Spottedlaurel

1900 miles of holiday driving in my RX450h - thoughts and observations

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One of the big factors in me getting an RX450h some six months ago was using my previous Toyota Avensis 1.8 petrol on last year's holiday. It safely and comfortably got us around, but the torque-less engine didn't cope well with four passengers and lots of luggage on the mountains and hills of France, and all the time I was driving it I kept thinking how much nicer something like a big Lexus would be. I part-exchanged the Toyota after less than a year, losing a predictably unhealthy amount, so did the experience of using the RX on this year's French holiday prove this to be worthwhile?....

In short, yes! I ended up almost doubling the mileage I've done since getting it back in February, and the intensive use of it over the two weeks of my holiday showed it to be something I'd like to keep for a good while. What follows is a bit of a review of my experience.

Started off with packing the car on the hottest day of the year, ready for the start of our journey the next day. Boot didn’t appear to be quite as large as Avensis, but still took two cases, 12v fridge box and bags of food, books etc with cover pulled across and rear seats slid slightly forwards. I never like the idea of driving a long way with clobber piled-up inside the rear window and limiting visibility. Despite all the extra weight it didn't appear to squat down at the rear as all my previous cars did (normal hatchbacks and estates like Primera, Accord and Avensis).

Uneventful first leg down to Newhaven straight after finishing work on Friday. After experimenting with different routes and timings we’ve settled on the night-time crossing to Dieppe, getting a few hours of sleep on the ferry and getting to France for an early start the next morning.

 

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In previous years we’re broken the journey up with an overnight stop or two and relaxed driving on the rural D-roads, but this year we had a 520-odd mile trek down to our accommodation in one day. The RX coped very well with this, of course. The 81mph speed limit and generally emptier roads meant extended use of the cruise control which was an interesting experience as it's not something I can use in Norfolk/Suffolk. It's clear that most other drivers are doing the same, setting it very close to the 130kmh limit, and the minimal difference in speed makes for a much smoother, safer drive. Possibly not as economical overall, but amusing when the downhill stretches were steep enough to shut the engine down and go into full charge mode. The engine was surprisingly audible when climbing some of the hills, but in general the ability of the hybrid and CVT to let the engine run at a slow speed made for a very relaxed drive. Much of the time on slower roads the 12v fridge made more noise than anything else.

The ability to quickly pick-up speed was much appreciated when joining the fast-running autoroutes, particularly with the tight radius ‘on’ curves and generally shorter sliproads meaning that getting back into the flow needs to be done in a decisive manner. It was also much more pleasant than the Avensis to have plenty of power when driving up the steeper hills.

 

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It took us around 14 hours to cover that long drive down on the first day, with a cross-country stretch of D-road driving to get between autoroutes and various stops for food, fuel and the odd catnap. All on board found it very comfortable, with my teenage children sleeping for much of the journey and my wife finding the more upright seating position much better than the Avensis. As well as comfort levels, factors such as good visibility and large mirrors made for a stress-free experience.

 

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Some sections of the autoroute on the way down were quite rainy, and the smooth asphalt surface generated a lot of spray, but the RX always felt secure and composed. No issue with my choice of Michelin CrossClimates recently fitted to the front, if finances permit I’d like to get the rears done before winter even though the Dunlops it currently has were new when I bought it.

The CVT always being in the right ‘gear’ was appreciated on unfamiliar roads, in towns, when stuck in a queue on the autoroute etc, even more so than a conventional auto with its need to kickdown.

As we have done before the map was used for position finding only in conjunction with a real, printed atlas (remember them?!). In this role it worked well, it was useful to be able to see upcoming bends and road layouts, and to find petrol stations, but not be a slave to the sat-nav. I don't think it could cope with my photo opportunity stops, detours and turnarounds....

The recently-introduced, slower 50mph speed limit on D-roads was a little frustrating on the long, straight roads in the north, but less of an issue in the hilly countryside of the Tarn et Garonne department where we stayed for our fortnight. Ride and handling was ideal and even on smaller roads the RX didn’t feel too unwieldy. I find the turning circle to be surprisingly tight, useful when getting around small villages and when turning round for a random photo opportunity.

When I’m on holiday I usually take a few photos of old/interesting/unusual/rubbish cars (by few I mean several hundred). The extra bit of height and visibility was certainly useful to see things worth stopping for, and my family had a comfortable place to sit in a random gateway or street while I wandered off to get a photo or two.

 

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As I hadn’t used my RX on long trips like this before I was interested to see how it would fare on economy. Lowest I remember seeing was 28-29mpg on one tankful on the way down, but with cruise control on the relatively empty, flattish northern autoroutes I more usually got 31-33. When I’d filled-up off the autoroute and driven only on D-roads at 50-odd mph then I saw 40-41mpg after as much as 60 miles – I doubt the Avensis I took last year would have done as well as that, and it really tumbled when doing 80-odd on the autoroutes or when driving in the hills and mountains.

