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

Lexus LM review

Lexus LM review

We experience the epic Lexus LM luxury people carrier – from the driver’s seat, and as a pampered passenger…

Lexus appears to have pulled off a masterstroke with its LM (luxury mover). An exclusive niche market has been identified and LMs will soon be seen shuttling the wealthy between airports and plush hotels, depositing celebs on red carpets, and generally ferrying movers and shakers around the country.

The ubiquitous Mercedes-Benz V-Class isn’t for everyone and limousines are a little ostentatious, so Lexus is on to a winner with the LM. What’s more, the price range of £89,995 to £112,995 doesn’t appear to have put off buyers. Orders are already way above expectations.

Lexus LM review
Lexus LM four-seater

The secret of the LM is that it’s not too flash and it offers a flexible space that can be used as a sumptuous people mover, spacious mobile office, or somewhere to simply relax in abject luxury on the move.

Two versions are offered, with four or seven seats. The flagship four-seater features two “captain’s chair’ rear seats (inspired by those found in first class airline cabins) which can also be fully reclined.

The seven-seat model has two seats with massage functionality, plus a third row of flip-up seats which can be folded away when more load space is required.

Lexus LM review
Lexus LM seven-seater

The standard Lexus LM is front-wheel drive (AWD is optional) and comes with a 14.0-inch screen in the rear, dual sunroof, a 21-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, and a goodies list as long as your arm.

The top-of-the-range Takumi gets the wow factor with a partition between the front and rear cabin housing a 48-inch screen, plus a fridge and 23-speaker 3D surround Mark Levinson sound system.

First impressions count, and it’s fair to say that the Lexus LM is more of a statement than a looker. The designers have done their best to make it special, and not just another slab-sided MPV.

Lexus LM review

The combination of clever contours, bold creases, massive signature ‘spindle’ grille with slim LED headlights, plus the illusion of a floating roof, result in a people mover with serious road presence.

And at 5.1m long, 1.9m tall and 1.89m wide, it’s no shrinking violet. Though weirdly, behind the wheel it’s far more manageable than you might think, as long as you steer clear of narrow country lanes.

Built on the GA-K platform shared with the NX and RX SUVs, Lexus is keen to emphasise that the LM has more in common with a car than its rivals, which tend to be van-based.

Lexus LM - Gareth Herincx
Lexus LM seven-seater

The driving experience proves the point. The front cabin and seating position have the feel of a big crossover.

We suspect most LM buyers and users are unlikely to get behind the wheel themselves, but for the record, here goes…

From a driving point of view, all-round visibility is best in the seven-seater without the partition and widescreen (a rear-view digital mirror helps), but otherwise it’s a comfortable, spacious and well-equipped place to be, with a car-like dashboard layout.

Lexus LM review

There’s no shortage of power, thanks to the same 247bhp self-charging hybrid system you’ll find in the NX 350h and RX 350h models, combining a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with electric assistance.

Acceleration from rest to 62mph can be accomplished in 8.7 seconds (9.1s for the FWD model) and maximum speed for both models is 118mph. CO2 emissions are in the 152-163g/km range, while fuel economy is as high as 42.1mpg.

Like the NX and RX 350h models, the LM uses a CVT gearbox which spoils the ambience of the cabin if progress is anything but stately. You see, the revs shoot up if you’re anything but soft with the right pedal, producing a temporary din.

Lexus LM review

It may not be possible, but I’d suggest fitting the hybrid powertrain from the RX 500h F Sport which uses a six-speed automatic gearbox and is far more relaxed.

That said, chauffeuring is all about smoothness, so the LM is still a delight to be driven in by a professional, even with the CVT.

At nearly three tonnes (gross weight), it’s a substantial vehicle, yet it’s easy to drive and surprisingly manoeuvrable. It would be an exaggeration to call it agile, but it floats around nicely, switching seamlessly between petrol and electric modes at lower speeds.

Lexus LM review
Lexus LM four-seater

I can’t help feeling that a plug-in hybrid or 100% electric version might further boost sales where regular journeys take in ultra-low emissions zones, but maybe that’s one for the future.

