Enjoy a quiet drive with the Lexus Hybrid SUV, says Adrian Ion
Stylish, fast, reliable, fuel efficient and sophisticated. These are the my features that came to mind when I drove the Lexus Hybrid.
This RX 400h is an SUV crossover and its breakthrough technology hopes to satisfy both gas-guzzlers and hippies waiting for technology that allows dandelions and daisies to power motor vehicles.
But when I first looked at the car I could not tell the difference between the ordinary RX and the hybrid model – except for a small sign on the boot and back doors. The cars seemed the same – but appearances can be deceptive.
When I settled into the driving seat and turned the ignition key, the surprise was worth the price of the vehicle alone. The car was as quiet as when it was dormant, save an illuminated signal reading ‘READY’. This was the only indication that the car was active. I was about to drive in complete silence. So be prepared to sound the horn when a pedestrian is crossing the street - because he will not hear this monster moving on up.
The RX 400h has the advantages of a hybrid gas-electric vehicle. This means that carbon dioxide emissions are very low, reducing the impact on the environment and, in terms of fuel efficiency, it could compare to a compact vehicle.
But all this does not mean that power and speed are sacrificed. On the contrary, step on the gas and the RX 400h will be quicker than the regular RX 330. Some car magazines who compared the Lexus hybrid with other models claim this is as fast as a thirsty V8-powered Mercedes ML500. The Lexus factory specifications mention that the nought to 100 km/h will be reached in under 7.6 seconds.
This is how it works. At low speeds, only the electric motor provide power. The car has two motors, in the front and in the back, and when it runs only on electric, the vehicle runs in complete silence.
While cruising, the RX draws solely on the petrol engine, but when you demand power in acceleration, both the petrol V6 engine and the electric motors work simultaneously to produce an impressive boost and overtaking capabilities. The good news about these electric motors is that they do not need to be recharged using external devices. It recycles energy generated by the petrol engine and from braking. The hybrid system does not need any replacement parts for five years or 100,000 km.
The RX comes in a standard packed with the extras one would expect from a luxury SUV such as dual-zone climate control, GPS navigation, power seats, rear-view colour camera, xenon adaptive lights and an audio system by Mark Levinson.
Large but compact
This is an SUV, so this should mean that drivers have to adapt to the demands of the size. Nevertheless the car is easy to drive and feels more compact than its rivals. It does not give the impression that one is driving a truck, but a luxury saloon.
The RX 400h was not designed for serious off-road use. It handles gravel roads with a fine approach. Slippery surface are no problem. The electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system should work well on wet pavements, snow and ice. One of the three electric motor generators drives the rear wheels when there is a need for improved traction.
The RX 400h also boasts a new generation of vehicle stability systems that are as complex as the gas-electric drive train. This goes well beyond conventional traction and stability controls that react to challenging conditions. Instead, it anticipates vehicle instability and makes corrections to stabilise the handling.
This vehicle is an amazing piece of technology. The car’s complexity makes it one of the most interesting machines available today. But technology comes at a price. The RX400h has a price tag of 65,000 Euro including taxes. Yet the feeling of driving a luxury, environmentally-friendly and economic car that will hold its value for years will compensate for the cost. The experience of owning such a vehicle is a rare pleasure.
“Carbon dioxide emissions are low and fuel efficiency can compare to a compact vehicle”