2015 Lexus RX 350Posted on August 28th, 2014
Luxury meets versatility
By Nina Russin
When I was a kid, most families owned one car and that seemed to work for them. Today, families own two or three cars and those vehicles are busy all the time. Not only are Americans driving more than ever, their vehicles need to work harder: haul more people, more cargo and occasionally tow a trailer.
It’s no surprise that the versatile RX 350 is one of Lexus’ best-selling models, combining the versatility active families need with the luxury the brand is known for. Now available with all-wheel drive, the midsize, five-passenger crossover is a four-season vehicle with a high level of standard safety features, enough cargo space to carry skis, camping equipment and bicycles, and the ability to tow a small trailer.
Available Siri Eyes Free mode technology enables drivers to call contacts, play music from iTunes and get navigation through their Apple iPhone accounts.
Power comes from a 270-horsepower V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection. Base price is $42,195 excluding the $910 destination charge.
Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, a 12-speaker premium audio system, 10-way power front seats, cargo area tonneau cover, power liftgate, dual-zone climate control and rearview camera.
Options on the test car include xenon high intensity discharge headlamps, LED fog lamps, rain sensing wipers, dual-screen rear DVD system, navigation, Lexus Enform, 19-inch wheels, heads-up driver display, Mark Levinson surround sound system, blind spot monitoring, leather trim, power moonroof, power folding exterior mirrors, heated steering wheel, roof rails, wood and leather trimmed steering wheel and shift knob and a cargo net. Final MSRP is $55,099.
Test drive in Arizona
I spent the past week behind the wheel of the Lexus RX 350, driving around the Phoenix and Scottsdale metropolitan areas as well as a trip northeast of town into the foothills of the Superstition Mountains. I wanted to see how well the RX would handle the daily commute, but also test its performance at some altitude and on challenging two-lane roads.
The RX 350 remains one of the best choices on the market for families wanting an upscale vehicle that’s fun to drive, safe to transport a family and versatile enough to fill everyone’s squares.
The 3.5-liter engine develops 248 foot-pounds of peak torque for excellent acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range. Fuel economy isn’t quite as good as for some competitive four-cylinder models, but a 4,300-pound car needs a pretty big engine, and four-cylinder cars can’t tow trailers.
Zero-to-sixty acceleration for the all-wheel drive model is a respectable 7.8 seconds. The six-speed automatic transmission’s overdrive gears boost highway fuel economy to 24 mpg according to the EPA. The car is engineered to run on 87 octane unleaded fuel, containing cost of ownership.
On the Bush Highway east of town I slipped the transmission into manual mode to boost performance. The engine’s sweet spot is about 3500 rpm: slightly higher than its average speed in fully automatic mode. With its MacPherson front and double wishbone rear suspension, the RX 350 prances through pitchy hills and off-camber turns with the precision of a much smaller car.
Blind spot monitoring is part of an expensive option package that also adds the moonroof, heated outside mirrors, roof rails and driver’s seat position memory. I would recommend the investment for buyers who plan commute through dense traffic.
The system illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. It makes it easier and less stressful to weave through dense traffic: something that can ultimately shave some time off the drive.
The electric power steering system is nicely tuned, with a pleasantly heavy feel at speed and plenty of assist on the low end. On-center response is surprisingly good. The car’s 40-foot turning circle makes it possible to perform a U-turn on a four-lane suburban surface road.
The standard rearview camera projects a wide angle view to the back of the vehicle when the driver shifts into reverse, eliminating blind spots in the back corners due to the car’s thick D pillars. I was able to adjust the driver’s seat high enough for a clear forward view. Over-the-shoulder visibility is decent, despite the car’s rather thick B pillars.
The optional heads-up display projects a speedometer at the bottom of the windshield, enabling the driver to keep his eyes on the road at all times.
The RX 350 interior is spacious enough to seat five passengers and have lots of room left over for cargo. Second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor for longer items such as skis, snowboards and bicycles. The optional cargo net keeps grocery bags from sliding around in back. A power tailgate makes it easier to load up the cargo bay with large items.
Optional roof rails enable owners to add a carrier up top.
Keyless entry and start saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob. Power driver’s seat adjustments are easy to use and offer ample lower lumbar support. I found infotainment controls easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate.
The large center stack screen has bright, easy-to-read graphics. The screen is well enough shaded to be readable in bright sunlight. Optional Lexus Enform enables owners to access apps such as Bing, MovieTickets and iHeart radio via their smartphones. Standard Sirius XM radio includes real-time traffic and weather updates.
A driver information screen in the gauge cluster adds information on driving range and fuel economy.
The rear seat DVD system includes two screens in the front seatbacks, so kids can watch videos from separate sources. There is plenty of legroom in the second row to keep adults comfortable on longer road trips.
All models come with front, side, side curtain, driver and passenger front knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, daytime running lamps and tire pressure monitoring.
The complimentary one-year trial subscription to Lexus Enform includes automatic collision notification and stolen vehicle location.
The RX 350 is on display at Lexus dealerships nationwide.
Like: A stylish, versatile crossover vehicle with four-season capability thanks to available all-wheel drive and 3500-pound towing capacity.
Dislike: Expensive option packages add significant cost to the price of the vehicle.
Model: RX 350 AWD
Base price: $42,195
As tested: $55,099
Horsepower: 270 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 248 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 7.8 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 18/24 mpg city/highway2015, Luxury 2015, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Lexus, performance, pricing, standard safety
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