This article appears in the spring issue of MyGreenPod.com Magazine, distributed with the Guardian on 07 April 2017. Click here to read the full digital issue online.
According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), UK car sales were at a record high in 2016 – with ‘alternative fuel’ cars representing the biggest growth area.
Sales increased by 22.2%, with SUVs topping the charts across Europe. It’s great news – but why are people choosing bigger cars that are unconventionally powered and can go off road? I decided to find out.
The fourth generation Lexus RX 450h Premier (the ‘h’ is for ‘hybrid’) was recommended and the test drive was sorted: Brighton to Dorset to visit the world’s best staff canteen at Yeo Valley HQ in Somerset, followed by an equally highly recommended Sunday lunch at River Cottage.
The RX oozes appeal: fat wheels, snarling grill, defined slick yet curvaceous lines with a large back end (did I really say that?) in a stunning range of colours – and we all know that’s a crucial point when choosing a car these days.
Another factor to consider is, of course, the number of miles you get from each gallon of fuel (MPG). For me this was around 36 – with quite heavy driving on an off motorways, up and down country lanes and in and (just!) out of fields. Published figures are 51.4MPG and CO2 emissions of 127g/km, which frankly is awesome for such a big beast.
The RX 450h combines a great sense of luxury with a whole lot of fun, and I really loved driving this car. It has a claimed top speed of 124mph and was plenty fast enough for me to enjoy while giving the family a spacious, comfortable and luxurious ride.
It combines a 259bhp 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with an electric motor mounted on each axle. It costs £59,495, but offers a generous equipment level as well as the prospect of a £100-a-month company car tax saving for those who might be tempted to buy a six-cylinder diesel alternative.
The RX comes equipped with some great features for comfort and convenience: the satnav was e fficient, the music system was a joy to use, the seat position was perfect and the huge sunroof was an absolute treat.
All in all the full package really worked for me.But the real test was the RX’s off-road capabilities: the days of Chelsea tractors posing at the school gates seem to be nearing an end, with drivers more interested in getting downright dirty in off-road adventures these days. So that’s exactly what I did.
We stopped off at Yeo Valley HQ and Tim Mead, the chairman and a great friend, jumped in to direct me to where his award-winning cows hang out. Wet, rolling expanses of open fields: perfect conditions for this car (and Tim’s cows).
Now, I’m not an experienced off-roader – and, while I took some comfort from Tim’s assurance that a tractor could come and tow us out of any problems, I was determined not to get stuck with this wise farmer in the passenger seat. I’d have died of embarrassment.
Unsure how best to negotiate the bog, Tim offered a few gentle tips and off we went. 30 minutes later – and with a few close calls (down to me, not the car) – I had survived the humiliation of being rescued by locals rolling their eyes at city folk in their city cars. Not this baby.
The RX 450h hit the spot: if you want a luxury SUV that’s kinder to the planet and can handle any adventure – with the likelihood of some wet UK weather thrown in – this is your car. I loved it.
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