Roger St. Pierre relaxes at the wheel of a classy Lexus hybrid.
Time was when the good people at Rolls Royce proudly boasted that the only noise to be heard in their iconic Silver Ghost was “The ticking of the clock”.
Noise suppression has been a priority for car designer ever since.
When Toyota launched their upmarket Lexus brand, back in 1989 they flew a group of British motoring writers to Frankfurt for a test drive.
Waiting for us at the airport were a dozen spanking new and immaculately prepared cars, each with its Lexus badged bonnet raised to reveal a Champagne flute, filled to the brim with wine and balanced on the engine’s rocker cover, with not a drop overflowing.
The cars ran so quietly and smoothly that I twice found myself attempting to turn the ignition key because I thought I had stalled. Welcome to the sound of silence!
Then those oh-so-gifted Japanese engineers brought us the hybrid concept and now we have a wide choice of near silent running dual-fuel and electric cars from a wide range of manufacturers.
Toyota and Lexus continue to spearhead these developments. The electric motors – one driving the rear wheels, the other driving the front – of the full hybrid system found on the fourth generation RX450h F Sport SUV operates on a continual basis while the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine can cut in and out at any speed to maintain the best possible balance between performance and efficiency according to the driving conditions. A 50 mpg fuel consumption figure is comfortably attainable, which is very impressive for such a large vehicle.
They tell us that the camera never lies but I have to say that the RX450h looks much nicer in the flesh than it does in pictures. That’s particularly the case at the front end, where the truly massive grille resembles the wide-open jaws of a whale or something from a space age movie. The fastback’s side-on profile is far more flattering.
The interior is plush and contemporary, with a luxurious ambiance and plenty of legroom, though, unlike the best of its contemporaries, it only seats five while also conceding load area space to the battery pack.
More than 2.3 million RXs have been sold worldwide since the original was introduced back in 1997. It’s evolved a lot since then and the introduction of the hybrid version has boosted sales in our market but at £47,714 it does not come cheap.
Well constructed and comprehensively equipped, the RX450h favours a relaxed driving style but can hit 62 mph in a tad under eight seconds and has a top speed potential of 124 mph.
A closing thought: every action provokes a reaction. The undoubted benefits of smooth-running electric and hybrid cars have as a bi-product led to an increase of accidents where pedestrians have stepped out in front of cars whose approach they did not hear.
Roger St. Pierre is a seasoned professional travel and motoring writer and editor with over 40 years in the industry and one of our regular contributors.
Photographs courtesy of Lexus UK