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TAKE THIS ONE OUT WITH MAN­UAL

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Drive Way - Bill Buys

ONE thing’s for sure: there’s a heck of a lot of data in the new Lexus RX450h.

The owner's man­ual, which ev­ery owner should read be­fore driv­ing any new car, stretches to a

War and Peace-like 568 pages, and the some­what com­plex nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem would be a lot clearer if own­ers took the trou­ble to read its 480-page in­struc­tion book.

Yes, Lexus's pre­mium SUV is in­deed a com­pre­hen­sive pack­age.

It's a big­ger car than ear­lier mod­els and its sharp styling sets it well apart from its con­ser­va­tive Teu­tonic ri­vals.

The ag­gres­sive bar­racuda-like grille is flanked by a set of su­perb – in looks and per­for­mance – Bi-LED head­lights and the rad­i­cal raked body lines not only make heads turn but also make for a lower drag co-ef­fi­cient, not to men­tion a quicker turn­around in a car­wash.

It's 120mm longer and a bit wider than its pre­de­ces­sor, giv­ing back­seat pas­sen­gers ex­tra room, and the cargo area is also larger.

While most ve­hi­cles in this class favour diesel power, the Lexus uses a so­phis­ti­cated petrol­elec­tric sys­tem. There's a 3.5litre petrol V6 un­der its bon­net, while a 650 volt elec­tric mo­tor drives the rear wheels. Work­ing in tan­dem, they pro­duce 230kW.

Like most Lexi, there's quite a fam­ily of RXs to choose from: 200t, 350 and 450h, most with op­tional en­hance­ment packs. Prices start from $73,000 for the 200t and top out at $106,000 for the RX 450h Sport Lux­ury we were blessed with.

It comes with all the op­tions, in­clud­ing bam­boo trim on the door pan­els, dash and steer­ing wheel, a full-length sun­roof, 14-way power seat ad­just­ment, 15-speaker Mark Levin­son au­dio sys­tem, 10 airbags, heads-up dis­play, 12.3inch cen­tral sat­nav screen, 20inch al­loys, lots of leather and many more fea­tures.

Out of sight but highly val­ued is adap­tive sus­pen­sion that au­to­mat­i­cally ad­justs to var­i­ous road sur­faces and sharp­ens han­dling, and a su­per-smooth eight-speed con­stantly vari­able trans­mis­sion.

The heated and ven­ti­lated leather-ac­cented seats are sim­ply su­perb. We went down south to Yallingup and True Love reck­oned it was the most com­fort­able drive she'd ever had.

The vari­able dash has a graph that shows how much or lit­tle fuel is be­ing used and we ran at a steady 7.8litres/100km for most of the route. We se­lected 'eco' drive mode and got there and back on a sin­gle tank. There's also nor­mal, sport and sport-plus avail­able at the twirl of a ro­tary knob on the con­sole.

Start the car and there's not a sound. A 'ready' light glows on the dash, then se­lect D or R and glide away. The en­gine fires up only when the ac­cel­er­a­tor is used.

If you're in a hurry, it will run to 100km/h in 7.0sec­onds, but it's the kind of car one tends to cruise along in, rather than pre­tend to be Dan Ric­cia­rdo MkII.

Nat­u­rally it has loads of safety gear, in­clud­ing an eight-head re­vers­ing and prox­im­ity cam­era, auto-on lights and wipers, pre-col­li­sion brak­ing, and prob­a­bly ev­ery other bit of bling imag­in­able.

Ver­dict: Best thing on wheels, ac­cord­ing to True Love. I'm still wad­ing through the man­ual.

With petro-elec­tric power and po­lar­is­ing de­sign, the Lexus 450h is a re­fresh­ing model in the lux­ury SUV mar­ket.

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