Lexus RX 500h review

Lexus RX 500h

We get behind the wheel of the sporty RX 500h – the first-ever turbocharged Lexus hybrid…

The three Cs (‘confidence, control and comfort’) are the cornerstones of the Lexus driving experience.

There’s no mention of ‘sport’, yet the latest version of the big RX SUV we’ve been testing seems to embrace performance and driver engagement as much as the three Cs.

Lexus RX 500h

What’s more, efficiency takes a back seat too, along with another Lexus fixture – the much-maligned CVT transmission.

So. the RX 500h (marketed as a ‘performance hybrid’) is a genuine curiosity and marks something of a departure for Toyota’s upmarket sister brand.

Just to recap, the original RX 450h was the world’s first luxury hybrid SUV when it was launched in 2005.

Lexus RX 500h

The RX is now in its fifth generation and buyers can choose from a 350h hybrid or 450h plug-in hybrid, plus the new range-topping 500h.

All offer four-wheel drive, but the 500h is the first-ever Lexus turbocharged hybrid.

The 500h mates a 2.4-litre petrol engine with two electric motors (front and rear) and a conventional six-speed automatic gearbox.

Lexus RX 500h

For the record, the engine develops 366bhp and 550Nm torque, translating into a brisk 0-62mph acceleration time of 6.2 seconds.

There’s also a new ‘Direct4’ torque-vectoring electric rear axle and four-wheel steering.

Priced from a hefty £77,195 and available in F Sport or Takumi trim, the 500h looks much the same as its siblings (the 350h and 450h ) which is no bad thing, and it’s a tad smaller than a BMW X5.

Lexus RX 500h

The RX’s design has subtly evolved from the previous generation. It’s retained much the same shape and athletic presence, but the styling is sharper and more refined, while its new pointy nose (complete with trademark Lexus spindle grille) is the biggest change.

Inside, the RX is luxurious, comfortable and beautifully built. The cabin is light and spacious, and there’s ample leg and headroom in the back.

You can then add 461 litres of luggage capacity (seats up) or 621-litre (seats up, loaded to the roof), expanding to 1,678 litres with the rear seats folded.

Lexus RX 500h

On the tech front, the latest RX has ditched the previous model’s fiddly touchpad infotainment control and there’s now a more conventional 14-inch central touchscreen, alongside a digital driver’s display. The system is on the quirky side and takes some getting used to, but it’s an improvement on RXs of old.

However, it’s on the road that the Lexus RX 500h (we tested it in F-Sport trim) comes into its own.

Firstly, the old-school auto gearbox has transformed the RX 500h. Gone are the days of easing the accelerator in order to avoid the temporary din of high engine revs (a CVT gearbox foible). Instead, the six-speed shifts smoothly with just the right hint of aggression.

Lexus RX 500h

It’s a big 4×4 and weighs 2.1 tonnes, so it’s never going to be the kind of car that can barrel up to fast corners and get away with it, but thanks to some clever tech, it’s more capable and fun than you might think.

Body lean is better controlled than lesser RXs, and there’s plenty of grunt, especially in the mid-range.

The steering is responsive and there’s a powerful engine note, while the hybrid system works imperceptibly in the background.

Lexus RX 500h

The ride is in on the firm side, but on A-roads and motorways, it’s the composed and confident cruiser you’d expect from a Lexus.

Of course, no car is perfect, and the Lexus RX 500h is no exception. Lexus claims it can return 34.0-35.3 mpg, yet we managed closer to 25mpg. With a bit of restraint 30-ish mpg is possible, but considering Lexus’s pioneering hybrid history, we expected more.

Verdict: The Lexus RX 500h is something of a revelation. The addition of a conventional automatic gearbox, a turbocharged petrol hybrid powertrain and other clever tech delivers performance and attitude to an already accomplished big SUV.

Lexus UK

Mercedes-Benz EQB review

Mercedes-Benz EQB

You’re not exactly spoilt for choice if you’re looking for an electric vehicle with seven seats. We test one of the few – the Mercedes-Benz EQB 350….

Based on the conventionally powered GLB, the EQB is a premium SUV about the same size as a BMW X3, Volvo XC60 or Lexus NX.

A handsome yet boxy sports utility vehicle with a high roofline, short overhangs and plenty of glass, it’s priced from £55,310-  £62,810.

Mercedes-Benz EQB

Powered by two electric motors connected to a 66.5kWh battery, it’s available in two specs – an EQB 300 or 350 – and three trim levels (AMG Line, AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus).

The naming convention is a little confusing because the EQB 300 puts out 224bhp, while the 350 has 287bhp, but there you go.

