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Thread: 2010 Lexus RX350

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    2010 Lexus RX350

    Some people say the Japanese are better at imitating than innovating but then how to explain the Lexus RX?

    Ten years ago, when this model first appeared, it was unlike anything else being offered by a luxury car maker. It defined a whole new category of vehicle - what we call "luxury crossovers" today - and became a monster hit for Lexus.

    Since then, half a dozen or more imitators have scrambled onto the field - including home team models like the Caddy SRX, the German-built BMW X5 and Audi Q5 - as well as Japanese models like the Infiniti FX and Acura MDX.

    Clearly, Lexus was onto something.

    WHAT IT IS

    The RX350 is a medium-sized luxury crossover wagon. It has room for 5 people (two rows of seats) and comes with a standard V-6 engine and either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive.

    Prices begin at $36,800 for the FWD version and run to $38,200 for one equipped with the optional AWD system. There's also a hybrid version of the RX - the RX450h. It is also offered in either FWD or AWD variants and is priced at $41,660 for the FWD version and $43,250 for one with AWD.

    WHAT'S NEW

    All but the name. The '10 RX350 has been completely updated, with a more powerful engine, new six-speed transmission, revised interior and exterior styling plus a roster of new features and options.

    WHAT'S GOOD

    Unlike most of the others in this segment - Infiniti FX, BMW X5, Audi Q5, etc. - which try hard to be sporty driving as well as luxury riding, the RX350 is all about luxury. Its ride quality is noticeably more plush and it is among the most pleasant chariots you can buy for shutting out the world and just trundling along.

    Absolutely outstanding new-design ergonomic interface for the optional GPS system (it also controls the climate control and audio system). You can actually make adjustments by feel and without taking your eyes off the road.

    No one else has anything even half as user-friendly.

    Classy styling. Excellent resale value.

    WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD

    Price can get very high very fast if you add a few options - many of which are "bundled" into packages (such as the $4,980 Rear Seat Entertainment System or the $4,800 Luxury Package) that make you buy a whole bunch of stuff to get the one or two things you might have otherwise bought at lower cost, individually - if they let you do that.

    To be fair, Lexus isn't the only brand that does this trick. And some brands do it even more egregiously. I just wish none of them did it. It's a cheesy way to lure people in with what seems to be a manageable sticker price - and then hook them hard with add-ons so that by the time they leave the dealership in their new vehicle, they've paid 20 percent more than they thought they were going to.

    So, be advised - and be careful.

    ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

    One of the RX's traditional selling points has been that it has always come standard with a strong (and super smooth) V-6 engine. Unlike the optional "packages" trick, Lexus doesn't advertise a low-cost but mushy standard engine and then up-sell you into an almost-essential (but heavily marked up) optional engine.

    All RX's come with a 275 hp 3.5 liter V-6, bumped up 5 hp from last year's 270 hp V-6.

    There is no optional engine - because one isn't necessary.

    Another upgrade for 2010 is the new (and also standard) six-seed automatic transmission, which replaces the previous model's five-speed automatic.

    This new, more efficient transmission helps the '10 RX get slightly better gas mileage than the '09 version - despite the 2010 model's being more powerful and heavier (by several hundred pounds) too.

    EPA rates the 2010 RX350 with FWD at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway vs. 18 city, 23 highway for the '09.

    And the '10 RX is also a little bit quicker than the previous model RX.

    The '10 RX350 goes 0-60 in about 7.3-7.5 seconds, depending on whether it's the FWD or the AWD version. That's about 1-2 tenths of a second quicker than before. It's not a huge difference, but the fact that the new RX didn't lose a step (due to its higher curb weight) while still managing to return better highway gas mileage is pretty impressive.

    Maximum tow rating is 3,500 pounds - the same as before and "par" for the segment.

    DRIVING IMPRESSIONS/RIDE & HANDLING

    Pretty much every RX imitator tries very hard to be sporty handling - not that there's nothing wrong with that.

    Some do a very good job of it, too.

    What distinguishes the RX350 is that it's so focused on being luxurious in the old school sense of that term - a quality that is surprisingly becoming less and less common among luxury cars as they all try to outdo one another in impressing gearhead car writers on closed-circuit race tracks with their ability to do Porsche 911-like stunts around the pylons and run at Autobahn top speeds.

