Historically, the SUV and hybrid crowd have gotten along about as well as cesium and water. The two factions have fought over environmental resources since day one – the SUV set defending their entitlement to gulp down fossil fuel while trampling vegetation, and the hybrid lot doing their best to conserve the environment and reduce petrol use. Lexus hopes to promote unity between the two parties with the introduction of their hybrid SUV the RX450h.
Combining such polar opposites is a difficult task, especially while also attempting to incorporate the level of luxury Lexus is known for. For the most part, Lexus has pulled off this feat of engineering quite well. The first thing you’ll notice about the 2015 Lexus RX450h is it retains the imposing SUV-style driving position while simultaneously employing the distinct silent hybrid operation. That’s right, press the start button, and the 2015 Lexus RX450h glides along silently under battery power until reaching 30mph – as long as you don’t have a lead foot. After the electric motor has taken its turn, the 246bhp 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine takes over sending power through a six-speed CVT auto gearbox. In addition to the traditional petrol engine, battery juice supplies power to two electric motors. Both units provide plenty of torque, with the main 165bhp motor driving the front wheels and another smaller 67bhp motor at the rear. This technically makes the Lexus a four-wheel drive, though its layout is designed to provide most of the power to the front. This means the rig is definitely lacking trail prowess, and you may get mocked by Jeep goers should you attempt to venture too far off pavement.
If you attempt to take the RX450h to the track you’ll get laughed at too, since the rig weighs a hefty 2.2-tonnes. The Lexus might not be designed for race day, but it does hold its own against other immense SUVs, rambling from 0-60mph in 7.8s before topping out at 124mph. If you insist on trying to make the squat Lexus sporty, you can dial in ‘Sport’ drive mode which sharpens the steering and throttle response via electronic sorcery. If you choose the F Sport model when you order the RX450h, you also get a lateral damping system designed to improve stability and cornering. If you really want to be swanky, order the top Premier version equipped with air suspension.
The face of the 2015 Lexus RX450h has been beautified by the incorporation of the spindle-shaped front grill that has become the quintessential element of recent Lexus design. The cockpit of the SUV hasn’t changed much; it still utilises the divided dashboard with imbedded 8-inch colour LCD screen. Drivers can fixate on the instrument panel mounted hybrid gauge, which indicates whether their driving behaviour is putting them in the blue ‘Charge’/ ‘Eco’ segment or the white ‘Power’ section. Seating two conventional sizes humans in the rear isn’t much of a problem, but three tends to be a crowd. If you must squeeze three abreast, at least the middle portion of the sandwich will be rewarded with a completely flat floor space. This is due to the hybrid drivetrain not requiring a transmission tunnel. While the hybrid layout might afford a level floor plan, it also necessitates the storage of battery packs. In this case, the batteries get stuffed in the boot, leaving only 496-litres of storage space. If all the seats are laid flat, that measurement gets bumped up to 1,760-litres of total space.
If you must have this space-aged transport in your garage, expect to pay between £45,000 and £55,000. All models come with the 295bhp Hybrid drive system, with the SE model as the starting point. To get satellite navigation, you’ll have to pay a £4,000 premium for the ‘Luxury’-spec model. If you want to look speedy in the F Sport model, be prepared to drop yet another £3,500. If you want to go all out, be sure to budget beyond the £55,000 mark for the top of the line Premier variant, the only model equipped with air suspension and 15-speaker surround sound stereo system. No matter which trim level you choose, you get a healthy assortment of standard equipment including alloy wheels, HID headlamps, auto wipers, a rear parking monitor, leather interior, heated and powered front seats, dual-zone climate, 10 airbags and a thumpin’ 10-speaker sound system.
So, will the 2015 Lexus RX450h be green enough to make the hybrid fan club happy? With 44.8mpg on the combined cycle and 145g/km, the tree huggers should be quite pleased. Those are impressive figures for such a large vehicle and earn the Lexus the title of the world’s best from a premium SUV. These exceptional numbers are achieved in part but the fact that much of the time the Lexus will be running on electrons alone, emitting no CO2 at all. The hybrid layout also helps save money at the pump by increasing cold weather operational efficiency by 30%. The 2015 Lexus RX450h also emits far less NOx (NOx is a generic term for mono-nitrogen oxides NO and NO2) than its diesel rivals, saving tax payers and manufactures money thanks to government write down allowance.
The 2015 Lexus RX450h won’t take you to a remote location like an off-road ready land rover, nor will it get you the mileage of a Prius. What it will get you, is entry into a new segment of vehicle designed to give you a taste of both hybrid and SUV designs. If that kind of quirky appeals to you, check out the 2015 Lexus RX450h.
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