By Patrick James on 2016-04-02 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
Lexus RX 450h
IN the packed SUV sector there are some models that stand out from the crowd.
The big Lexus RX, just launched in its fourth incarnation with bold, futuristic styling, a state-of-the-art interior and high levels of standard equipment, is certainly one of them.
It is now longer, with more cabin space and has neat features like dual speed electric windows and door mirror which change angles when reversing.
There are two versions,the full hybrid RX 450h with all-wheel drive, available in SE, Luxury, F Sport and Premier trims, plus three RX 200t turbocharged petrol models, the front wheel drive S and all-wheel drive Luxury and F Sport.
The hybrid combines a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and electric motor to deliver rapid performance for such a big car, but is still capableof producing decent economy when kept in electric vehicle mode.
However, the official 51-odd mpg is difficult achieve unless you keep your right foot firmly under control.
The looks are without doubt head-turning, with its angular, sharp creases, enormous grille and high quality alloy wheels. There are also new, new triple L-shaped LED headlights.
The rear end is equally striking with wrap-around light clusters and a back rear pillar finish that creates a floating roof effect. The sweep effect of the indicators is also impressive.
The interior isimpossibly plush and features a riot of leather and aluminium and Lexus has called on the skills of Yamaha Fine Technologies to add extra luxury by creating distinctive laser cut wood inserts in centre console and door trim.
The dash and console wouldn't look out of place on a space craft, dominated as it is by a huge touchscreen. It feels luxurious and beautifully crafted, as you would expect from a vehicle whose entry point is just a fiver under £40,000.
It's a lot of money but there is plenty on offer for the the cash.
Even the so-called 'entry' model is lavishly equipped with dual-zone climate control, rear privacy glass, heated front seats, Lexus Navigation with an eight-inch display screen, a nine-speaker audio system with DAB, reversing camera, LED headlamps, roof rails and dual chrome-tipped exhausts.
The lists seems endless and includes more goodies as you step the the trim levels. The range-topping Premier model driven here is a riot of wizardry and technology with some luxurious creature comforts to boot.
All wheel drive is standard as is the premium leather upholstery, heated and ventilated powered front seats with memory settings. The navigation and control system has a bigger, 12.3-inch display screen and DVD player, 20-inch alloy wheels, power tailgate with "no-touch" opening, wireless smartphone charger, and auto-dimming door mirrors with memory setting.
Also included is a colour head-up display, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround audio system, 360-degree view monitor and a heated steering wheel, illuminated scuff plates add extra quality detailing.
There is plenty of leg and headroom for all occupants but the large battery means some boot space is lost which leaves just an adequate amount of space. For extra space, the rear seats forwards to create more boot space, and fold for even more space.
All models equipped with Lexus Safety System+ which includes pre-crash safety, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and lane keep assist.
On the road, the car is is capable of pottering along gently or zipping through the much improved CVT gearbox for to hit 60mph in just 7.7 seconds.
Because of the high driving position you can forget how fast you are going, so beware of blue lights and cameras.
The handling is good, with little evidence of wallowing on corners and the refined engine, and excellent soundproofing keeps most noise to a minimum. There is some noise however, from the 20-inch tyres. Otherwise, particularly in traffic, the electric motor kicks in for almost silent running.
Refined and reasonably practical, but luxurious and striking looking, it certainly stands out from the crowd.
Lexus RX 450h Premier
Mechanical: 259bhp, 3,456cc, V6 petrol engine and 68bhp electric motor driving all wheels via electric CVT gearbox
Max Speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 7.7 seconds
Combined MPG: 51.4
Insurance Group: 42
C02 emissions: 127g/km
Bik rating: 20%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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