Listening to Maria Callas singing Puccini's Tosca, recorded in the mid 1960's at the Royal Opera House London, I realise that the sound system in this Lexus RX450h is rather good indeed, the recording now going on for 50 years, full of scratches is a host of history of its own. I found myself getting utterly lost, literally, (on a round trip across the Midlands: a network of motorway roads that are only designed to utterly confuse you and to question your travel itinerary). However, civil engineering aside, I was to produce a photo portfolio for a car modeller for the day and that required getting from the left side of England to the right. The sounds of the scratches now inherent in the recording was a clear as her voice coming from the 9-speaker audio surround system along with the thoroughly luxurious personal seating arrangement, (I am trying to remember when I got into a car that that wanted to fit around my body frame with as much comfort) I actually enjoyed the diversions.
I am lucky to have this Lexus actually, my own car a 10 year old 4 wheel drive was (and is) causing me some commotion. The prop shaft had decided to falter allowing me to really see the cause of the issue: the dreaded Transfer Box. A one thousand pound issue and for a 10 year old car is not really something that would be worth the investment (the 4 wheels becomes 2). In the depths of my prop shaft issue I thought I would see what a real car would be like to drive. I often take cars on test drives, when there are specially organised press launches and we get shown the range amongst glorious locations with fabulous perks. However, to test a car during your own real life I think is often the very best way to see how the car works for you.
One of the main gripes I have had recently is having to hear the man ask me on repeated visits if I would like the 'two for one offer on the chewing gum' when paying for my petrol. That of course is not really the concern, the fact that I am so often visiting him, is! When I got into the RX450h I was so happy to find the fuel consumption live chart on the central dashboard console. I loved the idea that when I was driving round a town or at a moderate speed, I averaged 52 mpg, when coming to lights, corners and the like, I was at the optimum of 60mpg. My motorway average being 42mpg, when I wanted a 'dash' I reduced my average to 26mpg. Quite frankly the 'dash' in the RX450h was providing me with more mpg than my old 4wheel was doing at the traffic lights! This however, is a Hybrid and the engine is quiet.
So much so, that at the weekend I went for 'Sunday drive'. I loved the idea that I could take pleasure in having a sniff around at my local countryside without hinting at the purse or that dreadful chewing gum chap. The speed indicator and immediate navigational direction arrow projected onto the bottom of the windscreen was a welcome addition for me, certainly kept my eyes on the road rather than having to look at the central console or dashboard.
Internal storage space? This Lexus has plenty, I filled the boot up with my usual Leica photographic and camping gear and could still fit the same in again. Design? I know a gaggle of designers who would have me up on 'lines', 'interior fabrics' and 'hollow surfaces' any day of the week. So with these perceptive artistes in mind I studied the car, remembering their voices and thinking of their raised eyebrows at any misgivings.
Interior looks solid, well-constructed, understated yet very precise. Light grey seats frighten me - the places I go to, (race circuits, countryside pursuits) the fact that I sprawl on the ground to steal my photograph, so I need dark leather as I must think of myself as a Springer Spaniel. Exterior lines were met with approval: fabulous new grill and elongated body line. I did think about some of the exterior side divisions, where above the door is smooth yet it joins to a line towards the bonnet? Perhaps I have been meddling with too many designers, as quite frankly I really love the look of this Lexus.
I received a text from the Lexus team this week, "don't forget to take it off road". I did and it handled really well. Sadly the car goes back to Lexus in an hour so I turn on Radio 3 and catch a hint of Aaron Copland's 'Quiet City'. How apt.