Edward Stephens drives a Lexus that shows hybrid can also be high-performance.
Combine hybrid power, four-wheel-drive and Lexus luxury and you have a highly desirable package. And that’s exactly what the Lexus RX 450h is.
Even though most people don’t associate hybrid with high performance the RX 450h is the exception.
This hefty 4x4 will hit 62 miles per hour in just 7.8 seconds yet averages more than 44 miles per gallon.
The car comes with the second generation Lexus Hybrid Drive, which delivers even more power.
And, fortunately for me, one of its three new driving modes was one for Snow (the others were Eco and EV), which proved to be a godsend.
While I was driving the car we had the first snow of the year and, daunting though it looked, it presented no problem to the Lexus.
While other motorists were struggling to get a grip I was happily on my way with the Lexus never missing its footing.
It’s not really the sort of vehicle that any car-respecting person would take off-road but when the normal roads take on an off-road persona you realise just how capable this car is.
Power comes from a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and two powerful electric motors working in tandem to provide an ‘intelligent’ four-wheel drive capability.
The total power output is 295bhp, giving the car an impressive top speed of 124mph. Yet the average fuel consumption is almost 45 miles per gallon, with emissions down to 145g/km.
Unlike some hybrids, which use electric motors just to boost the performance of the petrol engine, the RX 450h is a full hybrid so it can operate in both petrol and electric modes alone or in a combination of both.
Inside the car it’s luxury all the way, with electrically adjustable leather seats which can be heated or cooled with the simple movement of a dial.
In the rear the seats are divided into three sections and each can move forwards or backwards independently of the others, while the backrests too are adjustable.
The car now has a new navigation system with a 40Gb HDD capacity which is operated by a remote touch control, the automotive equivalent of a computer mouse, making it one of the fastest and most accurate on the market.
In fact, the RX 450h SE-L is so hi-tech it’s almost impossible to list its vast array of features. There’s even a Pre-Crash Safety system which uses a millimetre-wave radar sensor to detect objects ahead.
If it senses that there will be a collision it helps the driver reduce the chances of an accident happening by automatically boosting the braking system and tensioning the seatbelts ready for a possible impact.
Other features include a powered tailgate, keyless entry and exit and a superb 15-speaker Mark Levinson – the best in the business – sound system.
On the road this Lexus is smoothness personified. The automatic gearbox is completely seamless so the car glides along in silence smoothing out the road ahead for its occupants.
But while it’s soft on the inside it’s comforting to know that on the outside it’s ready and able to tackle the harshest that winter can throw at you.
Lexus RX 450h SE-L
Mechanical: 295bhp, 3,456cc, 6cyl hybrid engine driving four wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox
Max speed: 124mph 0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
Combined mpg: 44.8
Insurance group: 41
CO2 emissions: 148g/km
BIK rating: 19%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles