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Pure genius from Lexus

Created on 12/03/2019 @ 09:55
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Test Drive by Graham Breeze

Lexus pulled off a stroke of genius when adding a third row of seats to the RXL and only stretching the five-seat car by 110mm.

Most of the opposition in the seven-seat market chose to squeeze the extra row of chairs into existing models but Lexus went for an all-new body - but without moving away from the model’s distinctive branding.

Despite the extra millimetres there’s no mistaking that this is an RX luxury SUV and in fact the extra row of seats came as a bit of a surprise to the test driver in RXL Premium version.

The design brief was to preserve the coupe-like appearance with all the intriguingly elegant and incisive styling that make it one of the best-looking models in its class. But a closer look reveals a lot more.

It’s obviously longer at the back and the tailgate has been made slightly steeper to ensure enough headroom for rear-row passengers and even more valuable millimetres were gained by switching the tailgate wiper from top to bottom.

Just the press of a button allows the driver to adapt the seating configuration in a multitude of directions and even with all the seats in place there’s still a spacious boot space on offer.

The seats are finished to the same high quality as the rest of the cabin and are comfortable for long journeys or shorter trips. The RX L means that when you want a night out with friends for example, you need only take one car – though I’m not sure the rear-seat occupants would want to be six-footers and just to use the back row you have to move the middle set forward.

The cabin is designed to be a social space, what Lexus designers call a “lounge” effect that’s open and light and where it’s easy for everyone to see what’s happening, share conversations and enjoy the in-car entertainment together on longer journeys.

Power comes from a 3.5-litre, naturally aspirated V6 that, along with an electric motor at the front axle, drives the front wheels. A second electric motor at the rear combines to give the RX 450hL four-wheel drive. Output sits at 308bhp, with 0-62mph in eight seconds and a top speed of 112mph.

There’s not much to fault about the RXL on the open road and the change between fuel and electric is as seamless as it gets. You do have to tread lightly on the throttle pedal though or petrol-mode springs into life regardless of whether you are in EV mode or not.

And there lies a bit of a problem because on a week-long test-drive we consistently failed to reach Lexus’s claim of a combined fuel figure of 47.1mpg

There’s an on-the road price of £61,995 but you get plenty for your money, including a long list of safety and handling equipment.

That list includes Lexus safety system with pre-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, departure lane, lane keep assist and traffic sign recognition, all-round airbags, ABS, vehicle stability control, traction control, adaptive suspension, blind spot monitoring and tyre pressure warning.

With comfort and convenience one of the bigger selling points you would expect to find plenty on-board and you won’t be disappointed.

There are five modes of driving, premium navigation systems, a 15-speaker all-round audio system, a colour heads-up display, 360-degreepanoramic view monitor, smartphone charger, heated leather and wood steering wheel, electric steering column adjustment and Bluetooth.

You also get LED daytime running lights, LED lighting all-round, illuminated scuff plates and door handles, a power tailgate with no-touch sensor and 20-inch alloy wheels.

The test car’s sunroof added another £995 to the bill and this Lexus drops into band 43E insurance group – which won’t come cheaply. CO2 levels come in at 138g/km.

Volvo, BMW and Audi are big players in the seven-seat sector and you can’t help feeling that Lexus bosses have a fight on their hands to gain a foothold. But make no mistake this is a genuine alternative.

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