The luxury SUV without the long options list.
The luxury SUV without the long options list.
Second in its class only to the BMW X5, the RX range of Lexus vehicles offers both petrol and hybrid options, spoiling the buyer for choice.
Unlike its German competitors, namely Mercedes-Benz and Audi, Lexus also doesn’t claim that the RX can or should be used off-road. As such, there is no additional 4WD equipment (aside from the all-wheel-drive system) that allows the RX to be used for semi-serious off-road driving.
Another strong point the Japanese marque has over its German competition is unambitious option pricing and arrangements. The RX petrol variant is available in three guises – Prestige, Sport and Sport Luxury. From there, the only options are a full-sized spare wheel and the addition/removal of the sunroof.
Pricing for the petrol Lexus RX350 begins at $82,900 for the Prestige variant and concludes at $108,900 for the top-spec Lexus RX 450h hybrid. The model tested was the Lexus RX 350 Sport Luxury, which comes with a price tag of $97,900.
2009 yielded a refresh of the RX 350’s design, bringing with it an updated front and rear and an all new interior. Lexus has kept to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality and kept styling changes fairly modest, but not modest enough to look like the outgoing model.
A small bit of trivia for car buffs is that hybrid Lexus variants all feature a blue halo surrounding the Lexus emblem, making them easier to distinguish in traffic.
A proximity sensing key enables access to the cabin; from there it’s not hard to see why the RX 350 sits in the Luxury SUV segment. Everything from the quality of the leather to the feel of the dashboard gives you reassurance that money hasn’t been wasted on the brand name alone.
New to the revised Lexus RX is a joystick-style unit that controls the satellite navigation and cursor for climate, audio and telephone. At first it seems a bit counterintuitive until you have had the chance to muck around with it.
Once you understand the system, it makes so much more sense. The cursor ‘sticks’ to labels on the screen, meaning that selecting items while driving can be done with minimal fuss and distraction. Additionally, the base of the unit fits snugly into the palm, making it easy to navigate through the myriad menus available.
Audio-philes will be suitably impressed with the 12-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. With plenty of bass and high quality treble, the sound system offers precision clarity beyond the levels you would expect of a car.
Front leg and head room is impressive, with front seat passengers afforded the luxury of heated seats.
Second row leg room is great, with the only limitation being a slight lack of headroom for taller passengers.
Boot capacity is good at 446 litres to the lower window. The Sports Luxury model also benefits from an electrically assisted boot, which can be opened and closed either from the boot handle, the proximity sensing key or a switch inside the cabin.
Under the bonnet of the RX 350 is Lexus’ renowned 3.5-litre V6, which produces 204kW and 346Nm of torque. The result of the perky engine is a 0-100km/h dash of 8.0 seconds and a combined fuel consumption figure of 10.8L/100km. On test, that figure was even lower at 10.2L/100km due to the higher percentage of highway driving.
It didn’t take long to pick the first fault when switching the RX 350 on using the starter button. Lexus insists on using a foot operated handbrake, which wouldn’t be an issue if they weren’t last seen on cars in the 1990s. Commonplace nowadays is a hydraulic handbrake that uses a switch, opposed to a mechanical lever.
From there though, it’s smooth sailing. The whisper quiet V6 engine is mated to a silky smooth six-speed automatic transmission. The transmission responds to requests for power subtly and in a manner you would expect of a luxury SUV.
Although the steering doesn’t have too much feel, it’s perfect for a car of this size and offers care-free motoring during parking in tight spaces in the city. A reversing camera is also standard equipment to help against toys and kids that hide behind cars.
The on-demand all-wheel drive system will power the RX 350 as a front-wheel drive vehicle until it senses slip and will then work to transfer some torque to the rear wheels, aiding in the retention of traction under power.
The responsive V6 engine works a charm whether the car is carrying one passenger or five. Overtaking is also a carefree task that’s tackled with aplomb. Brake pedal feel is also impressive, offering excellent feedback during low and high speed driving.
As you would expect, the RX 350 handles more like a UV than an SUV. There is a fair amount of body roll and the stability control’s tendency to kick up a stink at the slightest loss of traction can put a stop to any shenanigans well before getting out of hand.
At highway speeds, it’s remarkable just how quiet the cabin is. Lexus has always worked extremely hard on noise suppression and the RX 350 is certainly no exception.
The Lexus RX 350 is a great all-rounder that offers enough room for family trips, shopping trips and kids' soccer trips. It’s capable of recording impressive fuel efficiency figures and won’t break the bank in comparison with its equivalently equipped competitors.
With the new styling update, revised engine and plenty of features to keep the whole family happy, Lexus has a winner on its hands and rightfully deserves second place in the sales charts.
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