A TIGHT†ESCAPE

LEXUS SUV PROVIDES SWEET ISOLATION DURING LOCKDOWN

ASH WESTERMAN

I íD ALWAYS KNOWN that dressing in cycling lycra at my age was a crime against fashion, but I wasnít aware that it may actually be against the law.†So when two police officers approach me as I sat alone on my favourite bench looking at the ocean, enjoying a post-ride coffee, I instantly grabbed my phone and went looking for the Better Call Saul entry in my contacts.

Okay, you probably saw this coming: it wasnít sitting around in lycra that was a criminal offence; it was just sitting.

Iím sure youíve all had your own weird experiences of COVID-19 lockdown enforcement, but mine prompted an immediate response. My RX450hL long-termer would have to be more than just transport; it would have to be my mobile lounge room and escape capsule.

Happily it fills this latter brief quite superbly, so when the walls of my apartment start closing in, Iíve taken to driving to a private nook overlooking a bay near my house where I can enjoy a zero-alcohol Heineken, crank up the Mark Levinson sound system, and feel utterly cocooned from the slight craziness thatís going on outside.

The audio system really does sound fantastic, comprising 15 speakers driven by ultra-low distortion class-D amplification. The left, right and centre drivers mounted in the dash ensure the sound stage is perfectly presented in front of you, with vocals that are warm and natural, and highs crisply defined without ever being harsh. The bass, too, is super tuneful, and never muddy or overbearing. To most peopleís ears it would be probably considered rich and full; itís only when youíre cranking the volume near redline that youíll be aware that the bottom end doesnít quite have the visceral slam of that of the premium optional audio systems from the German competitors.

Otherwise, life inside the Lexus is suitably isolated and luxurious, with front seats that strike a sweet balance between pliant comfort and support.†Later, when the sun drops behind the headland to the west and the interior lighting comes on, you can appreciate how nicely the strip LEDs have been incorporated into the door cards and the lower dash panels, making the night ambiance feel beautifully serene.

Itís only on the short drive home that the positive vibe is dented by the trip-computer display. My first full tank was burnt in minimal traffic and largely favourable running conditions, yet the hybrid powertrain slurped 11.8L/100km, nearly double the official combined figure of 6.0L/100km.

Itís obvious from behind the wheel that the electric motors do very little of the heavy lifting in the initial step-off acceleration phase, which is perplexing, because the batterycharge indicator shows thereís ample energy in there for them to run longer without the engine kicking in. More investigation needed...

ASH WESTERMAN

REPORT TWO

LEXUS RX450hL SPORTS LUXURY

Price as tested: $111,070

This month: 602km @ 11.8L/100km