Range varies from a claimed 246 miles for the EQB 300 to 253 miles for the EQB 350. The latter has a 6.2-second 0-62mph time, while the less powerful version is a tad slower at eight seconds. Both come with four-wheel drive as standard.

Mercedes-Benz EQB

The EQB can be charged at speeds up to 100kW (which is average these days), meaning a 10-80% boost from a 100kW rapid charger takes as little as 32 minutes, while a 0-100% charge can be achieved overnight via a home wallbox.

As you’d expect from a vehicle sporting a three-pointed star, it’s a plush motor.

The driving position is comfortable and the supportive seats in our test car were upholstered in black Artico man-made leather.

Mercedes-Benz EQB

Rear passengers are also in for a treat because there’s ample leg and headroom.

We tried the third row, and even though the pop-up seats officially can be used by people up to 5ft 4 inches tall, it is possible for six-footers to squeeze in for brief trips if the second row seats are pushed forward a bit, but it is a knees-up seating position.

With five seats in place, the EQB offers a generous 465-litre capacity. Flip down the second and third rows and you’ll have an estate car-like 1,710 litres to play with.

Mercedes-Benz EQB

Up front, it’s virtually the same as the GLB, which is no bad thing, though the design is starting to look a little dated in these minimalist times.

All models have Mercedes’ familiar MBUX dual-screen infotainment system with 10-inch screens for the slick infotainment and driver’s displays. There are also three large air vents and a row of physical switches below for climate control.

You’ll have to get used to the Mercedes-Benz quirk of the left-hand steering wheel stalk operating both the indicator and wipers, front and back.  The gear selector is another stalk on the other side.

Mercedes-Benz EQB

Selected functions of the multimedia system can be operated contact-free via the MBUX Interior Assistant. Controlled via voice, touch or optional gesture input, the innovative system can over time even predict personal habits thanks to artificial intelligence. As ever with these systems, it’s not perfect, but improving with each iteration.

Adjustable heated front sports seats, automatic climate control, privacy glass, a reversing camera, lane keep assist and speed limit assist are just a few of the extensive list of goodies and tech available as standard on the EQB.

On the road, our EQB 350 test car was surprisingly fast off the line for a fairly substantial vehicle, and as you’d expect, the power delivery was effortless.

Mercedes-Benz EQB

Drive modes include Eco, Comfort and Sport, plus you can also choose between five levels of brake regeneration (the clever Auto setting worked really well).

Frankly, you’ll never need to stray from the Comfort setting because Eco dulls the throttle response too much and Sport makes it hyperactive, so it’s best left for short, energy-sapping blasts.

The EQB rides smoothly and handles its bulk well. Sure, there’s some body lean in faster corners, but it is possible to have some fun in this vehicle, unlike some SUVs. With progressive brakes, sharp steering and excellent traction, it gives you the confidence to push on.

Mercedes-Benz EQB

Composed and feeling nothing other than well planted, the Mercedes-Benz EQB is a superbly comfortable cruiser.

All in all, the EQB is a bit of a surprise package, but there’s no getting away from the range issue and its modest charge rate, especially if you need it for regular longer journeys. With a real-world range closer to 200 miles, more adventurous trips are going to need a bit of planning.

But if an EQB is used for shorter commutes, shopping trips and school runs, it’s a fab EV – especially if you can charge at home overnight.

Mercedes-Benz EQB

Its few three-row EV rivals include the expensive Tesla Model X, the cheaper Peugeot e-Rifter, Citroen e-Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo-e Life, plus larger van-based people carriers such as the Citroen e-SpaceTourer, Peugeot e-Traveller, Vauxhall Vivaro-e Life and Nissan e-NV200 Combi.

Verdict: Not only is the Mercedes-Benz EQB one of the few pure electric seven-seater SUVs on the market, it’s also more engaging to drive than you might think. Safe, spacious, refined, well built and packed with tech, it’s a class act.

Mercedes-Benz UK

Electrified Genesis GV70 review

Electrified Genesis GV70

We road test the new electric version of one of the stars of the Genesis range – the GV70 medium-sized SUV…

Before we start, if you’re unfamiliar with the Genesis brand, then here’s a quick recap.

Genesis is the luxury arm of the Hyundai Motor Group, which also includes Kia. So, think Lexus/Toyota or Infiniti/Nissan.

Electrified Genesis GV70

Genesis was launched in the UK in the summer of 2021 and the GV70 was one of the first models, though at the time it was only available with petrol and diesel engines.

Fast forward to 2022 and an all-electric variant of the GV70 has been added to the range, though it’s marketed as the ‘Electrified GV70’, which is a term more often associated with hybrids.

