Welcome back to My Wheels, Jim! The last time we met, you were roaring around in a red Mini Cooper S. But you’ve since parted with it. Why?
The Mini was, as you know, a present for my wife Julie and the plan was to get my Mercedes SL500 back off her. But here in Dubai, it’s all about size and she felt the Mini was more vulnerable to being hit than the Mercedes.
She might have a point there. Do you both still fight over the keys for the Merc?
It’s a never-ending battle. We have had it for nearly three years and although it’s eight years old, it still looks and drives like a brand new car and it’s as hard as nails. Julie uses it every day and although I loved the Mini, it’s not an everyday car for Dubai.
So, you flogged it? Bet you miss it…I do regret it, to be honest. My friend Mohammad, who helped import it, told me he had a buyer in Qatar who had seen it in wheels and wanted it. So after many sleepless nights, I sold it. Secondly, my sons James and Joe visit Dubai two or three times a year and other family members too, and the Mini could not cope with too many passengers or luggage.
But Mohammad had something else up his sleeve, didn’t he…
Well, I asked him if he had anything different in the pipeline from Canada and he mentioned he had purchased 10 Lexus RX 350s but there was a single 450h coming, and he knew nothing about this model except that it was a hybrid and almost identical to the 350. It had full options and low mileage. Now, my last car in the UK some five years ago was a hybrid Toyota Prius and this was fantastic. The Lexus was the perfect solution in terms of size, quality and power but it was also environmentally friendly. It was ordered in November 2011 and arrived here in February 2012.
You had some problems getting it insured though, right?
Yes, it was a problem with many companies refusing to fully insure it but RSA covered it with no problems. Officially, Lexus already has two hybrids in Dubai and said they will service the car alongside the other models for me so that takes care of that. It has no faults and returns better fuel consumption than the Mini. It costs me Dh90 to fill and I get 700km out of it — sometimes more if I am light on the throttle. In town, it is totally silent and can be driven on electric power alone, therefore saving more fuel.
I love the fact that you can park it in total silence and also, it doesn’t make a sound when you are waiting at the lights as it has the stop-start feature. Also, you can leave the ignition on at petrol stations with the AC keeping you cool and as the engine shuts down, there is less chance of anything untoward happening. Most people here leave their engines running while fuelling, which is very dangerous. Its hybrid system is seamless and as the engine charges the batteries, you never need to plug it in like you would a fully electric car. Therefore, it’s always ready to go.
It has some nice features like automatic high beams which use a camera to switch the headlights on automatically, adaptive headlights for illuminating corners, keyless entry, cooled front seats and reclining rear seats, which Julie loves. It also has soft close windows and in fact, the whole car is built around being silent. If you love the economy of a four cylinder but want the power of a V8, then its 3.5-litre V6 hybrid engine makes it the perfect SUV in my opinion.
Hybrids are ideal in other parts of the world, but not so here, wouldn’t you agree?
In the UK and most of Europe where petrol is about nine dirhams a litre and getting more expensive every day, hybrids make sense and are increasing in numbers. Here in Dubai, less so, but I bought the Lexus because it’s silent, has more power than you need and you have to make fewer fuel stops, which is a bonus.
I feel we use petrol like it is going out of fashion what with cars with huge engine capacities. So, I am doing my bit to reduce fuel consumption, which also helps the environment. But when it’s time for fun, the Mercedes brings a smile to our faces. If I am totally honest, I would prefer to own two SL500s.
So would we! Tell us a bit more about it
Julie and I love the Merc. It’s a 2004 model which again, was purchased from Canada
and has given us three years of perfect service. It has a 5.0-litre V8 and drinks fuel at twice the rate of the Lexus. They are total opposites in this respect. But when you press the button to remove the roof, we all forget about the Lexus. Its sleek body helps it slip through the air and as my wife disappears down the road with it, I’m left with the Lexus...
Why don’t you chase her with your motorbike?!
I could do. I ride an unusual bike called an Aprilia Mana. It has a 850cc engine and a seven-speed automatic gearbox and thankfully, Julie does not have a bike licence so, for once, this one is all mine