However, the Lexus LM is all about the rear compartment. Both the four-seater and three-row options are a treat to travel in, though being able to fully recline in the former is particularly relaxing.

Each of the main two seats in both versions get individual digital handsets to control everything from the audio to the window blinds (they all close), while the seats are super comfy. There’s also an overhead console with some storage and controls for features such as the power-sliding doors.

Lexus LM - Gareth Herincx
Lexus LM four-seater

Overall, as you’d expect from Lexus, the materials used in the cabin are top notch and the quality is faultless.

A special mention for the panoramic screen in the top spec version which can also be split so that one passenger could be watching a movie, while the other is scrolling through a presentation.

A ‘Rear Comfort’ drive mode has also been developed to further refine the passenger experience with new braking and body control systems. There’s also tech to counter cabin noise and vibration, which worked particularly well.

Lexus LM review
Lexus LM four-seater

I’m very sensitive to travel nausea and I managed perfectly well as a back-seat passenger while in a normal sitting position, but not so much when I was lying down on anything other than smooth, straight roads.

The two versions have their plus and minus points. As a passenger I prefer seeing out front, so the seven-seater without the partition works best, but nothing can quite match the opulence of the widescreen, two seats and extra space of the top-of-the-range Takumi model.

Verdict: The bold new Lexus LM luxury people carrier recaptures the feeling of flying on a private jet, offering a winning combination of superb comfort, quality, practicality and privacy.

Lexus UK

F1 legend Mika Häkkinen designs luxury electric superbike

Mika Häkkinen and Verge Motorcycles

Two-time Formula champion Mika Häkkinen has teamed up with Verge Motorcycles to launch a limited edition model limited to just 100 bikes.

Designed by Finnish star, it features a stylish and bold design combined with Verge’s unique technology.

“I know from experience what it takes to develop a vehicle that embodies speed, precision and elegance,” said Mika.

“I wanted to design the bike right down to the smallest detail rather than just picking the colour. Each bike is numbered and features an exclusive signature.”

Mika Häkkinen and Verge Motorcycles

Perfected down to the last detail, the model represents the most powerful and advanced electric superbike on the market with a range of 217 miles and a fast-charging time of just 35 minutes.

In addition, it features an integrated rim motor inside the rear wheel, which is a patented and internationally awarded innovation developed by Verge.

The bike is made of the highest quality materials on the market, making the final product truly unique. For example, it has carbon fibre fairings and a unique ceramic surface treatment that protects against scratches.

Full black shock absorbers and details combined with dark grey and silver surface elements complete the powerful and elegant look.

The bike is available for purchase via the Verge Motorcycles online store in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Finland, Estonia and Monaco. It can also be purchased from the new Verge Motorcycles flagship store in Monaco. The retail price of the bike before tax is 80,000 euros (£70,000).

The partnership started at the beginning of the year, when Mika (also one of the investors in Verge Motorcycles) was appointed to the company’s Advisory Board.

“We are extremely proud to have F1 legend Mika Häkkinen design the signature model,” said says Tuomo Lehtimäki, CEO of Verge Motorcycles.

“He is one of the greatest drivers of all time, and breaking boundaries and enjoying the thrill of speed is something that we very much share in common.”

DS 3 E-Tense review

DS 3 E-Tense review

Our first drive in the 100% electric version of the stylish five-door DS 3 compact SUV

Originally launched as the DS 3 Crossback in 2019, this chic crossover was initially available with a choice of petrol and diesel engines (a 100% electric variant following a year later).

Fast forward to 2023 and not only has the car dropped its “Crossback” monicker and received a facelift and other updates, but it’s now a straight choice between petrol or electric power.

We’ve never driven the EV version (marketed as the DS 3 E-Tense), so here’s how it shapes up. But first, a bit of background.

DS 3 E-Tense review

DS Automobiles split from Citroen to become an innovative premium brand way back in 2014. Since then, the two brands have become part of the huge Stellantis Group, which also includes Peugeot, Jeep, Alfa Romeo and Fiat.

