Facelifted Lexus still top of its class on the business car chart

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Facelifted Lexus RX450h F-Sport car review from Business Car Manager.

What is it?

For 2012 Lexus updated the RX model with a new look, some improvements to the interior and a new flagship F-Sport trim level, which is applied to the car driven here. It incorporates a more aggressive grille, dark 19-inch wheels and a firmer suspension set-up for improved handling. The hybrid powertrain – consisting of a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and two electric motors – still puts out 295bhp, which is exactly the same as the pre-facelift cars.

What’s hot?

In F-Sport trim the RX is stylish enough to draw attention from any of the other big SUVs on the road. CO2 emissions are just 145g/km, which means it can Benefit in Kind company car tax savings of around £2000 over one of the most efficient cars in this class – the Mercedes ML250. It’ll be more like £5000 if you were looking at the ML350. The electric motors and smooth petrol engine only add to the excellent refinement. Around town it really is whisper quiet. Updates to the interior – including a simplified entertainment system – have answered complaints of the pre-facelift car. Design and quality is still not as good as Mercedes or BMW though. The handling is impressive for such a high and heavy car. Throw the Lexus into a corner and the lack of body roll makes it feel extremely agile. The official 0-62mph time of 7.8 seconds is pretty impressive for a car in this class.

What’s not?

When actually behind the wheel its noticeable that the CVT gearbox stifles the performance, making it feel much slower than it is. And while the F-Sport’s suspension is good for handling it makes the ride much firmer than expected. It spoils long distance comfort. Even a standard Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5 is better to drive than this ‘sporty’ RX, so perhaps it would be better to just opt for the more comfortable standard suspension set-up. It’s also not the best towing car, as it can only tow braked loads of 2000kgs. While the Lexus may work out cheaper to run than its rivals, it is still more expensive to buy.

Business Car Manager Verdict

The facelifted Lexus RX looks much improved – especially in the head-turning F-Sport trim level we drove – but it’s still a flawed car in a very competitive segment. The petrol-electric powertrain should be punchy but the sluggish CVT gearbox stops this car from ever feeling fast, while the sports suspension that comes on this flagship model hampers the one thing that Lexus is very good at – ride comfort.

But there is no other car in this class that offers the kind of business car savings offered by the Lexus RX450h. The CO2 emissions are so much lower than any of its rivals that the Benefit in Kind company car tax savings are spectacular and if this still isn't believable a business car comparison can be set up.

For that reason Business Manager would recommend going for one of the cheaper Lexus RX450h models because it’ll be more comfortable and better value, but still comes with those fantastic figures that’ll guarantee a great business car deal.

The low down

P11D Value: £51,815
Tax band 2012/2013 to 2014/15: 20%, 21% 22%
BIK tax: £10,363, £10,881, £11,399
Monthly business rental (ex VAT): From £698 (3 yrs/30,000miles)
Engine: 3.5-litre V6 hybrid
CO2: 145g/km
Power/torque: 295bhp/ 317Nm
0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
Economy: 44.8mpg
Towing capacity: 2,000kgs

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Conrad Swailes