Big, green, sexy Lexus

The Lexus RX450h hy­brid is a beauty, writesMARKHINCHLIFFE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive Lexus Rx450h -

BIG­GER, sex­ier, greener, more driv­able, more po­tent, yet even cheaper. The sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Lexus RX450h hy­brid SUV has a big­ger foot­print on the road and has more mus­cu­lar bulges that give it a mas­cu­line look, but it is the ad­vances in driv­ing dy­nam­ics in tan­dem with im­proved en­vi­ron­men­tal cre­den­tials that mark the new hy­brid SUV.

And all this comes at a more af­ford­able price. Rather than one spec­i­fi­ca­tion level, it now ar­rives in three trim lev­els that mir­ror the three vari­ants of the petrol-en­gined RX350.

The Pres­tige starts at $89,900, which is al­most $8000 less than the pre­vi­ous hy­brid model. But it has more spec­i­fi­ca­tion, such as smart start, a 12-speaker Mark Levin­son sound sys­tem and a re­mote-touch com­puter sys­tem.

Half of that sav­ing comes in the form of ex­emp­tion from the lux­ury car tax from the thresh­old up to $75,000 of its price, be­cause its com­bined fuel use is less than seven litres for 100km.

It is the first hy­brid to qual­ify for ex­emp­tion from the lux­ury car tax.

Lexus Aus­tralia boss John Roca says the other part of the price re­duc­tion is due to a more ef­fi­cient process of pro­duc­ing hy­brid tech­nol­ogy.

Prices for the other trim lev­els are $96,900 for the Sports and $107,900 for the Sports Lux­ury.

Roca says dealers have taken about two months of or­ders, or 120 ve­hi­cles, even though they as­sumed the price would be $10,000 above the pre­vi­ous model, which cost $97,545.

‘‘In nor­mal cir­cum­stances that would not be ground-break­ing, but in th­ese (eco­nomic) con­di­tions, it is very promis­ing and clearly shows con­sumer in­ter­est in hy­brids is con­tin­u­ing to grow,’’ he says.

Roca is pro­ject­ing 60 sales a month, which is a 70 per cent in­crease on the RX400h and rep­re­sents 30 per cent of all RX sales.

The new RX hy­brid is 10 per cent more pow­er­ful than the RX400h with a com­bined power out­put of 220kW, and 23 per cent more ef­fi­cient with econ­omy of 6.4 litres/100km and CO2 emis­sions of 150g/km — less than a Toy­ota Corolla.

The power gains are largely through the use of an ef­fi­cient Atkin­son cy­cle V6 en­gine that has a higher com­pres­sion ra­tio (12.5:1) than a con­ven­tional Otto cy­cle en­gine.

It is com­bined with di­rect ig­ni­tion, quadcam multi-valves, vari­able valve tim­ing to op­ti­mise ef­fi­ciency, and two elec­tric motors.

Sur­pris­ingly for a hy­brid, the Lexus is more ef­fi­cient on the high­way cy­cle (6.1 litres/ 100km) than around town (6.6 litres/100km).

This is due to strate­gies such as bet­ter aero­dy­nam­ics, low-fric­tion bear­ings and oil, and ECU man­age­ment.

Over its life­time, Lexus es­ti­mates the RX450h will gen­er­ate 32 per cent less CO2 than the RX 350, de­spite its larger size, power and 120kg of mass.

Roca says the pre­vi­ous model had a 65 per cent skew to­ward women but the new model will ap­peal more to males. ‘‘It will be more like 50-50,’’ he says. ‘‘All RX400h mod­els are now sold. Our tar­get was to clear stock by Au­gust but we cleared them by the end of May with ag­gres­sive pric­ing.’’

The RX450h will be avail­able from July 13. LEXUS chose East­ern Creek race cir­cuit in Syd­ney’s west to launch the ve­hi­cle this week.

It seemed a strange choice for an SUV, but the skid­pan drive and cor­ner­ing ex­er­cises prove the new chas­sis and sus­pen­sion de­sign tested at Ger­many’s Nur­bur­gring give this a more car-like drive than its pre­de­ces­sor.

It turns into a cor­ner sharper and faster, ma­noeu­vres with less steer­ing in­put, has less body roll and pitch and can cor­ner faster and flat­ter, even in the wet.

Yet out on the road, it still strad­dles pot­holes qui­etly and grace­fully. The cabin is al­most eerily quiet at times, ex­cept un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion.

Roca says cus­tomers com­plained the pre­vi­ous model didn’t make enough noise when pushed hard. The RX450h now pro­vides a sub­tle but no­tice­able en­gine roar that dies to a gen­tle purr when cruis­ing on the high­way or around town, with or without elec­tric mo­tor as­sis­tance.

The roomy and airy cabin feels even more open, es­pe­cially in the back.

The mouse-con­trolled com­puter screen for the in­fo­tain­ment dis­play is bet­ter than that in some of the com­peti­tors’ mod­els, but is not a patch on the ease of the touch-screen pre­de­ces­sor.

On the plus side, the screen is now far­ther away and re­cessed to avoid sun glare.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.