Quick twin test: Lexus RC450h vs Volvo XC90 T8

  • So, I’m looking to make a statement…

    In that case, the RX will be pulling you in like a tractor beam. Lexus has located its brave pills of late, and the RX finishes what the NX started with its origami creases and enormous front grille. Yet the interior is an oasis of calm – we like the cinema-sized central screen. 

    You won’t be doing so in the Volvo, a shrine to Swedish minimalism, although the XC90’s size might turn heads. The exterior is smooth and unfussy – a theme mirrored on the inside where stress-inducing buttons are discarded almost entirely, leaving a serene place to pass time. 

    Photography: Rowan Horncastle

  • One for the keen driver?

    You’re kidding, right? This is a Lexus hybrid with a CVT ’box. It’s a marked improvement from the last one with sharp throttle response and decent body control when you push it. Which you probably won’t. 

    The Volvo’s 401bhp twin-engine powertrain delivers better performance than the Lexus, certainly, but ultimately it responds best to the same treatment – being pushed along at six-tenths, using all that torque.

  • Let’s talk numbers

    Not being a plug-in, the RX can’t match the T8’s skewed official figures, but 51.4mpg is achievable with a considerate right foot. It makes sense in towns, where its tiny EV range can be used.

    OK, so 134.5mpg and 49g/km CO2 means it’ll cost pennies in tax, but in the real world you’re lugging around lots of batteries. Short commute? It could work for you, but on long trips the mpg plummets.

  • So what’s easier to live with?

    Reliable, refined and supple on our test car’s air suspension, the RX will slot into your life without a ripple. If that’s what you want, fine, but don’t expect thrills or surprises. The boot is shallow though, thanks to the battery pack, and the electric rear tailgate is infuriatingly slow.

    Driving in zero-emissions mode enhances the XC90’s calm demeanour – and lets you bask in a green glow. In reality, you’ll be calling on the petrol engine often, so best to see this as a tax-saving exercise. We’d save the money and choose diesel: the driving experience is just as good. 

  • Verdict

    The Lexus is much-improved: a big, comfy, whisper-quiet thing…for people who don’t care one jot abut driving. 

    Meanwhile, the Volvo is no dynamic showcase, but it’s an effective manner in which to dodge tax that lets you feel great while doing so. That feelgood factor takes the win here.

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