Business Plus

Lex Appeal

The RX 450h+ is the pinnacle of refinement while also being enjoyable cheeky on the road, writes Philip Nolan


Long before pandemic restrictio­ns were amended to allow bubbles during lockdown, I formed a bubble of my own. Not with a human though. When the first full national lockdown was announced, I had a Lexus RX 450h out on test drive, and since the company’s HQ had to close, and travel was restricted to two kilometres, it was months before I could drop it back.

Now here we are three years later, and the RX 450h+ has a plus at the end, to signify it’s now a plug-in hybrid rather than the standard hybrid available back then. This makes it a rather appealing propositio­n. The 262hp 3.5-litre petrol engine of yore is replaced by a 2.5-litre unit and motors on each axle, which combine to deliver 309hp in always-on all-wheel-drive. The gain in power is not the only benefit, because the plug-in reduces emissions, and that means a drop in motor tax from €750 to just €140 a year.

Lexus says that when the car is in purely EV mode, it will travel around 65km in mixed driving, and up to 90km in city driving alone. I can’t vouch for the latter claim, because I live in a semi-rural area, but the former certainly seemed to be accurate. Claimed overall fuel economy is 1.1 litres per 100km. Once you nose out onto the motorway, realistica­lly you’re looking at around five litres per 100km, which is still pretty efficient for a car this size and weight.

The fifth generation of the car that pretty much invented the prestige SUV segment comes in two trim levels, Luxury at €89,070, and Premium at €97,680. As you would expect from Lexus, the cabin detailing and finish are impeccable, here with black ash wood grain inlays to complement the cream leather.

There are physical buttons for the likes of air conditioni­ng, meaning less distractio­n than with touchscree­n systems. My test car came with a panoramic, opening roof — perfect when you want a bit of ventilatio­n while you have a coffee at the beach without being blown to Wales in the process.

As always, the Mark Levinson surround sound system sets the benchmark, with a richness of tone delivered by 21 speakers. Lexus always goes big on safety too, and there are a few new features in this car compared with the previous RX. They include motorcycli­st detection, emergency steering assist, front cross traffic alert, lane change assist, emergency driving stop system, and safe exit assist.

Standard features include 14-inch touchscree­n, heated steering wheel, 64-colour ambient lighting, smart entry, 21-inch alloys, and power tailgate with kick function when your hands are full. Premium adds metallic paint, the sound system, adaptive variable suspension, 10-way adjustable driver and front passenger seat, semi-aniline leather upholstery with hot and cold ventilatio­n, rear outer seats with heat and vent, 10-inch head-up display, adaptive high-beam LED headlights, and dark grey alloys.

Lexus has added what it calls the Driving Signature, which fine-tunes body rigidity, centre of gravity, overall weight, and so on to enhance the sense of connection between driver and car. This SUV is not exactly bad mannered, but it’s enjoyably cheeky at times. All in all, this is a fine car, albeit an expensive one. In the unlikely event we’ll ever see lockdowns again on the scale of 2020 and 2021, I wouldn’t half mind getting stuck with the RX 450h+ again.

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