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Lexus has reduced the emissions and yet increased the economy and power of the RX's V6, but the hybrid is still the more convincing proposition.
Autocar
25 April 2006

What's new? Right now Lexus is at the forefront of the hybrid revolution – next year there’ll be a flagship LS600h, we’ve just sampled the sporting GS450h and Lexus’s first hybrid, the RX400h, is selling well.And so it should: putting hybrid technology in the RX boosted performance, cut emissions and delivered an elegant answer to the anti-SUV brigade. Unfortunately for Lexus, the RX400h has also rather overshadowed the more conventional RX300, which is slower and thirstier, if £5000 cheaper. Last month, the 400h outsold the 300 almost two-to-one.To put the regular model back in the spotlight, Lexus has given it an enlarged 3.5-litre V6, bringing an extra 71bhp and 44lbft and cutting the 0-60mph time by over a second to 7.8sec. Crucially, and despite its larger capacity, the new engine is more efficient: the combined cycle improves to 25.2mpg and emissions fall.What's it like? On the road, the new engine is not only more sprightly but more relaxed. Driven on three-quarters throttle it remains unobtrusive, but extended beyond this the note becomes less sonorous. The five-speed automatic ’box has reprogrammed shift patterns for a quicker and smoother response; undoubtedly an improvement, but not as quick or seamless as the best.The RX350 also gets other amendments, including a sound deadening windscreen and new satellite navigation. Lexus claims to have retuned the steering for improved feel, but it remains artificially light, indirect and now the car’s most obvious weakness.Should I buy one? With a price rise of £1250 over the RX300, an RX350 will cost a higher rate tax-payer around £1400 per annum more in tax than the RX400h. If you’re set on an RX, hybrid is still the way to go.Jamie Corstorphine

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