Seven-seater de­liv­ers poke with poise

Daily Star Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

CHIL­DREN. Ru­grats. Kids. Bairns.

What­ever you call them, trav­el­ling with them is never a stress-free sit­u­a­tion.

Go­ing to and from kids’ par­ties is prob­a­bly top of the worst car driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ences of all. High on E num­bers and sugar, hy­per­ac­tiv­ity and ex­cite­ment lev­els are on max.

And when one of your par­tied-out rear seat guests is ei­ther in pos­ses­sion of a full blad­der or stom­ach, a driver’s stress lev­els are wound up to 10 on the dial.

Once your seeds are sown and grown, you need to start think­ing of prac­ti­cal­ity, safety and the abil­ity of a car to cart that moun­tain of fam­ily de­tri­tus.

For the par­tic­u­larly fer­tile, seven seats are the only op­tion and here your pos­si­bil­i­ties be­come more lim­ited.

You’ll be look­ing at some­thing that looks and feels like a van to drive, or a big SUV.

And if it’s lux­ury and hy­brid technology you’re af­ter then Lexus might just have the thing for you with their new RX450h-L.

The L bit stands for “long” and the avail­abil­ity of seven seats. And five Euro NCAP safety stars.

It’s not much dif­fer­ent from the ex­ist­ing RX450h but a bit of jig­gery-pok­ery out back cre­ates the ex­tra space needed for two more seats which fold up and down elec­tron­i­cally. Rear seat pas­sen­gers also get their own third­zone cli­mate con­trol but­tons, cup hold­ers and USB charg­ing points.

In the ul­ti­mate ges­ture of professional en­deav­our at the Swiss press launch last week, Lexus of­fi­cials ar­ranged for me to travel with a man who’d eaten some­thing “a bit funny” the night be­fore and de­spite neck­ing a full bot­tle of Im­mod­ium hours be­fore, his of­fwhite slacks were still afraid of what might hap­pen.

In­stantly, I was right back in kids’ party driv­ing mode. Ter­ri­fied of the con­se­quences of un-smooth driv­ing tech­niques, I drove as if I had a box of eggs un­der the ped­als.

This, I guess, is the cor­rect method for pilot­ing a pre­mium life­style,

2.8-tonne SUV that’s full to the gun­nels with off­spring and the con­tents of their un­safe di­ges­tive sys­tems.

So, with the stun­ning 15-speaker Mark Levin­son pre­mium hi-fi hooked up to my iPhone, we plot­ted a gen­tle and sweep­ing path through the Swiss moun­tains.

The RX does this waft­ing, smooth driv­ing ex­ceed­ingly well. The hy­brid

V6/bat­tery elec­tric all-wheel drive pow­er­train goes about its busi­ness seam­lessly, mean­ing you just have to point and squirt. No faffing about with clutches and gear changes, just sit back in the chilled (or heated) leather seats and chillax. It’s su­per quiet in the cabin, so even if you’re in the back you can hear what the front seat oc­cu­pants are say­ing about you.

Thank­fully, with a pas­sen­ger at im­mi­nent risk of an un­planned laun­dry-type dis­as­ter aboard, the ride is an ex­cel­lent blend of con­trol and com­fort.

Even when I tried sit­ting in the slightly claus­tro­pho­bic back seats, at no point did I feel un­well.

There’s plenty of poke on of­fer from the 3.5-litre V6 and elec­tric mo­tor combo. You no­tice this when you need to blast up a mo­tor­way sliproad into a safe space or pull smartly away from traf­fic lights.

It’s a high-end, high-price ve­hi­cle but it’s a Lexus – you didn’t need to be told that, did you? Any Lexus is aimed at the sort of fam­ily who shop at Waitrose day in, day out and might in­dulge in that weird pas­time where you knock a lit­tle white ball into holes with a very ex­pen­sive stick. These are not peo­ple who reg­u­larly worry about util­ity bills.

There are three trim and spec lev­els – SE, Lux­ury (likely to be the big­gest UK seller) and Pre­mium. Pre­mium fac­tors in the OMG Mark Levin­son stereo sys­tem – worth buy­ing a Lexus, any Lexus, for that alone. Prices start at £50,995 through to £61,995 for the knobs and whis­tles ver­sion.

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