I must admit my knowledge of Lexus cars was very slim before we started this little adventure; however when I mentioned Lexus to a few friends and neighbours they only had good things to say about their experiences with Lexus, what had I been missing? I was intrigued to find out more.
As usual I love a little history and was glad to read about how in 1983 Toyota Chairman Eiji Toyoda had set a challenge to his team at Toyota to create a luxury car company and in just two years Lexus was born. I was aware that Toyota has created some of the hardiest most enduring vehicles on the planet, Top Gear’s Toyota Hilux springs to mind, so it was interesting to hear that at the heart of Lexus’s design fabric is the “anti-ageing” programme. The whole premise is that a Lexus with 50,000 miles on the clock should not look, feel or perform any differently to a brand new car.
The engineering team concentrated on 96 key areas of durability from materials, wear and corrosion of components to those annoying squeaks and creeks that cars can develop. Recently, What Car? Magazine voted Lexus as ‘The Country’s Most Reliable Car Brand’. In 2005 Lexus moved into the world of self-charged hybrid power technology with the launch of the RX 400h and amazingly hybrids now account for more than 95% of new Lexus cars sold in the UK! They must be doing something right.
The original Lexus RX was launched in 1998 and we are currently on the fourth generation of the model as released in 2015. They have pushed every part of the design and engineering further and further, with this particular seven-seat RX L appearing in 2018; apparently the RX is their best selling model. In 2020 there were even more improvements to this particular model from exterior design to the ‘human to car’ interface with touchscreens, smartphone connectivity and voice control, and such safety features as Pre-collision systems have increased too.
The RX is also the first car to incorporate the BladeScan Adaptive High-beam System in its lights, providing finer and deeper forward illumination giving better views of pedestrians on the road margins all whilst avoiding dazzling the oncoming traffic. Lexus has amongst their huge workforce a core team of 19 expert artisans with collectively over 475 years of experience in their field, they are known as the ‘Takumi’ or master craftsmen in English. It turns out that the particular RX I found myself in was the ‘RX L Takumi’, and I have to say when sitting in the RX L, it certainly feels like artists have put together the interior with its beautiful leather workmanship.
As for the driver and for each passenger, it felt like one was sitting in one’s own little pod of comfort with all the controls in just the right place, perfect for a long road trip to the French Alps in the winter. We packed the car and I was amazed by the available space. Once the 3rd row of seats were collapsed the boot space was incredible, we even had space to pack 3 pairs of skis down the centre without them interfering with the front of the car, one could probably fit even more skis and two more people if required. It seems to have the space of a huge estate car without the strange long proportions of some of these cars. Even with all of my extra ski and camera equipment, there was still plenty of space, which would later be filled with much French cheese, champagne and cidre on the return to the UK.
We left the UK via the Eurotunnel and made our way down France along the never ending motorways, the true test of long distance comfort. This definitely rates as one of the comfiest vehicles that I have driven, everything has its place for a reason and I found the position of controls and general living space very intuitive, from the big central touch screen to the controls on the steering wheel. There are so many details to help making driving more fluid and effortless. The sensors in the side mirrors light up orange to show when a car is overtaking or undertaking, my peripheral vision picked this up everytime; the heads up display could be tailored to show the information I required without moving my gaze from the road, very useful when travelling in countries with different speed measurements.
I really liked the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control which enabled me to set my desired speed whilst maintaining a safe distance from the car ahead, automatically breaking when necessary and accelerating when the road ahead is clear once again. There is even technology whereby a front camera reads the speed and warning signs and then replicates them on the screen and heads up display, you gotta love modern technology! The 360-degree cameras also come together to create a wonderful complete overview of the car as if a drone is hovering above whilst you are reversing or manoeuvring in to tight spaces.
The Takumi version of the RX comes with a Mark Levinson premium surround system designed to specifically work with the internal architecture of the RX, its 15 speakers certainly deliver crisp sound with great bass to each seat in the car; very important for those long trips. The Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) is a great idea, where by the cameras monitor lane markings on the road and correct the steering if your start to wander out of your lane, I tried this on nice clean roads and the car could literally steer itself along the road; the only downfall is that most roads in the UK and France are more like patch work quilts having been endlessly dug up and repaired with lines of tar, which tended to confuse the LTA making it feel more like a drunken ghost was trying to commandeer the controls of the car.
As for the Hybrid technology; the display showed when the car was charging, driving ecologically or if you were driving with sheer power and burning through fuel. It was fun to drive whilst keeping the RX ‘Eco’ as possible. I soon established that the battery technology was best for towns and rural areas, driving down hill creating the best opportunity to charge the batteries. It was very rare to manage this on the motorways though, which tend to be when the petrol kicks in.
As for the performance the RX certainly had some power considering its size and weight, rarely did we ever venture into Sports Mode as the Eco and Normal Mode delivered well beyond required. We did not have snow and mud tyres on the car, but rather tyres designed for the motorway which did make for a very smooth comfortable ride on tarmac; however in the snow, chains were required. After some practice I could get all four chains on the tyres within about 15 minutes, then the car turned into a tank which climbed the alpine roads without any problem.
I am sure Snow and Mud tyres would work just as well with the All Wheel Drive system. The RX gives you feedback on the tyre pressure, so you know at all times how your tyres are, it is worth noting that the snow chains tended to interfere with this information, not surprising though. Altogether we loved our road trip to Les Arc and Chamrousse and through the French Alps with the Lexus RX 450hL Takumi, the ultimate in comfort and space, both so important for long road trips. This is a space that the whole family or a group of friends could spend time in, the technology is outstanding and makes life on the road easier in every way. The RX L is also a car that can take you to snowy, mountainous parts of the world with ease and comfort, so it certainly gets my vote.
For more information on this particular model see the Lexus website – LEXUS RX 450hL.