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Our journey home was pretty much a repeat of the way down, but with an overnight stop in Normandy at a great B&B to delay getting back home for as long as possible.

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We used the Eurotunnel to get back to the UK, as timings of the Dieppe-Newhaven ferry don’t work so well for us. Driving back home on the M20/M25/A12 was as awful as it seems to be every year, with lots of queues, roadworks and much lower standards of driving.

Was there anything I didn’t like, or that annoyed me after this period of intensive use? First would be the lack of a simple button to turn the A/C on/off. Only other thing of significance is the keyless entry and start/stop. I’m happy to still use a remote button to unlock, there are very few occasions where it’s less convenient to do that than touch the door handle, and there are times when it didn’t ‘start’ (i.e. go into ready mode) despite me being as careful as I can be about pressing the brake pedal when I push the start button. I don't think there's a fault, it's just my lousy co-ordination. With it being initially silent I would then sometimes try and pull away, then realise that I had no drive or PAS. The twist of a key would be much more positive....

Lexus seems to be a much less common brand in France than the UK, but then that appears to be the case with most Japanese makes. I saw a UK-registered pre-facelift RX450 on the autoroute, a French F-Sport and an RX300. There was the occasional NX, CT, RC and IS, some of them belonging to Dutch and Belgian holidaymakers. Most surprising to see was a French-registered Mk1 LS400, which I just about managed to catch on the dashcam. Didn’t see any 4th gen RX at all, whether French or British.

 

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Is there a conclusion to this review? Just that the RX happily met my expectations and, as someone who enjoys cars and driving, it made the holiday even more pleasurable for me. It was roomy, comfortable, capable and relaxing, and economy was tolerable for the performance and capabilities it offered. I can’t see that a 4th gen model would do anything much better and at the end of my PCP I will think strongly about keeping this one, even if it’s as a second car to something more economical for day-to-day use.

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thanks for taking the time to post this

I think it's always interesting to hear owners experiences in real world driving in contrast to professional reviewers.

 

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Interesting write up and comments 👍

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Thanks very much for taking the time to write up your experiences.  Seems like the RX was a helpful addition to what sounds like a fantastic holiday. 

I must admit your talk of the 12v fridge has given me ideas for road trips with my own family wagon, a Volvo XC90.

Thanks again!

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Fascinating review.

Great pictures.

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Great review and as the owner of a 2011 RX with around 125k on the clock now, I am not surprised you rate the car so highly!

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Thanks all. I was really looking forward to getting the RX out to France and letting it stretch its legs, something it's not doing with me back home.

If any of you are thinking about doing something similar I would thoroughly recommend it, whether it's a day-long blast to a final destination for a couple of weeks like we did this year, or a more gentle cruise around the countryside, stopping somewhere different each night.

To make it a full-on driving holiday would be a little selfish, having consideration to the rest of my family, so I try to make the journey as much a part of the holiday as I can. Having something capable and enjoyable to drive adds a lot to the experience and RX was just what I wanted it to be in that regard.

It's a shame how disappointing I found the petrol Avensis that I took to France last year. I'd taken our previous diesel one there four years on the trot and it was fine, and I had no issue with previous trips in the Accord and Primera. Going back to pre-children days in the '90s and early '00s I used all sorts of stuff like Datsun Sunny, Violet and Skyline and Triumph Acclaim for European road trips, going as far afield as Norway via Holland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden and down to the South of France over the years.

The 12v fridge is a useful addition. I wouldn't say the one we got is brilliant, and it does take up a bit of space, but packing it with pre-chilled drinks and maybe an ice block or two does help keep things cool on a long journey. It's good to have a degree of self-sufficiency, whether it's to avoid high prices at motorway/autoroute services, in case of queues or delays, or to take advantage of the plentiful rest and picnic areas they have in France.

I would quite happily have turned around done the same trip again the day after returning home.....

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Many thanks Nigel, I enjoyed reading that.

I drive to and from Andalucia twice each year in my 240,000 mile plus Merc Estate, so in reading that, I was sat comfortably in the next seat to you ?

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great write up of your journey ,the rx is such a good driving position relaxing you can see everything over hedges etc driving through small villages it's so easy to drive slow or at speed limits lots of power when needed . I think the guys in there low cars are quite funny as they peel themselves out after they pull up having to stretch etc they say the rx doesn't handle its big and heavy lol young pups I remember my first beer lol. 

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11 minutes ago, Lager shandy said:

great write up of your journey ,the rx is such a good driving position relaxing you can see everything over hedges etc driving through small villages it's so easy to drive slow or at speed limits lots of power when needed . I think the guys in there low cars are quite funny as they peel themselves out after they pull up having to stretch etc they say the rx doesn't handle its big and heavy lol young pups I remember my first beer lol. 

It is not funny at all. You SUV drivers are an inconsiderate lot bu blocking out our view of oncoming traffic. You should read your Highway Code again Alan.

