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  • 2010 Lexus RX 350 AWD

    Posted on October 19th, 2010 ninarussin

    Mid-sized crossover raises the bar for performance

    By Nina Russin

    2010 Lexus RX 350

    Sometimes it’s not a single feature that elevates a car above its competitors as much as small refinements. Finesse separates a great ownership experience from a mediocre one. I thought about this as I sat behind the wheel of the third-generation Lexus RX 350 in gridlocked Friday afternoon traffic.

    I had jumped into the car following a three-hour flight from Phoenix to Indianapolis. After escaping rush-hour traffic on the loop freeway around the city, I still had a hundred miles to get to my destination: Cincinnati.

    Behind the wheel of the Lexus, I felt safe, comfortable and connected. Safe, thanks to the standard vehicle dynamics management system that integrates antilock braking, traction and stability control in a manner that’s invisible to the driver.

    Comfortable because the power driver’s seat includes an adjustable lumbar control that keeps the muscles in my back from tightening up. Satellite radio provides hundreds of channels of commercial-free programming, meeting all of my musical needs.

    Most important, I also felt connected via the available navigation system with real-time traffic updates. The driver operates the system using a mouse device on the center console that is completely intuitive to anybody familiar with computers. Standard Safety Connect provides automatic collision notification to area police and emergency medical personnel.

    Together, these attributes send the 2010 RX 350 to the head of the pack. The midsized crossover vehicle that started the trend twelve years ago remains the one to beat. Rather than reinventing the wheel, engineers refined their winning formula with a more powerful engine, more fuel-efficient transmission, and more responsive all-wheel drive system.

    Pricing for all-wheel drive model begins below $40,000

    2010 Lexus RX 350

    Base price for the all-wheel drive test car is $38,650, not including an $875 destination charge. A comfort package adds adaptive bi-xenon headlamps that follow steering inputs the light corners of dark, suburban roads, rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated front seats ($1950).

    The 12-speaker audio upgrade for the rear-seat DVD system adds $610. The dual-screen DVD system comes with navigation, a rearview camera, XM traffic and weather updates and Lexus Enform ($5005). A luxury package adds the moonroof, semi-aniline leather seats, retractable side mirrors, wood interior trim, nineteen-inch wheels, MP3 and USB plug-ins and a power tailgate ($4900).

    A cargo net and premium floor mats cost $59 and $265 respectively, bringing the price as tested to $52,314.

    New V-6 engine tuned for low-end power

    Engineers added five horsepower to the car’s V-6 engine, and tuned it to reach peak torque at lower engine speeds. As a result, the 275-horsepower block accelerates harder from a stop, and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range for merging onto the highway.

    Average fuel economy for my 400-mile test drive was about 23 miles-per-gallon: considerably better than the EPA estimate of 20. While all-wheel drive reduces gas mileage, the RX does a good job of economizing on the highway.

    A six-speed automatic transmission replaces the former five-speed unit, producing better fuel economy and a more fluid ride. An artificial intelligence shifting program prevents the transmission from hunting on hills.

    The new all-wheel drive system is lighter and more responsive than the unit it replaces. It can send up to 50 percent of engine power to the rear wheels, depending on the car’s traction needs. The all-wheel drive model tows up to 3500 pounds with the optional towing package, meeting our ALV minimum standards.

    Engineers changed the rear suspension from a strut to a double wishbone setup to maximize cargo space. The new suspension offers a similar compliant ride, while taking up less room in the back of the car.

    An electric power steering system is well tuned for the car: it feels like a conventional hydraulic setup. The advantage of electric systems is that they’re lighter and reduce the number of mechanical components that can fail over the vehicle’s life cycle.

    Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking can stop the car on a dime.

    Ergonomic interior

    Lexus RX 350 Interior

    Designers make small improvements to each iteration of the RX 350, which can make a big difference in day-to-day driving. For example, by locating the gear shift lever next to the steering column, there is more room for the mouse device in the center console. A shelf below the center console stows a small pack, purse or packages.

    The ten-way adjustable driver’s seat is comfortable for drives over four hours in duration. Three-position memory allows multiple drivers to share the car.

    Dual-zone climate controls keep both front passengers comfortable: rear vents circulate air through the back of the cabin. Heated and cooled front seats add a measure of comfort in temperature extremes.

    I found the gauges easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. The graphics for the navigation system are clear and easy to follow. While I don’t normally use navigation systems around town, I did extensively on this trip. The system worked flawlessly with the exception of one point of interest too new to be in the mapping software.

    The rear seats recline, move fore and aft to maximize legroom. There is enough legroom in the center position for an average sized adult to be comfortable on short trips.

    Screens for the optional DVD system are in back of the front headrests, while auxiliary jacks are behind the center console. There is also a 120-volt outlet for plugging in games or a computer.

    Lexus is known for interior quiet and the RX 350 is no exception: passengers in both rows of seats will have no problems conversing on the highway.

    The rear seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor. The RX 350 easily meets our bicycle-friendly standards. The car’s power liftgate and low lift-over height make it easy to load large items in back.

    Standard safety

    All models come with ten standard airbags, four-channel antilock brakes, traction and stability control, active front headrests and daytime running lamps. Safety Connect automatically notifies emergency personnel in the event of an accident.

    The all-new RX 350 is on display at Lexus dealerships nationwide.

    Likes: A stylish versatile crossover vehicle with a high level of standard safety features.

    Dislikes: None

    Quick facts:

    Make: Lexus
    Model: RX 350 AWD
    Year: 2010
    Base price: $38,650
    As tested: $52,314
    Horsepower: 275 Hp @ 6200 rpm
    Torque: 257 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: 7.5 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: Standard
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: Yes, when equipped with the optional towing package.
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 18/24 mpg city/highway.

     

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