A day through the biggest storm of the yearThe worst storm Toronto has had in years led to school closures, business closures, and severe storm warnings.
The Lexus RX has many, many stigmas and stereotypes surrounding it. It’s the quintessential mommy-mobile; the jacked-up Camry; the most boring SUV on the planet. To be honest, up until this past week I wholeheartedly supported any and all negativity towards the RX. I drove the F-Sport as well as the Hybrid model at the launch party this past summer, and I came away mostly unimpressed. My reasoning for the stereotypes was simple; while growing up, I was exposed to every single generation of RX produced, and each and every one was boring as sin. However, I’d heard that for drivers who lack confidence, the RX’s car-like driving dynamics and supreme control over the road makes it a solid choice. I decided to book myself into the 2013 Lexus RX450h to see for myself.
My first few days with the RX were surprisingly comfortable, but uneventful. I came to like the behemoth and its desperate desire to please the driver and all of its passengers. It was a pretty busy week for me socially and I had a few friends and family members in the RX450h. Everybody was very impressed with the amount of features it had; and most of all, how comfortable the seats were. While the RX doesn’t cater to enthusiasts in the slightest, there’s nothing about it that’s anything short of pleasant. Whether I was driving in the gridlock of the city or through the suburbs, the SUV performed adequately. The best part was, no matter how much I pushed it, my fuel economy stayed at a combined 8.6L/100km. Though this is slightly worse than Lexus‘ claims, I wouldn’t expect a V6-powered sport-utility that weighs as much as my condominium to do any better.
The highlight of my road test with the Lexus RX450h came when Toronto was hit with a monstrous blizzard. The worst storm Toronto has had in years led to school closures, business closures, and severe storm warnings. After the entire city seemed to be staying indoors, my colleagues and I decided that our media pickup of the 2013 Suzuki Kizashi Sport had to go on. Off we went in the Lexus, from downtown Toronto to Hamilton, then across the city again to Richmond Hill, and finally finishing out west in Mississauga. Typically, this drive would take about 2 1/2 hours in off-peak hours. I left Toronto around 8:45AM and returned home well past midnight. All this keeping in mind that the Lexus only sipped a quarter tank of gas through the journey. Where the average motorist would probably be scared to be on the road, our team commandeered the Lexus RX450h through everything imaginable without so much as a skid.
Okay, so since the tester RX is a hybrid, it should be noted that through the blizzard, being driven with a relatively heavy foot in “Hybrid/Snow” mode, it returned a combined 11.3L/100km. Still not bad in the slightest. My count of disabled vehicles in the first 50km of my journey was 63. That’s right; for every kilometer driven, there was more than one disabled car on the road. These weren’t old Sentras either; I passed xDrive-equipped BMWs, Land Rovers, Jeeps with “Trail Rated” badges, and on one account, we even pulled over to help one stranded Nissan Xterra driver out of a snowbank. Seriously; has everybody forgotten how to drive in the snow?
My RX450h was equipped with the $10,300 “Ultra Premium Package 1″, which brought the as-tested price to just shy of $70,000. Yes, you read that right. Granted, this puts pricing at just over that of one of my favourite SUVs, the Volkswagen Touareg TDI. For right around the $63,000 mark, one can buy the “Execline” Touareg, which gave me about 8.3L/100km with the turbodiesel engine. That diesel engine also had a monstrous amount of torque and was far more satisfying to drive than this Lexus. There’s all that nonsense about Volkswagens breaking all the time, and to some extent it’s probably true, but what’s to say that the RX450h won’t suffer the same fate? The comfort level is brought to a superb level with the Ultra Premium Package, as you now get a heated wood steering wheel, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, thigh support, and nicer leather seats. I’d sacrifice a couple gizmos here and there to get the driving satisfaction of the Volkswagen, but that’s just me.
I’ve often brushed off the importance of winter tires with what I believe is a pretty sound argument. Rewind to the year 1983; the snowfalls were worse, rear-wheel-drive was more common, and the cars didn’t have nearly as much technology or as many safety features as the cars of today. Winter tires weren’t as common then, why do we need them now? However, this argument was silenced pretty quickly when the beefy rubber in the RX450h simply tore through anything and everything. There were some points where my driving became rather, ahem, “spirited”, and Hybrid/Snow mode was disabled in favour of “Sport”. The RX still didn’t bat an eye; it continued to tear through the white stuff. Oh, and I turned traction control off, too.
Though the benefits of winter tires have certainly been proven, the one thing I certainly believe that needs to be mandated is stricter driver training. A circle around the block in the middle of the July might earn you a valid Ontario driver’s license, but it won’t prepare you for black ice, snow drifts, and the stupidity of other drivers. It’s not the beige Camrys, the Siennas, and the Lexus SUVs that slow everybody down; it’s the oblivious people behind the wheel. A proper winter driving course can get pricey, but a few winter driving tips you’ll gain are absolutely priceless, not to mention the safety of you and your family.
The 2013 RX450h? It’s wonderful for the purpose it’s intended to serve. A few tweaks for this model year have made it less boring, slightly more satisfying, and have definitely given it the few tweaks it needed to not feel so… well… old. For those who don’t exactly prioritize an engaging driving experience, it’s lovely. It may not be quite as vault-like as a Volvo XC90, but unlike the XC90, it doesn’t date back to the Jurassic era. It’s a solid no-nonsense SUV that will make your daily commute a comfortable and enjoyable place to be. I still wouldn’t buy a hybrid vehicle for long-term ownership though. Turbodiesels have been proven to last thousands and thousands of miles and be essentially indestructible, so the Volkswagen would definitely be my pick. I can’t help but give the Lexus a huge thumbs-up for its winter performance though. If not an ideal dance partner, it’s certainly a great everyday companion.
2013 Lexus RX450h Gallery