From January 2010 issue

List price when tested: £50,460
Kerbweight: 2280kg*
85% match: 1938kg
Max towing weight: 2000kg
Towball limit: 80kg
30-60mph: 8.9seconds
30-0mph: 10.4m
*Includes 75kg for the driver, and so differs from Lexus’s published kerbweight

WE’VE BEEN waiting for years for a petrol-electric hybrid to come along and really prove its mettle as a towcar. The Lexus RX450h is very nearly that car.

For one thing, it’s extremely quick, with or without a caravan in tow. We hitched it up to a Bailey Senator with a Mass in Running Order (MiRO) of 1435kg, and accelerated from 30-60mph in just 8.9 seconds. That’s one of the fastest times we’ve recorded.

On the road that kind of muscle makes towing feel effortless. Strong brakes mean the RX450h stops almost as well as it goes, and stability at speed is commendable.

Great for long distances

In stop-start traffic the Lexus is almost eerily quiet, although the petrol engine has a hard, metallic note if worked hard. At motorway speeds it stays in the background, helping to make the Lexus a great long-distance car.

Inside there’s plenty of space for five, with lots of head and legroom for those in the back. The luggage capacity is a respectable 496 litres with the back seats upright, and they can be folded away quickly using levers in the boot.

So far, so good, but we do have reservations. For a car which weighs well over two tonnes, the 80kg noseweight is disappointing. This could be enough to rule out the Lexus if you own a heavy van.

The ride is less settled than that of some rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery and, unlike many big 4x4s, the RX450h isn’t available with seven seats, even as an option.

Official figures promise 44.8mpg on the combined cycle. On our towing economy route we were disappointed to record 18.6mpg.

The Lexus is the best hybrid towcar we’ve yet driven, but there are still too many negatives compared with our favourite big 4×4, the Land Rover Discovery.

We say
Towing: 3/5
Solo: 4/5
Practicality: 4/5
Buying & owning: 4/5

Verdict: 3/5 – Impressive performance but the noseweight limit is too low.

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