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Lexus RX450h

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Lexus, which spotted the sales potential for a hybrid compact SUV years before American and German manufacturers did, is back at the Geneva motor with a new model.

It's the second-generation RX that had its global debut at the Los Angeles show in November. In the UK it will be available only as a hybrid, badged RX450h, although in other markets there's a pure petrol-powered version, too.

Both have a 275bhp 3.5-litre V6 engine: the difference in the 450h is that it is supplemented with an electric motor that can take over the drive duties at low speeds, or boost the petrol engine when maximum performance is needed.

Together they put out 295bhp, which is a 10% increase on today's RX400h, but with an 8% fuel saving. The V6 drives the front wheels, while the motor assists by powering the rears when needed.

Hybrid powertrain developments include the use of exhaust heat to help the engine warm up more quickly, and exhaust gas recirculation to improve overall efficiency.

The new RX is slightly larger than the old one, improving space for up to five occupants. There are better instruments and controls, with an optional head-up display that beams essential information onto the windscreen in the driver's eyeline.

There's also a simpler sat-nav that Lexus calls 'remote touch'. It even gives up-to-the-minute weather updates. A wide-angle side-view camera, 10 airbags, a system to alert the driver to impending collisions and a hill-start function are other features new to the RX.

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