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Lexus RX400h 2007 Review

Warning luxury SUV drivers. The following article contains words and images that may disturb some readers. You see, we did something that many owners of luxury “soft-roaders” would never contemplate. We actually took the vehicle off road.

After all, the Lexus RX400h is classed as a Sports Utility Vehicle: sports meaning sporty I suppose, and it has a bit of that about it, because it looks sharp and goes great, and utility meaning all-rounder I would imagine.

OK, you wouldn't throw your tool box in the back, or haul a bogged cow from one paddock to another, but sport and utility surely mean that this vehicle is meant for fun and that means getting off the beaten track occasionally.

When I first learnt that I was taking the new RX400h for this trip, I logged on to the Lexus website to get a brief rundown on what I could expect when I got behind the wheel.

What really grabbed my attention, though, were the options, it didn't have any.

This car has everything as standard; there's power everything, heated leather seating, sat-nav, a DVD system, dual climate-control airconditioning, airbags everywhere and the list goes on and on.

But what sets this vehicle apart from its rivals in the luxury SUV class, is its hybrid drive system.

It really is a wonderful piece of technology. In a nutshell, it has a 3.3-litre V6 petrol engine, supplemented by three electric drive motors (two up front, one in the rear).

Using electrical energy generated by the petrol motor, it then powers the two electric front motors, and when needed, the rear electric motor, for a combined output of 200kW.

The really cool part is that even when you hit the brakes, the Regenerative Braking system captures the kinetic energy, which is normally wasted. This energy is then converted into electrical energy, which is used to charge the battery. Confused?

The real benefits are the excellent fuel consumption and much lower engine emissions compared with normal petrol and diesel drivetrains. In the nearly 700km of combined urban highway and dirt road bashing that we undertook on this mission, it drank an average of about 10 litres per 100km, which is very impressive for a two-tonne car.

Yes, that's a lot of car, especially for what is essentially a mid-sized SUV. For just under $100,000, you would expect plenty as well.

As with all Lexus vehicles, everything is done well. But despite all the bling of this car, I didn't find myself overwhelmed by the fact I was in a $100,000 luxury car.

The leather seats were comfortable, but slippery and unsupportive on tight cornering.

The handling was adequate, and the ride was smooth and quiet, but hardly sporty. Dials and instruments were all user-friendly and accessible. The sat-nav system was very functional but took some getting used to.

Once on the open road though, the RX400h was at its best. Fuel consumption plummeted and, when required the V6 had plenty to spare, with effortless overtaking.

When we hit the well-maintained dirt roads just out of Canberra, the RX400h remained comfortable and able, although we did notice some rear-wheel loss of traction at times.

This car had road tyres fitted, so better-gripping all-rounders may have made all the difference. The Brindabellas make the drive well worthwhile. If you plan to stay the night, there are many popular camping spots on the approach to Wee Jasper.

Banjo Paterson part-owned a property on the banks of the lovely Goodradigbee River, so his children could get a taste of country life.

We also decided to set-up camp next to the river at Billy Grace Reserve. Equipped with hot showers, flushing toilets and a hospitable ranger who cut wood for our fire, which was needed. From the reserve it is only a short drive to the village itself. Here you can find a tavern and general store that serves the 100-odd residents, and trailer loads of holiday campers who flock to this pretty town bordering the Burrinjuck Dam to fish, camp, swim and waterski.

We decided to visit Carey's cave, just out of town. This is a magnificent limestone system dating back about 40 million years.

So back to the Lexus. Being the only AWD available in Australia, it's a compelling argument for purchase if you have a spare $100,000 and require all the extras.

But most of the “luxury” items were simply unnecessary and if something in this vehicle's array of extras were to go on the blink, then it could be catastrophic.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

RX400H Hybrid 3.3L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO $10,990 – 14,999 2007 Lexus RX 2007 RX400H Hybrid Pricing and Specs
RX350 Sports 3.5L, ULP, 5 SP SEQ AUTO $6,900 – 10,670 2007 Lexus RX 2007 RX350 Sports Pricing and Specs
RX350 Sports Luxury 3.5L, ULP, 5 SP SEQ AUTO $6,200 – 9,680 2007 Lexus RX 2007 RX350 Sports Luxury Pricing and Specs