Lux­ury meets re­li­a­bil­ity

It’s rad­i­cal and a hy­brid. An SUV and a Lexus. The RX 450h is just too much of a temptation

Mid Day - - WHEELS - SARMAD KADIRI smd­mail@mid-day.com

OF all the Lexus cars we drove re­cently, the RX 450h has clearly the most out­stand­ing de­sign. And, be­ing a hy­brid at the steep R1 crore price point, it doesn’t even have any di­rect com­peti­tors. You def­i­nitely haven’t seen any­thing like this on In­dian roads be­fore.

What grabs the at­ten­tion up­front is the dis­tinct Lexus spin­dle grille. It’s mas­sive and pretty much en­gulfs the en­tire face of the RX. The fog-light con­sole, run­ning from the skid-plates to­wards the frown­ing full-LED head­lamp, adds a unique char­ac­ter to the SUV’s face.

The side pro­file is equally ag­gres­sive with crisp char­ac­ter lines and a black sec­tion on the chunky C-pil­lar giv­ing the im­pres­sion of a float­ing roof. The slop­ing roofline is ac­cen­tu­ated by a sporty rear spoiler and the sharp an­gle of the rear wind­screen. There are L-shaped LED tail-lights, while the lines on the boot-lid also fol­low the spin­dle de­sign.

There are two vari­ants on of­fer: Lux­ury and F-Sport. The lat­ter has a sportier cabin, right from the red up­hol­stery to bucket-like front seats. It also gets pad­dle-shifters, alu­minium floor ped­als and an engine sound en­hancer. Its SUV-like de­sign makes it easy to get in and im­me­di­ately you’ll no­tice that the car has a driver-cen­tric cabin. The F-Sport we drove comes with an eight-inch in­for­ma­tion dis­play, which also in­cludes a Gsen­sor that tells the driver about the steer­ing an­gle and ac­cel­er­a­tor po­si­tion. The Lux­ury trim gets all-ana­logue in­stru­ments.

The cabin is beau­ti­fully crafted and the fin­ish is top class. Plus, there are plenty of cus­tomi­sa­tion op­tions and you can def­i­nitely tone down the red leather to match the rest of the cabin’s de­sign. You get up to 180 dif­fer­ent leather and wood com­bi­na­tions to choose from. Our test car came with eight-way elec­tri­cally ad­justable front seats, while the driver seat also had mem­ory func­tion.

The dash­board gets a large dis­play with the cool joy­stick-like dial near the gear lever. The in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem’s in­ter­face is a large 12.3-inch screen dis­play.

The rear seats can be re­clined elec­tri­cally and the knee-room can be ad­justed man­u­ally. The cush­ion­ing is firm, com­fort­able and well-bol­stered, but could do with more un­der-thigh sup­port. There’s de­cent cabin space in front and back and can eas­ily ac­com­mo­date four grown-ups.

The high­light of the RX is its high­qual­ity Mark Levinson (by Har­man) mu­sic sys­tem. It comes with 15 speak­ers along with a sub-woofer setup that’s eas­ily one of the best we’ve heard in a car. Even a low-qual­ity MP3 song sounded crys­tal-clear and richer than usual. Other fea­tures in­clude ven­ti­lated front seats, a sun­roof with auto blind and two-zone cli­mate con­trol. Stan­dard equip­ment on the F-Sport also in­cludes 10 airbags, tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem, hill-start as­sist, and seat­belts with pre-ten­sion­ers and force­lim­iters. There are park­ing sen­sors in front and rear, and a rear cam­era com­pletes this kit. Fi­nally, there’s ABS, EBD, trac­tion con­trol, ve­hi­cle sta­bil­ity con­trol and brake as­sist.

If you have the car’s key, then the tail­gate can be opened sim­ply by hold­ing your palm close to the Lexus logo at the back. This gives you ac­cess to the gen­er­ous 453-litre boot space, which has a full-size spare wheel and a re­tractable par­cel tray.

The hy­brid pow­er­train con­sists of elec­tric mo­tors mounted on front and rear axles that work in tan­dem with the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine. Com­bined, the three mo­tors churn out 313 PS and 335 Nm of torque. It has a smart setup, which charges the bat­tery when the car is coast­ing and uses this stored power later on when the driver gets on the gas.

Press the Start but­ton and the Lexus comes to life in ab­so­lute si­lence. This is be­cause at low speeds the elec­tric mo­tors pro­pel it for­ward. As you con­tinue to drive, the petrol engine crank up to charge the bat­tery and power the front wheels. It’s an ex­tremely re­fined car and you can barely make out when the petrol mo­tor takes over.

It’s also not the quick­est, al­though Lexus claims a 0-100 km/h time of 7.7 sec­onds. You can fur­ther con­trol the per­for­mance us­ing the F-Sport’s pad­dleshifters to tog­gle through the gears. This is a bet­ter vari­ant for those who like en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ing, be­cause of its Sound Gen­er­a­tor fea­ture. It am­pli­fies the engine sound so that it can be heard within the cabin and makes the drive more en­gag­ing.

The sus­pen­sion is set up on the firmer side to aid han­dling. Ob­vi­ously, some of the road bumps eas­ily fil­ter into the cabin, but never get­ting un­com­fort­able. Driv­ing through the twisties it dis­played de­cent body con­trol, with hardly any body-roll to com­plain about. Pounc­ing on the oc­ca­sional empty fast cor­ner, the Lexus re­mains sur­pris­ingly planted and com­posed. The adap­tive sus­pen­sion and Bridge­stone Duel­ers tyres keep things un­der con­trol. Us­ing the driv­ing modes (Eco, Nor­mal, Sport and Sport+) one can fur­ther al­ter the driv­ing dy­nam­ics of the RX.

An­other ad­van­tage is the good ground clear­ance of 195 mm, which is per­fect for our road con­di­tions. With discs on all four wheels, the brak­ing didn’t fail to im­press ei­ther. And, in spite of weigh­ing about 2,100 kg-2,210 kg, the hy­brid claims to re­turn a de­cent fuel ef­fi­ciency of 18.8 km/l.

With the Lux­ury cost­ing R1.27 crore and the F-Sport be­ing slightly more ex­pen­sive at R1.30 crore (both prices ex-show­room, Delhi), the RX be­longs to the price bracket of cars like the Porsche Ma­can and Jaguar F-Pace. Lexus, be­ing the uber-pre­mium brand of Toy­ota, comes with the same re­li­a­bil­ity and ser­vice re­as­sur­ance, if not bet­ter. Imag­ine own­ing a lux­ury car with­out the usual tantrums. Lux­ury car-buy­ers could be pinch­ing them­selves in dis­be­lief.

PICS/SAN­JAY RAIKAR

In­fo­tain­ment comes with split screen for more in­for­ma­tion. Logo is tinged with blue to high­light the car’s hy­brid na­ture

Rear seats get elec­tric re­clin­ing

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