Starting at £64,405, it is on the pricey side and its main competitors include the Audi Q4 e-tron, BMW iX3, Mercedes-Benz EQC and Tesla Model Y.

Electrified Genesis GV70

Currently only available with all-wheel drive, the Electrified GV70 combines a 77.4kWh battery with two electric motors, delivering 700Nm of torque and a range of up to 283 miles.

Most of the time it pushes out 436hp and can accelerate from standstill to 62mph in 4.8 seconds.

However, if you hit the ‘Boost’ button on the steering wheel you get access to the full power (483bhp), for about 10 seconds, which is enough to reduce the 0-62mph time to just 4.2 seconds.

Electrified Genesis GV70

Apart from the instant torque and the refined, whisper quiet driving experience, the EV version of the GV70 is much the same as its ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) siblings – which is no bad thing.

The GV70’s classy interior has comfortable leather seats and it oozes quality. There’s a huge 14.5-inch central infotainment screen which can be operated by touch or via the rotary dial down by the gear selector.

Thankfully, it’s not too minimalist either. Instead, there are some accessible buttons and switches – and most importantly of all – physical climate controls.

Electrified Genesis GV70

There’s plenty of space for rear passengers, while the luggage capacity is a little smaller than the non-electric versions, but it’s still a decent 503 litres with the seats in place. Flip them down and there’s a useful 1,678-litre load space with good access.

For  substantial 2.3-tonne SUV that wasn’t designed as a pure electric vehicle from the ground up, the GV70 handles surprisingly well.

The suspension is on the firm side, but the overall driving experience is a relaxing one. Unlike some competitors, it can be hustled on more challenging roads and it’s good fun – especially in Sport mode.

Electrified Genesis GV70

Naturally there’s a bit of body roll in faster corners, but it’s not excessive and the Electrified GV70 remains composed.

Add precise steering, good visibility and plenty of traction to the well soundproofed cabin (there are double-glazed windows and an acoustic laminated windscreen to help minimise tyre and wind noise), and it just keeps ticking the right boxes.

There are Eco, Comfort and Sport driving modes, plus a one-pedal driving option which can bring the car to a halt without having to touch the brake pedal.

Electrified Genesis GV70

It also features an e-Terrain mode, but we didn’t get to test it in anger. Let’s just say that it’s probably more than enough to get you out of a muddy field at a festival site.

Living with the Electrified GV70 is easier than some rivals too, because it comes with an ultra-fast charging capability, which can take the battery from 10-80% in 18 minutes when hooked up to a super rapid 350kW charger.

There is also a vehicle-to-load feature (V2L) for plugging in external devices, such as camping equipment, laptops or tools, for example.

Electrified Genesis GV70

It’s also worth noting that Genesis has a deal with the IONITY charging network which means five years’ of discount rates.

If safety is a priority then it won’t disappoint either. The Genesis GV70 range enjoys a five-star score from Euro NCAP, with high ratings in the occupant and safety tech categories.

The long list of standard safety and driver assistance kit includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane keep assist, automatic high beams, rear-cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring and a reversing camera.

Electrified Genesis GV70

Finally, don’t forget that Genesis offers a completely different VIP ownership experience.

There are no dealerships. Instead, you visit a studio where you can interact with a Genesis Personal Assistant (GPA), who’s under no pressure to make a sale and is employed on a commission-free basis.

It’s hoped the GPA will remain a direct point of contact throughout the ownership experience, delivering cars for test drives and purchases, and collecting your car for servicing (providing a like-for-like Genesis while your car is away).

What’s more, Genesis’s 5-Year Care Plan includes servicing, roadside assistance, courtesy car, mapping and over-the-air software updates.

Verdict: Handsome, generously equipped, safe, spacious, comfortable, packed with tech and a joy to drive, the Electrified GV70 is one of the best big zero emissions SUVs on the market. If that hasn’t convinced you, then add the VIP ownership experience and five-year warranty/care plan to the list.

Genesis UK

Electrified Genesis GV70

ORA Funky Cat review

ORA Funky Cat

We road test the first car from a new brand to the UK – the ORA Funky Cat EV…

With its cool name and retro looks, this affordable electric hatchback is our introduction to ORA – one of five brands owned by Chinese car giant, Great Wall Motor.

Founded in 1984, GWM is China’s largest producer of SUVs and pick-up trucks, and the Funky Cat will be followed by more 100% electric siblings, probably all with cute feline names.

Apparently, ORA stands for “Open, Reliable and Alternative” and so far the strategy seems to be working well because ORA sold 135,000 cars in China during 2021 and several thousand UK motorists have already registered an interest in the Funky Cat.

