Lexus RX450h F Sport
I’ll let you in on a little secret. One that may come as a surprise given I’m an unabashed petrol head. I’ve always been a big fan of the RX. That’s because it proudly does things most other large, premium SUV’s come up short on – it’s bloody comfortable, it’s so easy to drive, it’s relatively economical and it’s stuffed full of gadgets. A generation ago, these were all attributes that manufacturers would boast about and well-heeled punters would crow over. Now the focus, and sales numbers, is all on handling, with customers kinda forgetting that they have to live with a car, day in day out. With those sales figures in mind, Lexus have added a new, performance oriented variant to the latest iteration of the RX – it’s called the F Sport (best said in a Clarkson-esque voice). Question is, have they thrown the baby out with the bath water?
Well, no. They haven’t. The familial Lexus form factor is there – with a mildly menacing but not unpleasant, angular ‘face’ (think Peaky Blinder Cillian Murphy), sweeping creases and slashes to the sides and a fastback roofline it’s a handsome car that looks smaller than it is and doesn’t shout ‘look at me’. The interior is the dog’s whatsits. It just oozes quality and thoughtfulness from every nook and cranny. The materials are a combination of metal finishes, high quality plastics and oodles of leather all put together with absolute precision. Controls are both aesthetically pleasing, especially those operating the infotainment system, and ergonomically sound being easy to use and well located. The digital instruments and headsup display, which changes depending on the mode you’re driving in, are clear and let you see everything you need to know at a glance and the gargantuan infotainment screen is a plus. The spec list on the F-Sport is a big selling point – you’ll want for nothing so there’s no point in detailing it. One area that’s worth emphasising is cabin comfort. Not only are the seats unbelievably comfortable, but thanks to the RX’s increased size, space is very generous – there’s plenty of room for five and their luggage. This cabin is a great place to be in every respect and one you could happily spend all day behind the wheel in. It’s also extremely safe thanks to a host of gizmos such as adaptive cruise control, radar, pre-crash warning and lane assist. Lexus’ legendary reliability and customer service adds to the sense of a stress-free motoring experience.
Once underway, in Eco mode (suspension, throttle responses and gearing at their standard settings) it’ a comfortable, relaxed car that goes about its chores with very little fuss. It’s got a much stiffer chassis than its predecessor which may account for the minimal body roll and neat cornering, which is a little at odds with the fact that it is a very comfortable and refined large car. It cut out the racket that normally accompanies a drive on the Cardiff Bay link road with aplomb and soaked up the worst potholes the back roads of the Vale could throw at it, which is saying something. The hybrid powertrain consists of a petrol 3.5l V6 and two electric motors all mated to a smooth 8-speed CVT auto gearbox. It delivers plenty of speed and power (0-62 in 7.7secs and 450hp), whilst remaining hushed, undramatic and economical with only 120g of CO2 and 51.4mpg.
Clearly the baby is still neck deep in bath water which begs a different question. Is it a disappointing drive when you want to give it some welly? This is where the F-Sport pulls off a neat trick. Every other model in the range has a Sport mode, which sharpens responses, delays gear shifts to make them sportier, loudens the exhaust note and makes the steering heavier. All help make it more fun. But the F-Sport, uniquely, has a Sport Plus mode which also firms up the suspension. And it makes a real difference. Straightaway you sense the increased tautness, which encourages harder driving, something that it’s more than capable of dealing with, even in demanding negative camber bends. Granted, it may not satisfy absolutely every keen driver but it’s more than enough for an entertaining, rapid, cross country jaunt where you want to chuck it into corners with confidence. And it’s still comfortable so you can have the best of both worlds.
“you’ll want for nothing so there’s no point in detailing it”
Thanks to Victoria Park Mazda and Cardiff Lexus (both Hadfield Road, Cardiff)
Top speed: 124mph
Mpg: 51.4 combined
Price: from £52,995