DS’s competition department, DS Performance, has competed in Formula E since 2015, clinching the first team/drivers’ double world title in 2019.

DS Automobiles is now one of the premium arms of Stellantis with a fast-expanding range, and the new DS 3 E-Tense battles it out in a competitive compact SUV EV segment, though it’s arguably the most upmarket offering.

DS 3 E-Tense review

Not only is it up against its Stellantis cousins – the Peugeot e-2008, Vauxhall Mokka and upcoming Jeep Avenger – but also the MG ZS EV, Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Soul EV.

On a technical level, the big change for 2023 is a larger 54kWh battery (up from 50kWh) and more power. As a result, the small electric SUV now offers a range of up to 250 miles (previously 212 miles).

Visually the DS 3 E-Tense’s subtle facelift delivers extra kerb appeal and improves aerodynamic efficiency.

DS 3 E-Tense review

The redesigned front end features new LED headlights and daytime running lights, plus a slightly larger diamond grille and new spoiler.

“DS Automobiles” is written across the boot, while the profile is as distinctive as ever with its shark’s fin rear window design and flush door handles. There are also new wheel designs and a total of seven body colours with contrasting roofs.

Inside, the most significant change is the updated infotainment system, which is easier to use than the previous version and it’s also more responsive.

DS 3 E-Tense review

There’s a 7.0-inch digital driver’s instrument display and 10.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.

Elsewhere, the materials used have an upmarket feel. The watchstrap leather seats look especially cool and are very comfortable, but some of the quirky functionality does take some getting used to.

For instance, the switches to open the windows flank either side of the gear selector, while touch-sensitive short-cut buttons for the touchscreen, plus other essentials such as audio volume and heated seats, are all dotted around the central air vents.

DS 3 E-Tense review

For the record, there are four trim levels available – Performance Line, Performance Line , Rivoli and Opera.

The DS Safety Pack is also fitted as standard, and this includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-keep assist and speed limit recognition – all helping to give the DS 3 a maximum five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP.

Space up front is good, but it’s less than impressive behind where there’s only just room for adults and visibility is compromised, especially for small children, thanks to the fins on the rear doors, high waistline and thick B pillars.

DS 3 E-Tense review

The boot is 350 litres, or 1,050 litres, with the rear seats folded. Not class-leading, but enough for the shopping or a modest amount of luggage.

With light steering and a ride that’s set up for comfort, the DS 3 E-Tense drives well.

Naturally, there’s plenty of torque, but it’s not gut-wrenching like some other EVs.

DS 3 E-Tense review

The single electric motor that drives the front wheels produces 154bhp and 192lb ft of torque, taking nine seconds to hit 62mph (maximum speed 93mph).

The smooth power delivery results in a refined cabin ambience that fits the car’s classy character well.

You can have fun in the DS 3 E-Tense because it’s nimble and responsive, but you will experience body lean in faster, more challenging corners, so best not to get carried away.

DS 3 E-tense

Traction is good overall, though it is possible to spin the front wheels on looser or wet surfaces if you plant your foot from a standing start.

Traction is good overall, though it is possible to spin the front wheels on looser or wet surfaces if you plant your right foot from a standing start.

There are three drive modes – Eco, Normal and Sport. As ever, Normal is just fine because Eco dulls the driving experience, and though Sport livens things up a little, it does sap the battery range.

DS 3 E-Tense review

We’d estimate real-world driving range is probably closer to 200 than 250, which certainly makes it a practical proposition for most drivers.

The DS 3 can take up to 100 kW DC charging, which enables a 0-80% replenishing of its battery in 30 minutes. Plug it at home via a 11 kW AC wallbox and a 0-100% charge will take five hours, 45 minutes.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the DS 3 E-Tense is its price. Starting at £37,200 and rising to £41,700, it’s a relatively expensive small EV.

Verdict: If you’re looking for a 100% electric compact SUV and you appreciate quality and style, then consider the DS 3 E-Tense. It’s not without a few frustrations and compromises, but it’s easy and fun to drive – and crucially – stands out from the crowd.

DS Automobiles

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