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First drive: Lexus RX 450hL. Image by Lexus.

First drive: Lexus RX 450hL
Lexus adds to the RX SUVís appeal with the new seven-seat RX L version.

 



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Lexus RX 450hL

4 4 4 4 4

Lexus has finally gotten around to doing what it arguably should have done in the first place and released a seven-seat version of its sharp-looking RX SUV. Called the RX L, it sits alongside the five-seat variant with only minimal changes to the rear-end styling to accommodate those additional seats. The smooth-running hybrid drivetrain is unchanged and, with question marks over the future of diesel, this new model should be good news for Lexus.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Lexus RX 450hL Premier
Price: £61,995 as tested; starts at £50,995
Engine: 3.5-litre V6 petrol assisted by electric motor
Transmission: CVT automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, seven-seat SUV
Combined economy: 47.1mpg
Top speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Power: 262hp at 6,000rpm for engine; 313hp combined system
Torque: 335Nm at 4,600rpm for engine

What's this?

Some might say it's the car that Lexus should have launched from the start, but now the RX L offers buyers of the company's flagship hybrid SUV the choice of seven seats for the first time. Its engineers have done so by redesigning the rear to make it more accommodating for a third row of seating.

To glance at you'd hardly notice the difference such is the kindness the design team has shown in executing the changes. Those all lie aft of the rear doors, where the car grows by 110mm in length. The new tailgate is more upright to free up headroom, too. Other changes see the rear wiper move down to the base of the glass and there's a 'smart' tailgate that can detect the presence of your hand and open. It should be better than trying to wave your foot around underneath the rear bumper as many other cars currently make you do.

As for the third row, there is just about enough room for an adult of average height to fit in back there, but the seats are best suited to children, maybe teenagers if they aren't too tall. The middle row seating splits 60/40 and can slide forward by up to 150mm to add to the legroom for those behind. Accessing the rearmost seats isn't too tricky, though, and passengers can keep cool thanks to their own air conditioning controls. When not required, the third-row seats can be folded down electrically, but even when erected the Lexus still offers a useful 211 litres of boot space.

The interior up front remains unchanged, which overall is no bad thing. Traditionally, the mainstream Japanese car manufacturers have tended to lag behind the premium European brands when to comes to cabin quality - in particular, materials - but the interior of the Lexus is excellent in both fit and finish. Only the infotainment system seems to let it down in how it looks and the user experience. However, we can't fault the 12.3-inch display, nor is it too far from your field of view, so your eyes quickly adjust to it when driving.

How does it drive?

While adding more seats, Lexus hasn't added anything new to its powertrain. It retains the same 3.5-litre petrol V6 combined with its proven hybrid system and continuously variable transmission. Usually, the very mention of CVT should signal a car about to receive something of a kicking, but in this application, it works relatively well. That is on the basis that you drive it with the most modest of throttle inputs. Do so, and you'll find yourself wafting around in a bubble of sound-insulated refinement.

While plug-in hybrids may be the choice of other premium SUV manufacturers, the 'self-charging' system used by Lexus does away with the need to plug anything in, while delivering fuel consumption figures that shouldn't give you much of a fright. Over the course of our time with the car we were achieving around the mid-thirties mpg. Although that's shy of the official figure, we weren't driving especially economically, and it was over some very steep terrain. If you tend to stick to mostly urban routes, then you should still see good fuel figures appearing on the trip computer, and with lower average speeds the car should make greater use of its battery power to ease it along with the electric motor.

Regardless of the drive, the one thing the RX L doesn't appear to lack is refinement. Even on the largest 20-inch wheels, it soaked up the few surface imperfections we encountered and transmitted little in the way of road noise into the cabin. It doesn't feel as sporty to drive as some other SUVs, but it doesn't encourage you to push it that way in the first place. This car is very much about appreciating the comfort and enjoying the cosseted feeling you get inside it.

Verdict

Having the choice of seven seats does improve the Lexus' case without doing much to detract from the original appeal of the regular RX. With the rising uncertainty over the future of diesel, more may now look to the like of a hybrid as an alternative and without the need to plug anything in, the Lexus RX L could be the right fit for a lot of people.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Dave Humphreys - 8 Jun 2018









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2018 Lexus RX 450hL. Image by Lexus.2018 Lexus RX 450hL. Image by Lexus.2018 Lexus RX 450hL. Image by Lexus.2018 Lexus RX 450hL. Image by Lexus.2018 Lexus RX 450hL. Image by Lexus.

2018 Lexus RX 450hL. Image by Lexus.2018 Lexus RX 450hL. Image by Lexus.2018 Lexus RX 450hL. Image by Lexus.2018 Lexus RX 450hL. Image by Lexus.2018 Lexus RX 450hL. Image by Lexus.








 

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