2014 Lexus NX 300h Luxury with enhancement pack

Generally, Lexus luxury vehicles never venture beyond the golf club, private school drop-off, or underground parking space in an office tower at the big end of town. Recently, I had the new Lexus NX 300h hybrid on test and got to wondering how the petrol-electric crossover SUV would go outside its comfort zone.

It so happens my wife Lynn and I were to attend a wedding in Townsville and puzzled over how the Lexus hybrid would travel from the Gold Coast to north Queensland and back. We decided to give it a go.

The journey nearly ended before it began, with torrential rain slowing traffic to a crawl on the Gateway Motorway east of Brisbane. With the car’s all-wheel drive system providing added security we pressed slowly onto Gympie.

Finding little appeal in travelling the Bruce Highway we turned inland on the Kilkivan road on our way to Biloela, there topping up our toiletries at the quaintly named Target Country.

2014 Lexus NX 300h Luxury with enhancement pack

Our plan was to head to Rockhampton via Dululu and Mount Morgan but we could not fail to notice the amount of rain that had fallen in the area; the paddocks were sodden.

A few kilometres out of town we were turned around by police as the road was impassable ahead. This meant doubling back to join the Bruce Highway at Calliope. We made Rocky by late afternoon and headed to Emu Park to spend the night on the coast. The rain was coming down in stair rods and did not let up until morning. This did not bode well for the future of our trip.

As we moved north, the paddocks on both sides of the road were becoming inland seas. A hundred kilometres up the highway, south of Marlborough, a truck driver had turned round and was warning of the trouble ahead – water across the road. We pulled in to a roadhouse, bought a couple of bacon-and-egg sandwiches and sat down to wait out the problem.

It took five hours for the rain to stop and the water to subside.

With time running out, we hurried on to Sarina (stopover), Mackay, Proserpine, Bowen and Ayr. We reached Townsville a day before the wedding. As we went north, the daytime temperatures were a constant 30-plus degrees.

2014 Lexus NX 300h F Sport

The Lexus was fitted with an Enhancement Pack of moonroof and 14-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. Needless to say, the roof stayed shut, the climate control air-con in complete command of our surroundings (cool!)

Post-wedding, we pointed the Lexus west to go south. First stop was Charters Towers, centre of a 19th century gold rush and the site of the world’s first stock exchange; so it has a lot to answer for: think GFC.

We walked among many of the remnants of the gold rush and stayed at the Royal Private Hotel in the main street, it sold its last drink in 1948 when its licence was given up. It was crammed with old stuff of mixed provenance.

Only a few kilometres out of town the next day the Lexus’ tyre pressure warning light came on. An investigation found a screw embedded in the nearside rear tyre, so we headed back to town in search of help.

Fortunately, the local dealership for Lexus’ big brother Toyota was easy to find as it had new buildings which stood out against the historic gold rush architecture. Anushka booked the car in and saw we had a fresh cup of coffee.

Within the hour, the Lexus was returned to us in person by the amiable Grant, the mechanic who had removed the offending screw and plugged the hole. “Easy”, he said. “The hardest part was resetting the tyre pressure sensor”.

Oh, what a feeling, we were on the road again, the Flinders Highway to be precise. As newly-minted grandparents, we were keen to keep in contact with the new Mum and Dad via mobile phone.

Hughenden: silence. There was no mobile phone signal, a situation that was to last three days and hundreds of kilometres.

Ironically, a spacecraft had just landed on a comet, 3 km by 5 km, in outer space, and was already sending back information to Earth on the weather and conditions under foot.

My service provider was a global telecommunications giant that was spending millions of dollars on advertising and sporting events. The comet lander had travelled 526 million kilometres; we had not even left Queensland.

Even more galling was the fact that the spacecraft had left Earth more than a decade ago and the technology it was using was more than ten years old. The good folk of the Queensland outback deserve better.

Anyhow, we had lunch in town at the FJ Holden Cafe, which turned out to be a shrine to the fast shrinking Aussie automobile giant. The walls were covered with press clippings, pictures and posters paying homage to Holden, including: ‘On a quiet night you can hear a Ford rust.’ Not nice.

Lynn said they did the best milkshake she had tasted since she was a teen. We headed south for Winton.

To Be Continued…

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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