Silent and deadly was what Charlie Flindt was expecting from this latest hybrid but electric power soon gave way to the familiar sound of fossil fuels...
Silent, electric cars are no longer such an astonishing sight, and Charlie Flindt finds the Lexus RX450h Takumi well put together and excellently reliable. And yet, it wasn’t long before the electric power gave way to fossil fuels…
With diesel demonised, Subaru returned to petrol for the Forester 2.0i XE Premium Lineartronic.
LEXUS RX450H TAKUMI
What better car to test for our conservation issue that the Lexus 450 hybrid? Lexus is the luxury wing of Toyota, with a well-established range of hybrids. In fact, we last tested one nearly 15 years ago, when silent cars were enough to astonish passers-by and scare the living bejesus out of jaywalking grannies in our local town.
The mechanicals remain much the same on the latest version: a petrol engine supplemented by a range of electric motors, all linked and intercharging with each other and the brakes, and all tucked away under an SUV body that’s grown in both size and aggressive styling over the years. It’s not unpleasant to look at but the slashed lights and krill-harvesting grille are a bit garish.
The insides are lovely, however. The gadgets and gizmos aren’t as cutting-edge as the Germans’ output (not necessarily a bad thing) but the quality of materials is top notch and everything feels really well put together. Rather oddly, my favourite feature was the wooden steering wheel, which had the texture and feel of a well-worn and much-loved farm broom handle. But bent, of course.
Thanks to the 450h’s capacious interior, there’s loads of room – perhaps, and it seems odd to say it, a little too much; as you climb in, multiple electric motors spirit the driver’s seat back to pick you up, then gently guide you back to your driving position. Simple, it ain’t.
The view out is mostly good, although the steeply raking A-pillars get in the way a bit. The screen itself is perfect for showing why fewer insects get splattered these days. (Here’s a clue: compare its angle to that of your dad’s Mk 2 Jaguar).
I was surprised at how quickly silent electric power gave way to the petrol engine; yes, crawling around town was still silent but as soon as ‘anything but trundle’ was selected via the right foot, the lovely V6 would kick off – and very nice it sounded, too. It did a great job of shifting the 450h, bearing in mind what a big beast it is, and it had handling and road holding to match. I suspect the battery-inspired low centre of gravity has a lot to do with it.
But it seemed odd to be hustling along enjoying the speed and noise, with mpg flashing up on the infocentre at well under 30. It didn’t make for much of an incentive to drive slowly, steadily, and only electrically. I was reminded of another hybrid SUV we tried some years ago that ran out of electrical juice after 25 miles, then bleated all the rest of the way to York from Hampshire like a dying donkey. The Lexus, however, is far more fun than that, bizarrely nullifying the ecotag.
Let’s not forget, however, that longevity is a key but often neglected feature of ‘green’ car ownership and Lexus shine in this department, with excellent reliability and mechanical and bodywork warranties that stretch far into the future: the batteries, subject to annual inspections, are covered for 15 years. Hands up if you, too, will be a jaywalking pensioner by then.
LEXUS RX450H TAKUMI
♦ Engine: 3,456cc V6 petrol (259hp)
♦ Electric motors: 165hp (front)/67hp (rear)
♦ Max speed: 124 mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 7.7 seconds
♦ Combined fuel economy (WLTP): 35.3 to 35.7mpg
♦ Insurance group: 42E
♦ Price: £61,705