Phillipa Sage takes the latest Lexus SUV to task.

Have you ever wondered why Ram’s testicles are so large? Probably not, but I was forced this week to think just that because my pet sheep were sheared and Parsley, the ram, was exposed! He has unfeasibly large testicles, shockingly, eye-watering large. It looks as though it must hurt to carry them around. They resemble two lead weight tennis balls hanging in men’s size 13 socks!! I’m afraid I have become fascinated.

Unfortunately for poor old, now naked Parsley, the shearer nicked him with the shears, where his back leg joins his body and there is some loose skin. This accident resulted in an infection and the vet had to be called.

With a whole team of eager students to observe, the vet was soon on site admiring my wonderful but poorly boy and soon administered pain killers and anti-biotics. Friendly banter ensued amongst us all as my incredibly friendly flock of two entertained us with their antics.

With this team of excellent knowledge in my presence, I asked the question: “Why are those balls so big?” “Well,” said the young female vet, “They are the second-largest testicles in the mammal kingdom, in proportion to whole body size.”

“Who’s the first?” I asked with a grimace. “A hamster,” the vet proclaimed. And that is the highlight of my lifelong learning. However, I was left with another question, why?

This leads me to my latest learning in the world of cars and my first official car review for The FRANK Magazine. I have had on loan from ‘Our Graham’ at Lexus, the very stylish beast of a car, the RX450hF (that name suggests it’s not a car but a toxic chemical – maybe it’s both?).

Lexus is undoubtedly an excellent place to start if you are thinking of going hybrid or fully electric. They are in the same ‘stable’ as Toyota, which has been in the hybrid and electric game since the first Prius in the late nineties. So I would certainly trust them for reliability in this relatively new market. Lexus is also very good with quality and comfort.

However, the resounding question I was left with after a very comfortable week in the luxury of the sporty leather seats of the RX was, why? This is what I ask about all the SUVs and Crossovers that are currently so on-trend.

First impressions: it’s an incredibly handsome vehicle. I loved the way it looked and drove. This had come to be my first review as Melanie had this very model on loan in London for a month or so. She felt the need for more space for her and her growing boys and wanted to start travelling with the planet in mind.

Melanie also loved the look and drive of the RX but, unfortunately, it didn’t fit in her flat’s allocated parking space. In Lexus’s defence, many private car parks aren’t big enough for these large vehicles. However, Melanie also reported that it didn’t fit into a lot of street allocated parking. I teased her that she had not got the talent to manoeuvre such a beast after having nipped around in a Fiat 500 for so long.

I suggested that I test out its ‘off road’ capabilities and take it to the country’s wide-open spaces of my life. I have now apologised to her as I now appreciate it is a challenge to manoeuvre in the not so wide country lanes. It is totally oversized for purpose. A purpose that I am not sure of.

I have always felt slightly irritated by SUVs and Cross Overs, even as a former, very happy owner of the Range Rover Evoque. It was beautiful-looking, comfortable and luxurious but no good for hay and dogs. The Lexus irritated me further, as it is huge on the outside, taking up nearly as much room as my giant Range Rover Vogue, but on the inside has a pretty useless boot for a country girl like myself. Neither my labradoodle nor my labrador would have been happy in there. They would have had to adopt the stance of a depressed hyena and dribbled all down the back seats searching for air, misting up the rear screen and the beautifully sleek styled rear quarter windows in the process.

It is very questionable to me what this relatively new breed of car is actually for. In my mind, you either need a true 4×4 like a Range Rover or a Toyota Hi-Lux to carry significant loads and traverse across rugged terrain, whether those great loads be the Queen of England or a few bales of hay. Or you need a Suburban saloon car.

To have a car over-designed to resemble a classy utilitarian beast such as the Range Rover but one that does not have the ground clearance is useless, in my opinion. The Lexus demonstrated this when it stumbled across a log that was not picked up by all of its incredible array of objects and human scanners. (It has a Pre-Collision System that uses a front-mounted camera and millimetre-wave radar to detect vehicles and pedestrians on the road ahead.) The log damaged one of its over-styled front spoilers.

The tiny biro sized trim that cracked could only be repaired by replacing the whole front grill. This surely is not eco-friendly when you think of the wasted materials and energy required to make and fit them, let alone the disruption caused if this was your vehicle and It was off the road while in for such a repair. This type of repair situation is a problem with most modern cars these days and something that I feel needs to be under constant review. To be honest, if this kind of injury had happened to my car, I think I would have Superglued it!

Having said all that, Lexus and its parent company Toyota have a great recycling ethic and a very impressive sustainability report. They have achieved many World Firsts, including using ecological plastics and recycling batteries for their Hybrid vehicles.

As I said before, this Lexus is very comfortable, as reported by my mother and my giant 6ft son (who was not squashed in the back) as we ventured to Devon and back (an eight hour round trip). Aside from the dogs, there was plenty of space for three good-sized overnight bags plus an antique towel rail that my mother treated herself to.

As a hybrid, the fuel consumption was spectacularly lower than the same journey in my Range Rover. When I did need to refuel, owing to the panic fuel buying, I gave up queueing at one service station, choosing to risk travelling to the next. All too late I realised that you really should read instruction manuals end to end. I couldn’t find out how many miles of fuel/battery power we had left. I missed the display reading that pings up automatically on my Range Rover, letting me know how many miles I’ve got left. I tentatively crawled along “A” roads on battery power to the next fuel stop. I have since been advised without petrol powering the engine to recharge the battery you only have about 100 yds!!

I picked out a line in the PR blurb on this vehicle “The challenge to the design team was to add elegance, but without diminishing the powerful SUV image.”

I think this sums the RX450hF up: it’s all about the look.

So, if you want something that looks like you can climb mountains in style and comfort with loads of kids (it can provide seven seats) and no dogs that will keep your fuel consumption down a bit, then this is the car for you.

From a sustainable point of view, Hybrids are most effective while pootling around town at low speeds. The RX is making an effort and is certainly greener than my Range Rover when it comes to emissions, but in a world in crisis we need to try harder and be much more mindful. I advise the big question to ask yourself when considering any new car is, why?

Suppose you are keen to be eco-friendly in your next car purchase. It is not just the fuel consumption and emissions you need to think about. How big is its entire carbon footprint? Where did all the parts come from? Are all those parts and gadgets necessary? I’ve realised it’s a bit of a minefield if you want to be truly green and it’s something I shall investigate further.

P.S. Melanie is currently delighted with the RX’s baby brother, the UX.


You can find more information on the Lexus Hybrid range here.


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