ORA Funky Cat

Priced from £31,995, ORA has kept it simple at launch with just a ‘First Edition’, available in four colours, including Aurora Green and Nebula Green.

Featuring a 48kWh battery offering an official range of 193 miles, power comes from a 169bhp electric motor driving the front wheels, giving a 0-62mph time of 8.3 seconds and a top speed of 99mph.

It can be charged via a 6.6kW home charger in five hours 24 minutes, or 3 hours 12 minutes using an 11kW public charger.

ORA Funky Cat

If you can find a rapid 100kW connection, you’ll be back on the road in less than 45 minutes.

The Funky Cat is bigger than it looks in pictures, so it’s more Golf than Polo, or Focus than Fiesta. Crucially, it’s also about the same size as the VW ID.3 – the electric vehicle ORA reckons is the Funky Cat’s closest rival (though we’d say the Citroen e-C4 is closer still).

With its blend of retro features and modern touches, this five-door family hatchback is a breath of fresh air on the road.

ORA Funky Cat

There are hints of MINI, VW Beetle, Nissan Micra and Alfa Romeo MiTo, with its round headlights, sloping nose and bonnet creases.

The Funky Cat’s wheel-in-each-corner profile is more unique with clever curves and a high waistline, while its pert rear is not unlike a Nissan Leaf, though the ‘Cat’ has low set lights, a full width lightbar along the bottom of the tailgate window and a sporty spoiler.

The interior is right up there with the MINI Electric in terms of build quality and the near-premium use of materials. It feels solid too (the doors close with a satisfying clunk).

ORA Funky Cat

It’s funky inside with a minimalist design and a trim matching the exterior colour. There’s a big two-spoke steering wheel, a row of toggle switches and a 10.25-inch touchscreen, plus a large digital driver’s display (also 10.25 inches).

Note: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will form part of an over-the-air update in summer 2023.

A special mention for the voice command system, which works surprisingly well. Simply say “Hello Ora” and you’re away. It recognises your voice too and it’s very good at opening and closing windows!

ORA Funky Cat

The Funky Cat is spacious too, with enough room for adults to sit behind adults, though the boot is a modest 228 litres (rising to 858 litres with the rear seats flipped down).

The heated and electrically adjustable leatherette seats are comfortable and even feature cool cross stitching usually found on luxury cars (check out the door cards too).

When it’s time to set off, simply select D via a centrally located rotating knob, release the parking brake and you’re away. Accompanied by a distant whine, the Funky Cat is as swift as you’d expect for a relatively lightweight EV.

ORA Funky Cat

Smooth, comfortable, fun, and easy to drive with light steering, visibility is good, while cabin refinement is admirable.

There’s also some decent performance (it’s not hard to spin the front wheels if you floor it, especially in the wet) and you can choose from various drive modes.

Stick to Eco for town driving, Normal on more open roads and Sport for occasional bursts of range-sapping run.

ORA Funky Cat

You can also select single-pedal drive mode, which almost eradicates the need for brakes – simply lift off and it slows down fast. Or you can choose between three levels of regen via the touchscreen.

However, despite its looks, the Funky Cat is no match for the MINI Electric in the handling department. Push it to the limit in faster corners and it becomes unsettled, but for everyday driving it’s a joy.

So, as long as you don’t go expecting hot hatch driving dynamics, the Funky Cat won’t disappoint, while a real-world range of 150 miles is way above the smaller MINI’s 100 miles.

ORA Funky Cat

Standard kit on the Funky Cat Launch Edition includes LED headlights, wireless phone charging, adaptive cruise control and a 360-degree camera system, a rear traffic cross alert and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

In fact, it’s so safe that Euro NCAP awarded it a maximum five stars in crash testing.

ORA Funky Cat

No car is perfect, and the Funky Cat is no exception., because it’s not without its irritations.

For instance, the indicators are tricky to cancel. They require an incredibly light touch and it’s all too easy to activate the opposite signal.

We’re sure it won’t be such an issue after a few weeks of ownership, but it’s not ideal initially.

ORA Funky Cat

The various bongs and safety warnings are slightly overbearing too, while the infotainment screen looks cool, but could be much bolder with a larger typeface.

Overall, the Funky Cat is an impressive debut model for GWM in the UK, and if it can keep its pricing competitive, it could be the cat’s whiskers.

Verdict: The all-new ORA Funky Cat is a welcome addition to the EV scene. Not only does it stand out from the crowd, but it also offers practicality, fun driving, good build quality, a useful battery range and a five-year unlimited mileage warranty.

GMM ORA UK

ORA Funky Cat

DS 4 review

DS 4 review

Once in a while I get to road test a new car I know little about, and it proves to be something of a revelation. The stunning DS 4 is one such vehicle.

