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Lexus RX vs Porsche Cayenne vs Volvo XC90

Lexus’ new RX aims to show that a hybrid is the perfect match for an SUV. We test it against petrol-electric Porsche and diesel Volvo

Lexus is a hybrid pioneer. The brand has shunned diesel engines over the years in favour of petrol-electric, and it’s sticking to its guns with its new RX 450h.

The first hybrid RX SUV hit the market 10 years ago, but its all-electric range has never been the best – even the previous-generation car didn’t offer much. That meant carrying around a heavy electric motor and battery pack, which isn’t great for efficiency. But does this new model deliver frugal running costs to match its extensive kit list, and can it cope with the demands of family life?

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Best 4x4s and SUVs to buy right now

Hybrid off-roaders have come a long way since the RX arrived, and the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid is the current class champion. It might hit your wallet harder initially, but lower CO2 emissions mean it should be cheaper to run.

However, are you better off buying an upmarket diesel 4x4? Volvo’s top-spec XC90 D5 is loaded with tech in a different way to its hybrid rivals, and is an interesting alternative until the brand’s petrol-electric T8 Twin Engine hybrid hits the roads.

Head-to-head

Plug-in power

In the modern world, hybrids need to be equipped with plug-in capability. Most UK motorists drive less than 40 miles per day, so if you can charge the Porsche at your place of work or at a train station, for example, you might not need to use any petrol at all – massively improving efficiency. The V6 does provide long-range ability, though.

Economy

Our test mpg figures show that when hybrids are out of their comfort zone, they’re not that efficient. Once the battery is empty, it’s effectively ballast, and weight is the enemy of fuel economy. By plugging the Porsche in more often, we’d expect these figures to improve.

Seating

Not all buyers need the Volvo’s seven-seat layout, but even if you don’t, it gives you many options. The lack of a battery pack makes for plenty of boot space, but it’s not that much larger than either the Lexus or Porsche’s capacities.

Verdict

First place: Volvo XC90

A hybrid drivetrain should reduce a car’s impact on your pocket and the environment, but the cheaper XC90’s more efficient diesel shows that’s not quite the case. While it’ll be pricier for business users, if you’re a private buyer, what you save up front will go a long way at the pumps. It proves that unless your situation is suited to hybrid motoring, diesel could be a more logical choice.

Second place: Porsche Cayenne

If you’re committed to buying a hybrid, then a regular diesel off-roader won’t match your expectations. However good the XC90 is, the Porsche makes a good case for living with a hybrid, despite its poor test efficiency. It’s a big condition, but if you can use the Cayenne as it’s intended and plug in every day, then its mix of practicality and low business costs will appeal.

Third place: Lexus RX

The new RX 450h is an improvement, with more luxury, safety kit and tech at a more affordable price. But the powertrain feels dated compared to the Porsche’s and the lack of plug-in capability hurts efficiency, so it’s no cleaner than many mid-size diesel SUVs. It’s still nicely built, and you get a lot for your money, yet it’s a second-string hybrid compared to the Cayenne.

Other options in this category...

Volvo XC90 2.0 T8 Hybrid Momentum

Price: £60,455Engine: 2.0 4cyl hybrid, 401bhp

T8 Hybrid version of the XC90, which you can order now, promises to be a great alternative to the Lexus. We already know how impressive its CO2 emissions of 49g/km are, but the 401bhp and 5.6-second 0-62mph time mean it’ll rival the Porsche.

BMW X5 xDrive40e M Sport

Price: £56,705Engine: 2.0 4cyl hybrid, 308bhp

BMW’S effort at a plug-in hybrid off-roader is similar to the Lexus for price, but closer to the Porsche in terms of efficiency. CO2 emissions of 77g/km and plug-in capability mean low tax and an all-electric range of 19 miles. 

Figures

 Volvo XC90 D5 InscriptionPorsche Cayenne S E-HybridLexus RX 450h Premier
On-the-road price/total as tested£50,685/£67,700£62,154/£73,413£57,995/£58,640
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£27,000/53.3%£27,124/43.6%£27,426/47.3%
Depreciation£23,685£35,030£30,569
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£2,825/£5,650£1,615/£3,229£2,318/£4,635
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,718/£2,864£2,460/£4,099£2,085/£3,475
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost34/£916/G/£18049/£1,327/A/£045/£1,119/D/£110
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£300 (3yrs)£420/£490/£420£275/£445/£275
    
Length/wheelbase4,950/2,984mm4,855/2,895mm4,890/2,790mm
Height/width1,776/2,008mm1,705/1,939mm1,685/1,895mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,969ccV6/2,995ccV6/3,456cc
Peak power 222/4,250 bhp/rpm410/5,500 bhp/rpm 308/6,000 bhp/rpm 
Peak torque 470/2,900 Nm/rpm590/1,250 Nm/rpm335/4,600 Nm/rpm 
Transmission 8-spd auto/4wd8-spd auto/4wdE-CVT/4wd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel71 litres/repair kit100 litres/repair kit65 litres/space-saver
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 397/775/1,951 litresN/A/580/1,690 litresN/A/453/1,612 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight2,130/741/2,700kg2,350/700/3,500kg2,100/615/2,000kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.9 metres/0.29Cd11.9 metres/0.36Cd11.8 metres/0.33Cd
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (unltd)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers18,000 miles (1yr)/10920,000 miles (2y)/3610,000 miles (1yr)/51
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.17th/22nd6th/8th1st/1st
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars97/87/72/100/5N/A91/82/79/77/5
    
0-60/30-70mph8.0/7.9 secs5.5/4.5 secs7.8/6.5 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 3.6/4.6 secs3.0/3.9 secs2.8 secs*
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th 5.9/6.9/9.0/12.7 secs4.6/5.7/7.3/9.3 secs3.8 secs*
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 137mph/1,600rpm150mph/1,800rpm124mph
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 46.1/33.9/8.7m46.6/36.5/12.1m52.8/38.5/10.3m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph73/53/65/71dBN/A/N/A/61/68dBN/A/N/A/63/70dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range33.1/7.3/517 miles22.8/5.0/502 miles26.9/5.9/385 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 44.1/51.4/48.7mpgN/A/N/A/83.1mpgN/A/N/A/51.4mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 9.7/11.3/10.7mplN/A/N/A/18.3mplN/A/N/A/11.3mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket229/152g/km/28%286/79g/km/13%243/127g/km/20%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSeven/yes/yes/£400Six/yes/yes/£44610/yes/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/yes/£320Yes/£2,177/£296Yes/yes/yes
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go£700/LED/yes£720/yes/£744£645/LED/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yes£2,307/y/£324/£446Yes/yes/yes/yes
Stability/adaptive cruise control/AEBYes/£1,500^/yesYes/£1,287/noYes/yes/yes
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