When you come across a rare car, even if it’s just a luxury midsize SUV, it feels special
– By Anand Mohan
A statement like that requires me to set the stage. So here’s an analogy if I may. Do you know the truth about diamonds? The rare stone that denotes luxury, riches and love was not actually a scarce commodity. Mines in South Africa were digging them by the tons and although it was a precious stone, it wasn’t as precious back in the late 1800s as the value these stones have now. Cartelization and shell companies controlling the diamond trade led to artifi cial scarcity of diamonds and the corresponding increase in prices. This was followed by a smart marketing campaign (remember ‘diamonds are forever’?) that increased sales of diamonds. However, the forever theme also meant that those who bought them paid a high price for them and never sold them back in the market, thus reducing the trade of ‘used’ diamonds and keeping the high pricing of diamonds intact.
Long story short, scarcity of a product can allow you to price it high and make you set it on a higher pedestal than it should be on. A rare product will fetch you more money. While some might argue that it is a bad practice, and to my eyes, it is, true scarcity of something does make it valuable, and its rarity adds to its beauty. Case in point, supercars that sell for more crores than the fi ngers on your hand; these are rare commodities and they just can’t be mass produced because they require skilled craftsmanship in certain aspects that take time. The Ferrari 250 GTO vintage car was auctioned for 38 million USD (that’s Rs. 250 crore). For affl uent mere mortals, when it comes to cars, it’s a new luxury car brand.
Lexus entered the Indian market in 2017. They’ve got two sedans and three SUVs in their portfolio. All come as full imports, and as pricing of imports go, Lexus cars don’t come cheap. The high taxation on imported cars makes them expensive and although Japan would like to sell more cars here, the high pricing has led to artifi cial scarcity. The Indian taxation system forces Lexus to price it at upwards of Rs 1.4 crore since it is a CBU which attracts higher import duties. However, it is rarity that adds value to the car.
As rare as Lexus cars are, the dealerships aren’t having as tough a time selling them. There must be something that’s working in favour of the cars they make and I wanted to fi nd out what it was. So Lexus let me borrow the RX 450h for a week and in that time, I drove the car on highways, in the city and we even did some trail driving to get to a lake bed a couple of hours away from Pune. Here’s what I found out.
It looks unlike any SUV out there
The RX is a regular luxury SUV in most parts of the world, but in India, its angular sharp styling, sloping roofl ine and that cheese grater for a grille makes it stand apart. Most people here haven’t seen anything like that and as a result, you see everyone who likes cars run around for a second glance at it. A clear sign is when a motorcyclist turns around to check out the car with complete disregard for personal safety. It’s that rare that the rarity makes it look beautiful. It feels more mature than the NX, the smallest SUV in the Lexus lineup, and despite the sharp lines all around the RX, there’s a powerful SUV stance that works so well for it.
On the inside, the RX is extremely comfortable, not just the front seats, but the rear seats too. The leather is soft, the seats are air conditioned, and everything you touch and feel has a nice soft touch to it. The carpets are thicker and feel plush, and the music system dishes out crisp audio, but these are things an almost Rs. 1.5 crore car must boast of. It’s not a very new model, so the infotainment system could do with an overhaul, and the display could be put to better use. Nevertheless, it’s a nice cabin to spend long hours in.
There’s nothing smoother than the silken delivery of a V6 and the one in the RX is no different. It builds power well all through the band, feels completely de-stressed, as most Toyota/Lexus engines are and has a sonorous rumble as you build on the revs. It isn’t blisteringly quick by any means, even with 308bhp and 335Nm of torque, as the CVT gearbox robs it of the pace the motor would otherwise deliver. Despite that, progress is smooth courtesy the two electric motors that power the Lexus. If you can feather the throttle well, there are times when you could use the electric motor for kilometers before the petrol engine kicks in. And when the engine is on the boil, it’s continuously charging the battery. Even when you get off the gas, the battery gets charged, so the effort made to save the environment is totally worth your while. The hybrid system works so well that you will question the need of a diesel SUV ever.
How is it to drive?
Besides working the smart hybrid system, when you’ve got a V6 to play with, exercising the right foot is a must. Most of the power and torque is made up high in the powerband with all the 335Nm of torque kicking in at 4600rpm. So you need to work the motor to keep your speed up, but what you get in return is a lovely V6 rumble that doesn’t feel piped in any way. It’s the naturally aspirated goodness of a creamy engine coupled with the vast torque reserves of the electric motors that get the RX to hustle when you want it to. Body roll is manageable for such a big car and although it wasn’t built for carving corners, it doesn’t mind a few quick direction changes. The driving position works well and you get this feeling the instant you sit in the driver’s seat that you are completely in control of its size and dimensions. It’s the kind of feeling you get in BMWs when you instinctively know the extremities of the car. Lexus cars, except for the boaty LX, were made to drive better than the regular Toyotas and that required some proper enthusiasts to build them. Sure luxury is its USP, but Lexus cars need to drive well to take on the Germans. It shows that confi dence the minute you are at its helm.
Yay or nay?
You know you are paying a premium for it, but the rarity and uniqueness of this car is going to charm you. The petrol-electric hybrid motor adds to its exclusivity and despite the heft, it seems to fi t like a glove. The most pleasing aspect of it is the refi nement compared to a clunky diesel motor and the ease with which it gathers pace and handles a winding road. It is also quite effi cient despite using a V6 that makes over 300 horsepower and that balance totally makes the RX worth your money.