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Car of the future that you can have today.

A SILENT revolution is taking place in the burgeoning SUV market, led by the Lexus RX400h.

It is the first SUV in the world to adopt a hybrid petrol-electric powertrain to improve efficiency, reduce emissions and cut costs.

The best bit about it all is that you do not have to change your driving style or make other sacrifices for the well-being of your soul.

Using a development of the technology which first appeared in the Toyota Prius, the Lexus RX400h has scaled this up and the 3.3 V6 is combined with electric motors to produce a total of 208bhp which a clever computer pushes out as and when it's needed or even returns energy to the massive on board traction battery.

The system sorts itself and you simply drive it. And what a drive it is.

The first thing you notice about the RX400h when you start is the slight delay as the electronics come alive, initially running silently on the electric power before seamlessly switching to petrol as more power is called for.

It accelerates quickly in the way of a good sports car or executive saloon but its noise is lower and less frantic and the continuously variable transmission ensures there is an uninterrupted flow of power to wheels.

This not only optimises efficiency but also traction so you are less likely to get wheelspin and this is vitally important in wintry conditions.

The brakes and steering are smooth and mean you can rapidly slow down without drama or actually enjoy city driving with a tight turning circle and good feedback on the road.

There is a rear mounted camera to aid reversing and you need it as the high tail of the RX design creates a real blindspot obscuring children, trollies, posts or walls behind the vehicle and the rear window quickly gets dirty.

To the sides and front, visibility is good with deep windows, good wipers and very bright lights.

The secondary controls on the RX400h all come immediately to hand and work well, with the instruments easy to read and very clear at all times.

The interior can be kept ideally maintained with a simple and efficient climate control backed up by powered windows and sunroof.

Oddments space is reasonably good throughout the cabin area and I like the high loadbed and easy access through the doors. The boot takes from 440 to 1,500 litres and the seats fold down quickly and completely.

The seats throughout are very well shaped, covered in leather and the front pair have a very good adjustment range. It is the sort of car in which you can cover huge distances and still feel good at the end.The room is surprisingly good throughout as well.

As stated, the noise levels are very low from the engine and transmission, and only some road bump-thump intrudes if the surface is poor underneath. Wind noise is almost non-existent.

The Lexus RX400h is not just another SUV because it is closer to a Range Rover in terms of sophistication and also betters many executive saloons with its hybrid refinement.

You cannot overlook its clean and green credentials either and if these are not enough to persuade you, then its remarkable residual value should clinch it.

The Lexus RX400h is a car for tomorrow you can enjoy today.

Fast Facts

Lexus RX400h SE-L

Price: pounds 44,345

Mechanical: 208bhp, 3,311cc, 6cyl hybrid engine driving all four wheels via automatic gearbox

Max speed: 124mph 0-62mph: 7.6 secs

Combined mpg: 34.9

Insurance group: 17

CO2 emissions: 192g/km

BiK rating: 25%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles' 3yrs

paint' 12yrs anti-rust
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Feb 15, 2006
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