Sunday, November 15, 2009

Review: Lexus RX350

Every luxury carmaker has one, and I really can’t stand the bloody things, they drive me mad. They take the drivers concentration away from the road so you can adjust the climate to a sane level, or turn the music down, or look at a map to find out just where the hell you are. I’m talking about the on-board computer. The large computer screen in the middle of the dash that has a dictatorship over all the on-board systems, which includes some annoying puck, disc knob or lever to actuate through the maze of menu options and controls.


Guess what Lexus is showing off in the new RX350? You guessed it, another electronic dash dictator. But this one is different. While other systems use some foreign knob or lever that requires a weeks training to coming to terms with, Lexus has designed something that’s already familiar to your hand and mind - a computer mouse. While its not exactly the same as the one connected to your PC, it is somewhat familiar, making it easier to get the job done. And while this system is a great step forward from the old confusing way of navigating the Lexus dash, and it is one of the simplest systems out there, I still can’t but wonder what was ever wrong with knobs and dials.

Not to get on a rant lets continue with the rest of the interior. The RX offers the typical luxury appointments that will keep five adults pleasantly happy and comfortable. An optional Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control can be used to maintain a set distance from vehicles ahead and can detect obstacles, warning the driver whether a collision is highly possible. These are the good tech goodies that I do like.


Open the hood and all you’re going to see is two large plastic engine covers. Now this is usually a let down because I open the hood for a reason, to get a gander at the oily bits. I don’t want to look at a sheet of plastic; I want to see the heart of the vehicle. However, in Lexus’ defense, the engine covers do serve a greater purpose, as they act as noise insulation, keeping the cabin quiet. And for those in the market for an RX350, this is a good thing… I guess. In fact, Lexus has gone to great lengths to make the cabin as quiet and peaceful as possible, even finding ways to make the intake quieter. I didn’t know intake manifolds made that much noise?


One surprise I found with this luxury-classed vehicle was the amount of off-road oriented features. First thing you notice when looking down at the center consol (other than the mouse) is a button to lock the new Active Torque Control AWD. That’s much beefier than the viscous units found on most luxury crossovers. Couple this with advertised approach and departure angles, and suspension that feels more multi-purpose than sports oriented, and one would start to think Lexus had visions of the back woods when completing the design engineering. And while the RX may not be trail rated so to say, this shiny collection of metallic paint and chrome can handle itself quite fine in just about everything minus a full 4WD trail.


Although, with this terrain versatility, comes a mushy ride, with increased body roll in the corners. While just about every other vehicle in this class boasts about their sportscar like handling, the RX’s softness can’t match the same claims. One thing it can hold its head high for however, is its silky smooth ride. This is a trait that is engineered into every Lexus that comes off the line, and the RX is no different. Along with the silence inside the cabin, the ride feels absolutely divine; proving this is what Lexus excels at.


MSRP: $46,900

Price as tested: $62,200

Layout: Front Engine – All Wheel Drive

Engine: 3.5L V-6

Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic with manual shift

HP: 275

Torque: 257

Brakes: Four wheel ventilated discs

Curb Weight: 1,970 kg

Towing Capacity: 1,587 kg

0-100 km/h: 7.4 sec

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 11.6/8.2L/100km

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