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ASH WESTERMAN

LONG CRUISE SEES LEXUS FIND ITS SWEET SPOT

IF OUR #DriveAfterIso campaign conjured visions of tortured Michelins howling and tacho needles dipping into the red, I fear I may have let the side down a little. My first post-Iso drive was a mostly leisurely cruise in convoy with former Wheels staffer Nathan Ponchard from Sydney to the NSW southern highlands for lunch in Berrima. Partly I wanted to see if Ponch’s fashion sense had improved for the winter season (it hasn’t) but I was also keen to use the RX450hL in touring mode, to assess the cruising refinement, and also to see by how much I could improve on the slightly confounding suburban fuel consumption of 12L/100km. For what it’s worth, a colleague ran an identical RX450hL over a weekend and achieved an urban figure of 8.9L/100km at an average speed of 39km/h, so I’m not sure why my consumption has been so high.

What’s very obvious, as I touched on last issue, is just how little the electric motors can sustain in the takeoff phase. Even with ample charge showing on the battery indicator and a very light throttle on level terrain, the EV side of the powertrain won’t shoulder more than around 10-13km/h before the petrol V6 kicks in. Even if you engage the EV-mode button to tell the hybrid system you don’t want the engine involved, it only accepts a feather-light throttle application on level or downhill ground, and the charge is only sufficient for a maximum of 800 or 900 metres. It’s really not suitable for use in normal driving, as you become too much of a mobile chicane for other traffic as you try to nurse it to avoid the ‘accelerator depressed too far’ alert, which coincides with the engine kicking in. It really relegates the EV mode to stealthy, ICE-free departures from your lover’s driveway in the early hours of the morning. (Untested, sadly.)

But on the open road, the RX really finds its sweet spot. For starters, the 20-inch Dunlops have ample sidewall to soak up sharp edges and expansion joints, so the ride, from an impactharness point of view, is really very good. The steering is not slow at 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, but in cruise mode the nose feels sufficiently alert without ever feeling nervous or overeager. Wind and road noise, too, are properly well suppressed so the cabin is a lovely, insulated place to be at Aussie highway speeds.

Our cafe lunch in Berrima came served on disposable plates with plastic cutlery, reminding us that life after Iso still has a way to go before it resembles the old normal. But the drive back saw consumption for the 300km run drop into the high sevens, which went some way to reassuring me that everything is not quite as strange as it sometimes seems.

ASH WESTERMAN

REPORT THREE

LEXUS RX450hL SPORTS LUXURY

Price as tested: $111,070 

This month: 704km @ 10.1L/100km