A cross between a hatchback and a compact crossover, the five-door DS 4  challenges everything from the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes-Benz A-Class to the Audi Q2, BMW X2 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class.

And if you’re new to DS Automobiles, then it’s probably best described as Citroen’s premium spin-off sister brand.

Sharing a platform with other Stellantis group cars (eg Citroen C5 X, Vauxhall Astra and Peugeot 308) the DS 4 is available with petrol and diesel engines, plus a flagship plug-in hybrid.

DS 4 review

Priced from £29,710 to £43,550, there are two trim levels (Performance Line and Performance Line ), plus a DS 4 Cross which complements the stylish design of the DS 4 with SUV-inspired styling cues, including side skirts, gloss black roof bars, front and rear skid plates and black bumpers.

You only have to look at the pictures to see that the DS 4 oozes kerb appeal. Its profile is rakish with a blend of smooth surfaces and elegant lines – there are also big wheels and flush-fitting door handles.

The front is dominated by a large diamond mesh DS grille, slim matrix LED headlights and sharp vertical, zig-zag LED running lights, delivering a unique lighting signature, while the rear gets a slim window and sexy rear light clusters.

DS 4 review

All in all, the DS 4 has an athletic stance and if cars were judged purely on style, it would go straight to the top of the class.

It’s the same story inside where there’s a classy, hi-tech feel mixed with top build quality. DS does things differently and the uncluttered interior is a treat with numerous clever design touches. Who else would have thought of integrating the electric window switches so beautifully into the top of the door trim?

A special mention for the seats too, which are easily the most comfortable you will find in this price bracket. There’s plenty of space too, though taller passenger in the rear may struggle for headroom if you opt for the panoramic sunroof which eats into the roof space. Boot capacity is a decent 430 litres, expanding to 1,240 litres with the rear seats folded down.

DS 4 review

Every DS 4 features a 7.0-inch digital driver’s cluster, plus a 10.0-inch central touchscreen which its flush with the dashboard, while higher trim levels get a head-up display that’s projected neatly onto the windscreen.

The infotainment system takes some getting used to, but after a while you get the hang of it. The home screen is customisable and there are short-cut buttons below, but sadly essentials like the climate control are not permanently accessible.

There’s also a twinkly 5.0-inch touchpad (‘DS Smart Touch’) down near the gear selector, which allows you to pre-set up to six shortcuts – each with their own gesture movement. It’s a bit gimmicky, but anything that avoids tapping and swiping menus on the main infotainment screen when driving must be a good thing.

DS 4 review

To summarise, the DS 4’s infotainment system isn’t without its frustrations, but it will grow on you. If nothing else, it’s a thing of beauty – like the rest of the cabin.

I tested the entry-level DS 4 Performance Line PureTech 130, which is fitted a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol turbo driving the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It may sound weedy for a car of this size, but it’s surprisingly powerful.

Developing 128bhp, it’s a punchy little unit and a mainstay within the Stellantis group of cars (Vauxhall, Citroen and Peugeot too).

DS 4 review

On paper it’s capable of up to 48.6mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 132g/km. Top speed is 130mph and its 0-62mph time is 10.4 seconds.

There’s a pleasant thrum from the engine when pushed, but such is the refinement of the DS 4’s cabin, it’s hardly noticeable in everyday driving.

Naturally, it’s in its element darting around in an urban environment, but it settles down well on the motorway too. Push it on more challenging roads and the engine will become a little more vocal and it will run out of puff. There’s a slight hesitation getting off the mark sometimes, but generally it works well.

DS 4 review

If you want more petrol power, then move up to the 1.6-litre four-cylinder options, delivering 178bhp and 222bhp respectively, or the plug-in hybrid which offers up to 398.5 miles of electric only motoring.

The DS 4 rides smoothly and feels planted, while body lean is well controlled in faster corners. Just the job, considering this is a car that prioritises comfort over hot handling.

Drive it sensibly and it will deliver close on 50mpg on longer runs. What’s more, you’ll arrive at your destination more relaxed than many of its rivals.

DS 4 review

You’ll also feel special, because the DS 4 turns heads (for all the right reasons), the interior is a designer wonderland and it’s a joy to drive. The best DS I’ve driven yet, it deserves to succeed.

Verdict: Test drive the gorgeous DS 4 if you’re in the market for a premium five-door family car that stands out from the crowd and delivers a tempting alternative to its German rivals. One of 2022’s biggest surprises, you may just fall for its stunning design, classy feel, comfortable drive and twinkly charms.

DS Automobiles UK