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This Lexus RX 400h Is Cooler Than You Think

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author photo by Doug DeMuro May 2017

So I'm walking along the other day in Washington, D.C., and I come across this Lexus RX 400h with diplomatic plates. Immediately, I noticed something was a little different -- namely, the front license plate was mounted on a bracket sized a litttttttle too big for a U.S. license plate. So I looked at it a little closer, and, sure enough ... well, take a look inside:

Lexus RX right hand drive

Yes -- it's right-hand-drive!!!

The car geek in me then punched in the diplomatic code on the license plate to a website that links the code to the country represented, and I discovered this car is being driven by a diplomat from Cyprus. This is no surprise, as the car was parked near the embassy of Cyprus -- and it's especially no surprise since Cyprus drives right-hand-drive vehicles on the left, like the U.K.

More exciting than the car's cool diplomatic status are all the unique changes made to the RX for foreign markets -- stuff you'd never really realize unless you looked really closely. Of course, there's the license-plate bracket and the steering-wheel location -- but there's also the turn signal mounted on the front fender. U.S.-spec RX 400h models don't have that. U.S.-spec RX 400h models do, however, have an orange reflector in the headlight housing, which is required by federal law -- and this one doesn't. And the design of the headlights themselves appears different, surrounded in black rather than a clearer substance like U.S. models.

As an American citizen, I'd never be able to import this: There's a series of tremendously strict laws forbidding virtually any vehicle from entering the U.S. until it turns 25 years old. But diplomats are exempt from these laws -- provided they don't sell the car to a U.S. buyer, but rather ship it back home when their post ends. That means diplomats can import just about anything, and I'm always highly disappointed when one of them decides to use that amazing power to bring over something dull like an RX 400h.

Nonetheless, it's quite a bit cooler than a standard one -- at least, to the kind of people who like spotting minor differences in 10-year-old Lexuses.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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This Lexus RX 400h Is Cooler Than You Think - Autotrader