, right from the red upholstery to bucket-like front seats. It also gets paddle-shifters, aluminium floor pedals and an engine sound enhancer. Its SUV-like design makes it easy to get in and immediately you'll notice that the car has a driver-centric cabin. The F-Sport we drove comes with an eight-inch information display, which also includes a G-sensor that tells the driver about the steering angle and accelerator position. The Luxury trim gets all-analogue instruments.

Logo is tinged with blue to highlight  the car's hybrid nature
Logo is tinged with blue to highlight the car's hybrid nature

The cabin is beautifully crafted and the finish is top class. Plus, there are plenty of customisation options and you can definitely tone down the red leather to match the rest of the cabin's design. You get up to 180 different leather and wood combinations to choose from. Our test car came with eight-way electrically adjustable front seats, while the driver seat also had memory function.
The dashboard gets a large display with the cool joystick-like dial near the gear lever. The infotainment system's interface is a large 12.3-inch screen display.

The rear seats can be reclined electrically and the knee-room can be adjusted manually. The cushioning is firm, comfortable and well-bolstered, but could do with more under-thigh support. There's decent cabin space in front and back and can easily accommodate four grown-ups.

The highlight of the RX is its high-quality Mark Levinson (by Harman) music system. It comes with 15 speakers along with a sub-woofer setup that's easily one of the best we've heard in a car. Even a low-quality MP3 song sounded crystal-clear and richer than usual. Other features include ventilated front seats, a sunroof with auto blind and two-zone climate control. Standard equipment on the F-Sport also includes 10 airbags, tyre pressure monitoring system, hill-start assist, and seat-belts with pre-tensioners and force-limiters. There are parking sensors in front and rear, and a rear camera completes this kit. Finally, there's ABS, EBD, traction control, vehicle stability control and brake assist.

Rear seats get electric reclining

If you have the car's key, then the tailgate can be opened simply by holding your palm close to the Lexus logo at the back. This gives you access to the generous 453-litre boot space, which has a full-size spare wheel and a retractable parcel tray.

The hybrid powertrain consists of electric motors mounted on front and rear axles that work in tandem with the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine. Combined, the three motors churn out 313 PS and 335 Nm of torque. It has a smart setup, which charges the battery when the car is coasting and uses this stored power later on when the driver gets on the gas.

Press the Start button and the Lexus comes to life in absolute silence. This is because at low speeds the electric motors propel it forward. As you continue to drive, the petrol engine crank up to charge the battery and power the front wheels. It's an extremely refined car and you can barely make out when the petrol motor takes over.

It's also not the quickest, although Lexus claims a 0-100 km/h time of 7.7 seconds. You can further control the performance using the F-Sport's paddle-shifters to toggle through the gears. This is a better variant for those who like enthusiastic driving, because of its Sound Generator feature. It amplifies the engine sound so that it can be heard within the cabin and makes the drive more engaging.

The suspension is set up on the firmer side to aid handling. Obviously, some of the road bumps easily filter into the cabin, but never getting uncomfortable. Driving through the twisties it displayed decent body control, with hardly any body-roll to complain about. Pouncing on the occasional empty fast corner, the Lexus remains surprisingly planted and composed. The adaptive suspension and Bridgestone Duelers tyres keep things under control. Using the driving modes (Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+) one can further alter the driving dynamics of the RX.

Another advantage is the good ground clearance of 195 mm, which is perfect for our road conditions. With discs on all four wheels, the braking didn't fail to impress either. And, in spite of weighing about 2,100 kg-2,210 kg, the hybrid claims to return a decent fuel efficiency of 18.8 km/l.

With the Luxury costing Rs 1.27 crore and the F-Sport being slightly more expensive at Rs 1.30 crore (both prices ex-showroom, Delhi), the RX belongs to the price bracket of cars like the Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace. Lexus, being the uber-premium brand of Toyota, comes with the same reliability and service reassurance, if not better. Imagine owning a luxury car without the usual tantrums. Luxury car-buyers could be pinching themselves in disbelief.

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