THE LEXUS RX450H OFFERS A RIDE FULL OF IMAGINATION
Getting down to the simplest of ideas, cars should evoke a very simple, solid and specific thought, emotion or idea in your head once you get behind the wheel and start driving.
A German luxury vehicle evokes Teutonic confidence, an exotic titillates with excitement, and my own project cars with my hare-brained modifications elicit relief when they actually do start up and don’t leave me stranded somewhere.
So what does the Lexus RX450h make me feel? Zen. Enlightenment. Nirvana. This isn’t lip service to Japan’s most luxurious automobile house, but truly, a divine realization.
Starting up the RX450h, you are met with some flashing lights on the dashboard, a gentle beep as a reminder that the car is in attention, and EV mode engaged, overlaid with an audible reminder that the door is open, the seatbelts need fastening. No engine noise, no vibration, you’ll wonder if it’s actually running. Climb into the soft, cream colored leather interior, with beautiful perforations and contrasting bright stitch-work, and shift to drive. The handbrake disengages automatically and you move off silently, serenely and effortlessly in electric vehicle mode.
The RX450h is the perfect antidote to a crazy outside world, allowing you to move in complete safety and security, undisturbed by the outside world thanks to excellent noise and vibration isolation. The Electric Power Assisted Steering is light but offers good feel, the electric motor delivers surprisingly urgent grunt when you tip into the throttle despite its considerable 2,715kg weight, and the suspension simply smoothens out the humps, bumps and ruts on the road while offering a controlled and confident ride as you go faster. You get in, then suddenly find yourself at your destination with almost no sense of motion. That’s the RX450h’s piece de resistance: its smoothness beggars belief.
The RX450h is the third largest crossover in the Lexus fleet after the LX and GX. Sharing its underpinnings with the Toyota Highlander crossover using the Toyota K Platform, it is powered by a hybridized D4-S direct injection 2GR-FXS V6 displacing 3.5 liters, with 24-valves and dual overhead camshafts. Total output is a smooth 308hp and 335 Newton-Meters of torque. However, twin electric motors on the front and rear axles deliver instant torque (335nm / 165hp at the front motor, 139 / 67hp at the rear motor) so the RX450h feels a lot more powerful than the peak quoted figure. If the internal combustion engine does come online, power is seamlessly transferred to all four wheels via a continuously variable transmission. The interior has 12-way power adjustable front seats, and the Lexus infotainment system coupled with the 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound audio is arguably the best you can ever sample. Coupled with Apple CarPlay / Android Auto on the 12.3-inch touchscreen on the center console’s main display, operation is a breeze. Four USB outlets charge your mobile phones, plus a wireless charging deck exclusive to the hybrid RX. You also get a couple of 12-volt cigarette lighter style power outlets.
As with any modern Lexus, safety is high up in its priorities. There’s ABS-EBD brakes with emergency brake assist, traction / stability control and hill-start-assist. A full plethora of LED lights illuminate the night, and sequential turn signal indicators help catch other motorists’ attention on the road.
While I had the RX450h for a short weekend, it was quality time all throughout. Every person who sat in it was impressed with the comfort, refinement, isolation and space. In my weekend of around town driving around 70 kilometers, it consumed only 1/8 of fuel based on the fuel level gauge. As it spent so much time on EV mode around town, fuel consumption was at 12km/liter. Doesn’t sound impressive until you consider that it basically idled all day Sunday with cool AC blasting as we photographed the Lexus, plus a bunch of other vehicles, providing relief and comfort to our team against the intense heat and humidity. On a full charge in EV mode, the RX450h offers a useful 40-kilometer range from its 6.5Ah nickel metal hydride battery. Perfect for sneaking out without waking the neighbors.
A ride down the Banawe area proved that handling the tight inner streets is easy with RX450h’s 5.9-meter turning radius and the massive 20-inch wheels with 235/55R20 tires felt impervious to rough patches due to roadworks in the area.
On the Skyway Stage 3, the road and the Lexus truly gelled in an effortless journey that was utterly relaxing, I wanted to do it over and over again as I found so much comfort and solace in that drive. Going back home, I drove via C5 to Mandaluyong and the RX450h just maintained its composure, smoothened out the edges and got me home feeling refreshed and relaxed. Mind you, it doesn’t put you to sleep, nor does it feel boring, disconnected and uninteresting to drive. Far from it. You feel one with the car, and with yourself, devoid of all chaos and disorder from outside.
Now that is how a Lexus should make you feel.
A car enthusiast through and through, Botchi Santos believes that different people have different needs. He tries to find the best car for a specific audience, and spruces things up by delving into car culture, helping make the local car community vibrant and enjoyable for all. His passion for motoring is built around a belief that cars are among the top three life purchases.