So far, so respectable, but we’ve always had a bugbear with the narrow window in which Lexus’ hybrid system provide a significant benefit over a traditional powertrain. Gentle, about-town cruising is where it’s most satisfying, where the seamless CVT transmission, limited EV-only mode and the car’s general smoothness are shown in the best light.
It’s fine once up to speed, too, but getting there briskly still involves a fair bit of din as the naturally aspirated V6’s revs flare up and stay up. At least it’s a much more pleasant note than the strained-sounding four-pots found in lesser Lexus hybrids.
Performance is ample enough, if hardly sparkling, and compared to rivals’ effortless, torque-laden six-pot diesels, it makes a bit of a meal out of overtaking and motorway inclines. Whether the 30-35mpg it’ll deliver in mixed driving justifies the sacrifice is debateable, too, but you would be looking at significantly lower economy than that for a non-hybrid petrol.
Frankly, it all feels a bit old-school if you’ve spent time in any equivalent plug-in hybrids, especially when you find yourself winding up other motorists by crawling away from junctions in a desperate attempt to keep it in electric mode. But, with no need to charge it up, this is at least a zero-faff hybrid that delivers consistent MPG.
Elsewhere, though, the RX is more dynamically capable. New hardware including stiffer anti-roll bars and new shock absorbers combine with body rigidity improvemens and an optional, roll-reducing Active Cornering assist system. While this might ring alarm bells, the ride hasn’t become choppy as a result: unlike its lumpy riding NX sibling, this is still a surpremely comfortable way of moving about the place.
Handling is a bit more incisive now, too. The steering feels direct and consistently weighted, combining with reasonable grip levels and tidy body control for a two tonne-plus SUV. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t be abandoning the wife and kids on a Sunday afternoon to thread it down a B-road, but it’s entirely as good as a car of this type needs to be, if not quite the class dynamic benchmark.