    They thus have firmly bolstered sport seats - and often even more firmly riding suspensions - in order to deliver high-speed handling that may impress guys like me but which is about as relevant to real-world driving in the hands of the typical owner as the lineage of the Merovingian dynasty is to Paris Hilton's agenda for next Saturday night.

    Lexus knows its audience - which is why the new RX is much like the original RX, in terms of its buttery smooth, quiet ride and easy-to-drive nature. It is just wonderful to drive. The seats are some of the best I have ever sat in as far as long-haul comfort goes. Maybe they won't cinch you in like the heavily bolstered sport buckets found in some others.

    Who cares?

    Are we looking for a refuge in traffic; a Zone of Relaxation during the trip back home from the office?

    Or are we playing at being Speed Racer?

    Likewise some auto writers may carp about the RX's electronically limited top speed of 112 mph. There are some 150 mph-capable luxury crossovers out there.

    But does that matter to you? Do you expect to drive faster than 112 mph?

    If not, then who cares about 150 mph (or 130 mph) top speeds?

    Where it matters, the RX has everything it needs: Plenty of power for real-world driving and more than enough left over for the occasional burst of Fed-like "irrational exuberance." It just makes a lot more sense to me - and to legions of current RX owners - than some of the Excessmobiles out there, which make you pay for at-the-limit (and highly illegal) capability you will probably never come close to actually using, let alone ever need.

    STYLING & UTILITY

    The cosmetic changes for 2010 are subtle but significant. Pretty much the entire skin is new. It's a bit more macho than before but not aggressively so. The grille is more angular and wedge-like; the headlight assemblies narrower and more cat-like. There's also a scalloped cut-line pressed into the lower rocker panels on the side - with a more pronounced crease along the tops of the doors that runs from the end of the headlights all the way to the rear.

    Yet unless you park a 2010 next to a 2009 the differences are not immediately obvious. This design ethic of gradual change within the boundaries of a given "look" is why all RX models over the years have aged so gracefully.

    Overall, the 2010 is slightly longer and wider than the 2009 model, which translates into slightly more stretching out space in some categories such as shoulder room for both front and second row occupants. However, there's also slightly less front seat headroom (39.1 inches vs. 39.3 before) and total cargo capacity is slightly less for 2010: 80.3 cubic feet (with the second row folded) vs. 85 cubic feet before.

    But the big (and very good) news is the new Remote Touch multifunctional controller for the optional GPS. Instead of a round knob (BMW iDrive) or a million little buttons (Mercedes COMMAND) to drive you to distraction, there's a simple toggle-style mouse on top of an ergonomically designed rest pad that is shaped to fit your right hand. The toggle controls a cursor on the LCD display screen; there's a click button on the left side of the pad located right where your thumb naturally falls. Just two main inputs to work - vs. two or three times that many in some of the worst systems out there.

    The system can be understood and used immediately, too - without the steep learning curve or having to pore over the endlessly inscrutable user guide people get tortured by in other models with computer-like interfaces.

    A home-run design that give the RX a huge usability (and thus, desirability) advantage. After all, isn't a luxury vehicle supposed to ease the driving experience rather than make it more aggravating?

    QUALITY & SAFETY

    The RX is a beautifully finished vehicle; first-class materials and first-class workmanship. It also enjoys very high resale values. Ten year old RX300s are still worth as much as $10,000 (for nice ones) on used car lots, or about a third of what they cost brand-new.

    Few - if any - of RX's competitors can match that staying power.

    You also get ten standard air bags - including dual front knee bags. Shop some other bands and you have to buy a flagship model that costs sixty or seventy thousand bucks to get this many air bags. The main safety-related optional stuff is the back-up camera (bundled with GPS), a side monitor (bundled with the Luxury Package) and, of course, the all-wheel-drive system.

    Previous RXs have always scored well in crash testing and the 2010 should do even better.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    While the RX has more competition than ever, few of these Johnny Come Latelys deliver the luxury crossover goods as single-mindedly and near perfectly as this Lexus does.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mase's Avatar
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  3. #3
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    Mercedes made disparaging comments about the 1st generation RX, saying stuff like "you can pull the headliner down if the sunroof is open" (who would intentionally do that?) and "Lacks a frame for towing" (the owner's didn't care - they would buy a LX-470 if they had to tow the smaller of their boats)

    Chip H.

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