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The RX450h is touted as the world’s most efficient luxury hybrid SUV. Both have a lot to prove but going by the effort it seems Lexus have put into both vehicles, it seems they may deliver.
The RX350 is powered by a water-cooled 3.5 litre quad cam, dual VVT-i V6 that puts out 204kW at 6200rpm and 346Nm at 4700rpm. The RX450h moves with a 3.5 litre Atkinson-cycle V6 that makes full use of combustion energy by making the expansion stroke longer than the compression stroke. It is coupled with a rear mounted electric motor generator that lets the four wheels perform regenerative braking which in turn charges the hybrid battery.
It puts out 183kW(220kW combined) at 6000rpm and 317Nm at 4800rpm. Power to the wheels for both 4WD’s is achieved via a sequential-shift six-speed transmission. Both cars will sprint from 0-100km/h in around eight seconds.
Fuel consumption for the 350 has a combined rate of about 10.8l/100km - 4.4 litres higher than the hybrid at 6.4l/100km - and it outputs 254g/km of CO2, again substantially higher than the hybrid at 150g/km.
Outside, you could mistake the 350 and the 450h as the same car but if you look a little closer there are a few design tweaks that set them apart. Both are imposing presences on the road at almost five meters long and two meters wide, sitting on big 18 or 19 inch alloys.
But the hybrid has a modified grille design and gets blue accents on the headlights and tail lights and on the Lexus emblem and ‘hybrid’ badges.
A completely new cabin design in the RX350 is carried across to the RX450h, again barring a few minor adjustments. According to Lexus the cockpit has been divided into two zones; ‘display’ and ‘operation’, to provide information to the occupants effortlessly, and there is a mouse-like control stick on the centre console that navigates the multi-function display.
The dash then is clutter free and gives the cabin an open airy feeling. The driving position is good, helped by the supportive and electronically adjustable leather bucket seats. Enhanced climate control, Bluetooth compatibility, satellite navigation, a quality sound system and a head up display are standard but should be expected in vehicles at this level.
The blue theme continues in the hybrid with blue accented meters. There is also a hybrid system indicator replacing the tachometer. Both cars have adequate storage throughout including map pockets, cup and bottle holders and a large 21 litre centre console bin.
The seats split 40/20/40 - the rear seats fold down flat - and have a quick release system. With all seats up and the parcel blind in place, the back holds 446 litres. There are also compartments under the cargo floor.
Safety is a certainly a feature in the 350 and 450h. On top of a comprehensive airbag package, both SUV’s have electronically controlled braking, anti-lock brakes, brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution, traction control, vehicle stability control and vehicle dynamics integrated management.
One of our colleagues here at Carsguide referred to both cars as land yachts. We though that was a little unfair but did find them a little boofy at times, especially when trying to navigate round tight city streets come peak hour, and our ludicrously narrow car park here at work.
But give them a bit more room and both ooze luxury and swallow potholes and ruts like the road is heavily under-laid plush pile. The 450h pips the 350 slightly for interior quality but so it should. Everything is at arms length and if you couldn’t be bothered looking for it, just fiddle around on the steering wheel controls and it’ll turn up.
For such big units they’re quite toey too – eights seconds isn’t bad for a boat with wheels. Although the hybrid does take a little nanna nap – switches to electric power - when it meanders at low speed, and needs a nudge to kick it over to the petrol motor and get going properly.
The big SUV’s do a great job ducking into and accelerating out of corners with grip like cars half their size and the new anchors keep you feeling nice and safe. The electric leather bucket seats have great side bolstering for added support and comfort too.
Both cars live up to what they are supposed to be – quality, luxury SUV’s – no question. One thing that we couldn’t help wondering though was why can’t Lexus, and a lot of other car makers for that matter, work a bit harder to making these things look a bit cooler on the outside. Given the skill and man hours devoted to their hybrid technology, surely knocking a shape together that doesn’t necessarily match pearls, ain’t that hard.