Words Liz French, Images Alex Spodyneiko
When does going somewhere in a car morph from a drive into an experience? When the car is a Lexus, as Liz French discovered during an all too brief love affair with the Lexus Hybrid.
I was driving the Lexus UX250h AWD. The plan had been for me to be among the first to drive the brand new EV Lexus, the UX300e Limited. However, it was still sitting in Auckland in car MIQ, that is, waiting to be shipped down, and, with deadlines looming, the hybrid was a worthy substitute. The features and driving experience of the two are very similar, except of course the UX300e is fully electric and qualifies for the government rebate which rewards you for helping save the planet.
The hybrid also does its bit for carbon emission. A cool little app they had activated while I was driving showed that over my 170 kilometres of city and country cruising it had used the hybrid battery 47% of the time and Co2 emissions per kilometre were minus 10 per cent! And what’s nice about the hybrid is that while you are petrol driven the self-charging technology swings into action.
Before I drove out of the Lexus showroom, one of their enthusiastic experts, Mitchell, took me through the features I could look forward to. As an untechy person I was afraid some of this would go straight over my head, so was pleasantly surprised to find I ‘got it’. In simple terms, everything is geared to maximising efficiency, comfort, safety, performance and pleasure.
As I like to drive with my car interior cold, it was a joy to hop in the Lexus and feel the air-conditioned seats wafting cool air around me. Mitchell showed me how to adjust the seat and steering to the perfect combination for a small person. The car ‘remembers’ this, so each time I activated the seat belt or start button it cushioned itself around me in a most comforting way. The two keys and a card Lexus supply provides memory for three different drivers’ favourite positions.
You have to appreciate the aesthetics; the way Lexus exudes luxury and good taste without shouting it. Subtle traditional Japanese art forms can be seen in the washi paper inspired dashboard and centuries old quilting is referenced in the leather seats. The fact designer Karen Walker is a Lexus ambassador speaks volumes for the overall quality and style.
There’s also the sculpted spindle grill and diamond cut forged wheels with tyres that give you 80 kilometres driving once the display has highlighted a rare flatty. No spare taking up space in the roomy boot, no undignified road side wheel changing.
So off we purred (both the car and me), the engine so quiet I could hardly tell it was running, the interior so insulated from road noise I could anticipate easily sharing conversation with back seat passengers. Soon I was gaily scanning the media (high quality audio from a Mark Levison system), flicking it into sport mode on a very handy dial up on the dash, opening the sun roof, marvelling at the heads up display which hovers at eye level. The wipers reacted automatically to a spot of rain and I loved that the headlights did their own dimming at night.
I am sure my partner only invited me out for lunch so he could do a lap in the Lexus. We shot down the expressway. “It’s quick!” he exclaimed, out to prove the 0–100 in 8.6 seconds. “And it’s got all the toys. A very nice car to drive.”
While the features I loved in the Lexus may have differed from those he appreciated, sales of the Lexus Hybrid suggest both sexes agree that it is an exceptionally nice car to drive.
After a spin through the countryside and out to a friend’s orchard, I delivered the car back to the friendly Lexus team, very aware of the difference between a drive and an experience.
Lexus’ first fully electric vehicle, the UX300e is in the showroom now, no doubt initiating many more love affairs with Lexus!
Lexus of Tauranga
158 Elizabeth Street
07 577 0880
Lexus of Hamilton
5 Kahu Crescent, Te Rapa
07 974 1778