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The Mercury Cars Guide : July 25th 2009
20— Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au Saturday, July 25, 2009 Wagon wheels into action SMOOTH OPERATOR: The 2009 Lexus RX450h soft-roader may have the appearance of a large, inefficient fuel guzzler, but it is in fact an environmentally friendly hybrid vehicle. It’s like motoring’s version of having your cakeandeating it too.ThenewLexus hybridwagonmakessense. W ILL history be kind to Lexus? Will time show that the com- pany’s latest model was truly groundbreaking, orwasitaone- hit wonder—one of those good ideas at the time that never caught the market’s attention? I have little doubt about the answer. I reckon Lexus’ RX450h soft-roader has quietly opened a new chapter in the history of motoring. And, one day in the future, long after hybrid technology is replaced by alternative methods of power, the big RX will be written about as making per- fect sense at the time. While the world is turning to smaller,more fuel-efficient cars painted a brighter shade of green, there is still a small demand for larger and expen- sive all-wheel drive wagons. It is really all your fault. Buyers aren’t ready to giveupon their wagons just yet. That’s despite the fact they are seen to be socially unacceptable on a number of fronts, the big one beinghowmuchfuel they guzzle. The Lexus/Toyota solution is, of course, to go hybrid—the combination of a petrol engine with battery power. The tech- nology has already found its way into small vehicles such as the Prius, but adopting it in big, heavier vehicles such as theRX also makes perfect sense. ThisweekI have been testing the second-generation RX450h in its worst operating environ- ment. No, not the tough Out- back, but the fuel-sapping stop- start urban jungle — fighting the daily city traffic jam. The result? An impressive 9.1l/100km when running on economy setting and 10l/100km in performance mode. That is from a big, bulky wagon with a email@example.com with KEITH DIDHAM kerb weight of just over two tonnes. However, the fuel return was a far cry from that claimed by Lexus when the RX was re- cently launched at 6.6l/100km for city running, or 6.1l/100km for a mix of city and highway. This revamped RX comes with a bigger and more muscu- lar body, three levels of trim, more power, an improvement to its on-road performance and moreweight—but it is cheaper than the model it replaces. It is still expensive, starting at $89,990 (plus on-road costs) for the entry model, the Prestige. Next comes the Sports for $96,900, then the flagship of the trio, the Sports Luxury, at $107,900. Pricing of the previous RX put it out of reach for most buyers, but this new one is a whopping $7000 less than the old hybrid RX400h. The price cut must be alarm- ing for those owners who have just seen the resale value of the wagon take a hit, and there is a penalty for having a hybrid badge — it is still about $8000 dearer than the petrol model, and that buys a lot of fuel. Power comes from a smart and all-new direct-injection 3.5-litre V6 Atkinson engine and two electric motors — one for the front wheels, one for the back. It is all computer-man- aged, and utilises a continuously variable auto transmission. The main drive is the front wheels, with added drive to the rear when required. There has been a handy gain in both peak power and torque over the previous 3.3-litre V6. on the road Lexus has made a smarter job of the styling — it no longer looks soft, so it should have more appeal to blokes, unlike the old version, which largely sold to women. The cabin is spacious, classy and well-packaged and you get all the trick toys such as rear-facing camera, remote locking, keyless start, naviga- tion, one of the best sound systems on the market, head- lamps that look around cor- ners, and dual aircondition- ing. But hang on, where’s the rearDVDplayer or TV, or the heated seats? And a memo to Mr Lexus: Steering wheels with wooden rims are cold to touch in winter. Driving the RX leaves you with mixed feelings. In economy mode, the RX is sluggish off the line. Push the accelerator and initially there’s not much happening. The wagon feels heavy and sounds like an old-fashioned electric trolley bus. In performance mode, its off-line manners are more akin to a petrol-engined wa- gon, while the transition be- tween battery and petrol is remarkably smooth. Anddriving this hybrid, like others, is spooky. Come to a stop at a red traffic light and the engine switches off. Silence small torque LEXUS RX450H Hybrid four-wheel drive Power: 3.5-litreV6petrol engine,183kWat6000rpm, 317Nmtorque at4800rpm. Hybridcombined220kW. Performance: 0-10km/h: 7.8 seconds. Fueleconomy(claimed): 6.4 litre/100km combined, 6.6 litre/100km city, 6.1 litre/100km highway.As tested 9.1 litre/10km city running. Carbon dioxide: 150g/km(combined engines) Kerbweight: 2205kg.Tow capacity:750kgunbraked, 1500kgbraked. PLUSH: The Lexus is superbly comfortable and easy to drive. is bliss, but you have to resist pushing the start button be- cause it hasn’t stalled, it is just saving fuel by not running the engines when not needed. Plant the right foot and, oddly, there’s some old- fashioned torque steer to con- tend with. There are some aspects of the Lexus that also don’t quite work. The test model came dressed with a plush deep cream interior that may be smartenoughtodrawcustom- ers in the showroom, but it is DRIVEAWAYNO MORE TO PAY! $14.75 per day† Only 04 NISSAN Patrol Turbo Diesel 3.0 litre, 7 seat capacity, 2.5 tonne towing capacity, air conditioning, CD player, cruise control. Stock No. 321555 †To approved business clients only, with a $2,500 deposit over five years with a 30% residual payment. Interest rate 10.50%. DRIVE WAS$29,990 NOW $26, 990 AWAY WAS$27,490 NOW $24, 30,000km 07 HONDA Civic Hybrid 1.3 litre IMA, hybrid continuously variable transmission with integrated motor assist. Stock No. 321636 990 DRIVE AWAY $13.50 per day† Only $6.00 per day† www.djmotors.com.au firstname.lastname@example.org Easy finance 42,000km 1.5 litre automatic, dual airbags, ABS brakes. Stock No. 321675 05 MITSUBISHI Colt WAS $13,990 NOW $12, 490 DRIVE AWAY available with DJ Financial Services Hobart 1a Brisbane Street,Hobart Phone: 6213 3300 Warren Amos 0417 544 829 Luke Mitchell 0408 545 146 Glenorchy 275 Main Road,Glenorchy Phone: 6213 3315 Brian Anning 0418 531 853 Chris Wakefield 0400 635 446 Allan Gebel 0428 729 659 impractical out there in the real, grubby world. But top marks to Lexus for managing tohaveaflat floor in the load area, even though it is slightly raised, under which sits the massive batteries. There is much to like about this solid Lexus. It is superbly comfortable, easy to drive, has reasonable visibility and doesn’t wallow nearly as ex- pected when pushed in the twisty stuff. It comes well-packaged with safety equipment and I grew to like the centre console- mounted mouse controller to navigate yourwaythrough the various information screens. There is still a bit of gim- mickry, such as the graph that shows which engines are pro- viding the power, but it is enough to impress your friends. But what I really like are the looks from fellow motor- ists who sneer at the fact you are driving a big, heavy, fuel- inefficient all-wheel drive wa- gon. If only they knew.
July 18th 2009
August 1st 2009