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Hmm I may fit a tow bar and get a caravan to I can go cruising on hot sunny weekend on winding country roads to join the middle age men in Lycra hogging the roads 😈

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Excellent write up and review of your European road trip. I find it hard to believe tho that you state the boot is much smaller than that of your Avensis estate?  I had a RX but had to let it go but I did use it for the annual holiday. 3 adults a tall 13yr old and the princess's baby seat. Tons of luggage for us all yet the boot swallowed it all. I'm in an excellent mondeo now to which the boot is bigger than the RX and avensis by the way yet the same luggage was a bit of a squeeze to get in. On my RX the rear did squat a bit with the weight but my mondeo hardly squatted. Yes I miss the RX but that's how it is. lol yes one does have to stretch a bit when one gets out yet not in the RX.

Mine was the F Sport and I drove it so. It handled surprisingly well. Enjoy your car and many happy miles driving to you.

Oh forget the rear parcel shelf thing. Pile your luggage high. You have a mirror on each of your front doors and don't need the middle mirror. OK I'm a truck driver and don't have a middle mirror. Below hopefully is a photo of my RX fully loaded 

 

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Really enjoyed reading your trip report Nigel, thanks for sharing it 👍

If I was shopping for a car, I'd find this far more useful than the typical journalist review.

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Really enjoyed reading that

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Thanks for the article - as a prospective purchaser (in the very near future indeed) of a five year old RX450H F-Sport  - - - I am thoroughly looking forward to joining the ranks of satisfied (possibly smug?) 450H drivers

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On 8/24/2019 at 2:38 PM, Mr Vlad said:

Oh forget the rear parcel shelf thing. Pile your luggage high. You have a mirror on each of your front doors and don't need the middle mirror.

Very true - but not very secure. You need to keep luggage below the cargo cover to keep things away from prying eyes that may think, "I'm having that!"

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42 minutes ago, Herbie said:

Very true - but not very secure. You need to keep luggage below the cargo cover to keep things away from prying eyes that may think, "I'm having that!"

Luggage in the rear of an Estate or SUV MUST  always be secured as if it moves forward  at speed it can decapitate!

 

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On 8/24/2019 at 2:38 PM, Mr Vlad said:

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That's a lot of toilet rolls Vladimir.

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Thanks for the further comments. If an RX didn't do well on this sort of trip then Lexus have failed miserably!

Interesting to see the additional thoughts people have about rearward visibility, luggage space, etc. I was thinking about this yesterday, as we used the RX for a family trip out with an additional passenger on board, so I had an extra head to look past in the mirror. As I'm not an HGV driver (nor a professional chauffeur) then I do use the interior mirror in addition to the others, and I wouldn't want to be without it when I'm driving on the opposite/unfamiliar side of the road in a stream of traffic doing 80+ mph. The RX isn't small, another car would have to be a bit of a distance back to be visible in the door mirrors and a motorbike could easily be lost.

As much as the safety of not having stuff piled-up in the back, it is the security aspect as Herbie mentions. I don't particularly want to look like I'm a holidaymaker with a load of pilferable stuff on board - some people we know had their car broken into in Paris this summer and just clothes were taken.

I don't think the luggage cover is one of the best bits of design. Maybe I'm missing something on mine, but I think the fact that it doesn't cover the full bootspace when the seats are slid/reclined forwards is a bit of a shortcoming. When I looked at a Mazda 6 estate that had what looked like quite a neat feature, in that the rear edge of the blind was fixed to the tailgate, which meant it lifted up and out of the way when the boot was opened. Maybe other cars do this too? Would be easier than repeatedly unclipping the cover then pulling it back again.

The RX's boot is just about big enough for what I need, but it certainly isn't massive. Be nice if it was a bit deeper, but I guess there's the Battery etc under there. Lack of bootspace was one of the reasons I didn't go for an NX, but if any forthcoming model gets closer in that regard then it will be something I will look at again, especially when the children are older and less of a consideration.

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As regards to boot space, I’m disabled so I have my mobility scooter in the back of my RX400 which is lifted in and out by a Autochair Olympian hoist. I also put my suitcase in there too. No issues with space so far. If anything the 450 backs I’ve seen are even bigger than the 400. Wonderful


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Yes Old Trout lots of loo roll but at least we knew what we were using. As for security of load. I'm a pro truck driver and my loads are always secured. Careful packing and rear head restraints at a higher position than normal. The pushchair was the highest item and it was under the top of the head rests and laid against them. Photo was taken without a couple of straps I used. My car had quite dark tinted glass in the rear. No way to see inside through from outside. 

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I can imagine your road trip was great fun ,I did mention doing a similar thing to the wife ,I got the steely stare and that was the end of that pipe dream .although to be fair she had to sit in the back of a old RAV4 Crushed up for hours on a road trip through France in her late teens ,its almost on par with me saying let's go camping lol.

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