Lexus RX450h

Looking for a family-friendly vehicle that's kind to the environment? Our car enthusiasts, Royce and Angela Pedersen, check out the Lexus RX450h.

What he says

How often have you wished you could suggest changes to a vehicle designer and have them immediately implemented? When I last reviewed the Lexus RX450h, I was impressed with what Lexus had done in combining luxury with technology to provide a great all-rounder, but I also had a list of improvements. Well, it's as if they read my mind - the new Lexus RX450h is head and shoulders above its predecessors and competitors. Originally, handling was my main complaint, but to my surprise this model handled far better, considering it weighs a whopping 2,500kg! Performance has also been improved to 220Kw (more than enough to take the kids to school and back!) and this power is delivered smoothly via an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission, where the engine changes gear so smoothly you don't know it's happening.

All up, it boasts a far more user-friendly driving experience. Lexus seems to have made a real effort to act on their vision  - as their managing director explains, "Only by anticipating the needs of our customers will we truly be able to help them make the most of every moment."

The interior is stylish as ever, with every imaginable control and bit of  information at your fingertips. Attention to detail and quality is evident throughout, giving you a sense that you are driving something really unique. Some minor features that stood out were kick panels that light up when the door is opened, heated seats, auto brightness on dash lighting, and when reversing, the wing mirror moves to give a view of the rear wheel so you don't curb your new mags.

The dashboard boasts a comprehensive selection of controls which seem to pre-empt your intentions, and you can control it all with a few clicks of the built-in mouse device. The battery charge/usage meter has been simplifed and gives you a clear indication of what is happening with the driveline and power sources.

My favourite feature is the heads up display (HUD), which reflects information onto the windscreen to allow you to keep your eyes on the road! Information such as satellite navigation directions, vehicle speed, audio settings and pre-collision safety system (PCS) brake information is placed right in your direct view, without being distracting or annoying.

My other favourite feature is the cruise control auto sensor - set your maximum cruising speed and if you come up behind a car, the Lexus will gently brake and maintain a safe following distance. How often have you used cruise control on a long trip and had to keep resetting it due to other cars' erratic speeds? Well not any more - give a pay rise to the genius who thought of and implemented this feature!

I do wonder if Lexus is in cohoots with NASA, with all of the hi-tech computerised systems present in the RX450h - just have a flick through the user manual and you'll be bombarded with a plethora of features, each with it's own acronym which really gets confusing after reading the first 10. Here are a few: Active torque control (AWD), advanced traction control (TRC), vehicle stability control (VSC+), all-wheel drive (AWD), electronic power steering (EPS), adaptive front-lighting system (AFS), pre-crash safety system (PCS)...

The only thing I that still needs improvement (and this is just my opinion) is the car's external look and shape. In spite of all the pros, I still believe this masterpiece is undeserving of its sadly unattractive shell. It just seems to lack that aggressive finesse you would expect from such a car. Looks can be deceiving; however, I believe a car's appearance affects its popularity more than we all would admit.

What she says

Contrary to my husband, I quite like the look of the Lexus RX450h. Its fine lines and grilles exude luxury and ranks it right up there with the best of them.

I'm all about stealth. If I was a boy racer, I'd have the most ordinary-looking car  but the biggest, meanest engine under the bonnet to suprise my adversaries. While the hybrid isn't exactly boy racer style, it does hide a very powerful engine (including the electrical component). I have always thought of "green" cars as having poor performance, but this car has good looks, performance, and gadgets for Africa.

The five-seater SUV fits three carseats comfortably in the back with ample leg room for the kids. (Finally, they stopped kicking my seat!) The interior is made of quality material (I love that new-car smell!), and appeared to be easy to clean should sticky little fingers get ice cream/peanut butter/chocolate all over it. The kids loved it, especially the extra space, which comes in handy on those long trips away. On our test drive, my hubby and I enjoyed singing songs with the kids, made all the more fun by the MP3 stereo pumping out sounds from the 12 surround-sound speaker system, which could be set up and cutomised in just about every way you can imagine.

The thing I love about hybrids is that when you turn the engine on with the press of a button and drive off, you're not even sure you've turned the car on, it's that quiet! It's not until you give it some acceleration that the engine starts up  - and this is still almost unnoticeable.

The RX450h is certainly a vehicle you would feel safe driving your family around in - Lexus have gone to such lengths to ensure safety in every aspect that I was quite mind -boggled just reading through the brochure. Rather than just having anti skid brakes, they have a system which anticipates a crash and sounds a warning buzzer (just in case you find yourself dozing off while driving). Rather than having only traction control, they have a fully computerised ride system which adjusts power distribution and braking to each wheel. And instead of just headlights, they have high intensity discharge (HID) headlights with an adaptive front-lighting system (AFS) that at slower speeds redirects the powerful low-beam headlights around corners. With 12 air bags and side intrusion bars, you know safety is well-covered. All of this in a car which uses less fuel, emits less pollution and is built like a tank - a very luxurious tank that I would be proud to own.

Royce and Angela Pedersen are the parents of three children: Ella (four), Eva (two) and baby Jesse. Angela is OHbaby!'s Managing Director and Publisher.



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