MENTION the name of Lexus and it immediately creates an impression of luxury and refinement.
Performance, while always being up to par, isn't usually a startling buy-me feature. But with the latest X5 rival, the RX500h F Sport, driver appeal is very much high on the list of priorities.
With a 366bhp hybrid engine it picks up its heels well without sacrificing the well known silent travel and luxuries that have earned the Lexus brand many loyal customers.
Nevertheless it's still a four cylinder under that sculptured bonnet and the displacement is a fairly modest 2,393cc.
So how does it fare against big, beefy SUVs like the X5 and Range Rover?
For a start, the RX has snubbed the usual continuous variable transmission usually favoured by Toyota and Lexus. In its stead there's a six speed auto box which is far more relaxed and amenable to swift cross-country driving where the revs feel pleasantly contained.
Accelerate hard, though, and the four-pot turbocharged unit sounds somewhat stretched, reducing that feeling of hushed refinement. Nothing wrong, however, with amount of shove - it eclipses 62mph in a tad over six seconds. And increased driver appeal is definitely evident.
It's a large, tall vehicle and when hustled into bends the laws of physics cannot be denied.
Nevertheless, adhesion is strong and body lean is well controlled, the excellent front seats and all-wheel drive playing their part in allowing the F Sport to be fully exploited. Huge 21-inch alloys shod with grippy low profile rubber also do their bit.
Steering via four wheels is precise but somewhat lacking in feel - not unusual in 4x4 SUVs - but it does little to add to the dynamic feel. The ride is generally nice and smooth with bumps and undulations being smoothed out without loss of composure.
As a cross country express where sweeping bends are the norm, or as a motorway mile-eater, the RX 500 really comes into its own.
Superb furnishings, stylish facia design and an underlying impression of quality and space make light work of long distance travel.
There's ample room in the front with a huge central storage box between driver and passenger and the dash is dominated by a generously sized rectangular touchscreen. This operates many of the controls but there are also traditional switches/knobs on the steering wheel and below the screen.
All are positive in action and feel of high quality.
The boot is cavernous, though the luggage platform is quite high. It can carry more 600litres of cargo before the rear seats are folded down.
In true Lexus fashion, driver aids abound including a speed limit reminder which operates continually unless deactivated via the touchscreen. This is required to be carried out each time the car is started.
For such a large vehicle with a potent performance, fuel economy is impressive. We averaged 31mpg with a best of 34mpg when soft-pedalling.