general auto

ROAD TEST: The new Lexus 4WD that’s so much more than a people wagon.

The new Lexus RX 450hL, at its heart, is a family car.

It has to be considered so because with seven seats, unless you’re chauffeuring around a rock band or soccer team, it’s the ideal model for a big brood.

But it’s so much more than a people wagon. And I’ll tell you why.

The actual car bits.

Test driving the Lexus RX 450hL was, excitedly, my first time driving a hybrid -that is a car that runs on part petrol, part power.

Once in the driver’s seat I started the car with my foot on the brake and a push of a button. Most people know by now they call this ‘keyless entry’ (and indeed it’s a keyless ignition) but the hybrid engine was so very quiet it took me a good two to three minutes to work out I’d actually already started the motor. It was almost silent.

Isn't she pretty?

It’s not just the (lack of) noise that’s impressive. Over the two days I drove the car the petrol gauge hardly dipped below full.

While this model is also available with a regular petrol motor, the hybrid uniquely boasts an All Wheel Drive system and you’re even able to drive short distances (granted, at low speeds) using the electric power alone.

These features all add up to much better fuel efficiency, meaning far less visits to the petrol station (and let’s face it, besides the obvious benefit to the environment, no one’s favourite chore is stopping for fuel).

The space.

I don’t know about you but when I think of a seven seater vehicle a pretty generic, average-looking car shape springs to mind. Though this SUV is so much sexier than your average.

It presents like a regular 4WD and thanks to some Rubix Cube-level use of shapes and space, you’d never guess it had seven seats. When not in use the two seats at the back fold down flush to the boot floor.

Said boot floor, in this configuration, is a dream for golf clubs, surfboards or that big-family $300 weekly grocery shop.

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It's what on the inside that counts.

Impressively, there’s still really decent boot space behind the sixth and seventh seat when they're in action. Enough for some luggage, shopping or school bags.

Speaking of those last two seats, you don’t need to worry about those passengers feeling any less important. Press a button and the two seats pop up into place, and those passengers get their own air conditioning vent and all important cup holders. The use of the third row in no way impedes the comfort of the second row passengers.

The car comes with 10 airbags, covering all three rows of seats.

The luxe touches.

It’s the stuff inside that’s really impressive (not under the bonnet, we mean in the cabin).

There are more ways to charge devices than devices themselves could exist in a family. Under the front console there’s a wireless mobile charging dock and in the centre console of both the first and second row there are two USB charger ports (no more crying kids due to dead iPads on those long road trips).

Wireless mobile charging is life.
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The model I experienced featured sexy matte black leather seats, while the console was finished with timber reminiscent of a premium sailing boat.

Heated seats are an expected though comforting luxury. Air conditioning vents down the headrest of the front seats is a saviour during the hot Aussie summer when getting cool ASAP from all angles is a must.

And the cup holders. So many cup holders.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a big, beautiful car, and one I was nervous of parking at first. In my somewhat more humble everyday car I’ve become pretty good at using the shop windows I’m parallel parking next to as a gauge of how much room I have, but with the Lexus RX 450hL the parking cameras took away any hesitation I had.

The birds-eye-view reverse parking camera in particular made manoeuvring incredibly easy.

It almost makes parking fun.

All in all while its sheer capability makes it a great family car, there’s nothing about it that would turn off singles or couples. The Lexus RX 450hL is a smooth, sexy drive that simply feels good.

As basic as it sounds, one of my favourite parts was the very satisfying click of the indicator which just felt...fancy - and it’s those tiny touches that really make it a luxurious experience.

See? So much more than a people wagon.

The Lexus RXL starts at $95,000. For more information visit the Lexus website.

Leigh Campbell road-tested the Lexus RX 450hL as a guest of Lexus. 

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