Lexus RX

The new Lexus RX is not just sleek, more comfy, and less polluting ... it has a computer system that's user-friendly

My favourite thing about the new Lexus RX 450h is not that it emits the least CO2 of any full-size SUV on the market thanks to its hybrid power train; it's not that it has a higher density of technology than anything else in the class; or that it can have an active anti-roll system for flatter cornering; it's not even that it looks much less like a turtle on wheels than its predecessor, although there is only so much the "assertive" new frontal design can disguise. It's the mouse.

Car-makers have tried many ways of enabling you to control the many parameters contained within a dashboard screen, be they SatNav, stereo system, car computer or air-conditioning. Buttons may be involved, or they may be dressed up as something clever such as BMW's iDrive with its giant, smoothly-acting knob. But you still have to turn and prod it to get what you want. It can drive you mad.

A computer uses a mouse, which gets straight to the point. And the Lexus RX 450h techno-hybrid has a mouse at the base of the centre console, a flat-topped joystick thing with a handrest with mouse-button on each side. You just select the menu, point the mouse where you want, click and carry on pointing as needed. If you think that's dangerous while driving, rest assured, the symbols are big, clever electronics suck the mouse arrow to the icon when it's close, and the system's mechanical damping makes it easy to use.

Is the rest of the Lexus as clever? Well, the usual official tests reward it with a CO2 count of 148g/km and 44.8mpg (the old RX 400h scored 192g/km), but these tests make every car seem more frugal than it really is. That so much taxation policy is based around these flawed figures should worry us, but the fact that a car of such low taxable emissions can produce 249bhp from its 3.5-litre petrol V6, plus enough power from its two electric motors to lift the possible tally to 299bhp, is an impressive achievement.

Two motors? There's one at the front, in a unit with the continuously variable transmission and able to produce up to 167bhp when the engine is producing little power or, as in traffic-crawling, is switched off. Another sits at the rear, able to contribute 68bhp and thus make the RX into a four-wheel drive car, albeit one with a significant frontward power bias.

The motors are similar to the old RX 400h's, but a new, smaller and more efficient power control unit and voltage converter allow them to work harder for longer. The battery pack is more compact, too.

As ever in a hybrid Lexus or Toyota, the interplay between electric and petrol modes is seamless and you can watch the energy flow on a real-time graphic. Or two of them: there's a small one in the instrument panel and a large, more detailed one as part of the main screen's repertoire.

Fine. So how does the RX 450h actually work as a car? It's a plushly and futuristically finished one, for sure. It's hard to tell if the orange-looking strips of wood are real, such is the gloss of the lacquer, but as you Lexuriate in your leather chairs you can't help admiring the precision of the switch design and the crispness of the instruments (including, optionally, a head-up display showing speed, Sat- Nav instructions and more).

There are three suspension variations: normal coil springs, the same with active anti-roll bars which twist the bars electronically to keep the Lexus more level in a corner, and air suspension which gives maximum calmness but also feels the most vague to the driver, like an old-school American SUV. Active anti-roll makes for a complete contrast, with positive steering and impressive agility at the expense of some fidgeting on lumpy roads. Which means the standard, simple version is actually the best; it's comfortable enough, it's responsive to the driver's commands and it feels the most natural.

All are much better than the old RX 400h, which used to feel jittery in the back and whose steering tugged this way and that under brisk acceleration.

So, if you need a hefty SUV and you're concerned about the tax bills, the RX is your car. Indeed, Lexus isn't even going to bother selling non- hybrid RXs in the United Kingdom.

It's priced competitively against diesel rivals, too. It costs from £41,600 to £55,505 and is on sale now.

Two electric motors and associated paraphernalia seems a lot of baggage to haul around, but the figures are compelling. Even better, it doesn't look so much like a turtle any more.

Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

    Recruitment Genius: General Processor

    £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

    Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

    Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot