“All pretty straightforward really”. Those were the words of the man as he dropped off the Lexus Hybrid RX450h which I was to be test driving over the next couple of days.
Now, late for a meeting and faced with a dazzling array of buttons, I wish I’d paid more attention. To start with, I couldn’t find anywhere to put the key (no rude suggestions please). There was no handbrake and the engine was so quiet that I couldn’t work out whether it was still on or if I’d stalled it. To cap it all, I was sitting so far from the steering wheel that my feet didn’t touch the pedals. I’d been looking forward to the test drive since I’d been asked to do it.
The idea of a car being able to switch intelligently between petrol and electric modes depending upon speed and revs appealed to my ‘soft’ green credentials. I would feel like I was doing my bit for the planet.
A car that was high performance and built to a high specification would make the case for considering the Lexus Hybrid as a serious alternative to more mainstream cars compelling. Ten minutes later I was on the road having worked things out. There is no slot for the key because the car ‘senses’ that the key is within the car and allows itself to be turned on at the press of a button.
The handbrake is a pedal in the foot well and is easy to operate once you know where it is. The ignition also returns the driver’s seat to a series of pre-programmed positions. All very swish and well thought through.
In a similar vein, there were a number of other gizmos. The SatNav was logical and easy to use. Current speed and instructions from the SatNav are projected onto the windscreen so you aren’t constantly looking down at the instrument panel. Putting the car into reverse (intentionally or otherwise) triggers a camera at the rear so that you can see where you’re going without having to turn round.
I did find the automatic seat warmers a little disconcerting (was the unexplained warming sensation a sudden loss of bladder control?) and I couldn’t work out how to turn it off. Would I swap my current car, a BMW X5, for a Lexus Hybrid? Yes, I think I would.
My principal concerns were around performance and spec and the Lexus was equal or better on both counts. It shifted seamlessly between electric and petrol and was quick and powerful on acceleration. The driver’s toys were easy to work (in the end) and very similar to the BMW. It is safe and reliable and big enough to accommodate the entire family. What ultimately swings it though are the Lexus’ fuel economy and green credentials.
This is the way forward surely?
The Lexus RX450h tested by Jonathan Jones was provided by Lexus Bradford, Canal Road, Bradford, tel 0844 856 4179, www.lexus.co.uk/bradford