Since the RX luxury Sport Utility Vehicle first appeared in 1998, the combination of car-based comfort and Lexus luxury has proved to be hard to resist. Lexus has sold more than 1 million RX models to date, making it the top-seller in its segment. The third-generation RX is rolling into showrooms now as an early 2010 model.
Any time you’re updating something successful, care must be taken not to fix that which isn’t broken. The design of the RX is a case in point. Lexus has made subtle changes for 2010, while keeping the vehicle’s styling identity intact.
Compared to the former model, the new RX 350 is slightly longer, and wider through the shoulders. Headlight graphics make a more distinctive statement up front, while the rear improves in both appearance and visibility. The rear spoiler now does double duty; it serves to enhance the vehicle’s aerodynamics, and it also conceals the washer/wiper, now relocated from the bottom of the window to the top. In addition to a cleaner look, the back end now gives the driver a clearer view of what’s behind.
The powertrain for the new Lexus combines a revised 3.5-liter V-6 engine with a new six-speed automatic transmission.
Horsepower is now 275 (up five over the previous model) and EPA estimates for fuel economy are 18/24 mpg (all wheel drive) and 18/25 mpg (front wheel drive).
My test-drive time was spent in an AWD equipped RX 350, and I averaged 20 mpg overall. These aren’t big numbers, but they are on par with the competition. The six/six combination is silky smooth, with ample power and a quiet disposition. All Wheel Drive models are most popular in the Snow Belt regions, such as mine in upstate New York, and Lexus’ AWD system is new for 2010.
The electronically controlled system varies the torque distribution from 100 percent to the front wheels to as much as a 50/50 front/rear split, according to road conditions and driving dynamics. The setup is fully automatic, requiring no input from the driver.
Hill-Start Assist is a new addition to the standard equipment list. When starting out on an incline, this feature maintains brake pressure for about two seconds after you remove your foot from the pedal, allowing for a smooth forward advance without rollback. On the road, the RX 350 is composed and quiet. The new design double-wishbone suspension provides a comfortable ride, regardless of the length of your trip.
The interior of the 2010 RX is well crafted, well appointed, and available with almost any conceivable electronic technology.
The Lexus crossover is big enough to seat five adults comfortably, along with a generous amount of cargo. Storage capacity ranges from 40.3 to 80.3 cubic feet, depending on how many seats you fold down. That process is made easier by one-touch levers, mounted in the luggage compartment.
Back up front, drivers can customize the fit of their accommodations with the standard, tilt/telescoping steering column, and 10-way power front seats. Most notably new on the inside is the dashboard design. The wedge-shaped center stack houses the main controls for HVAC and sound system.
Redundant audio controls are on the steering wheel. The driver’s view through the three-spoke wheel takes in a straightforward array of white on black gauges. The light-emitting diode display is bright and easy to read. An optional heads-up display projects key driving information onto the windshield, reducing the need to take your eyes off the road. The readout includes turn-by-turn directions, on vehicles equipped with a navigation system.
The RX is the first Lexus application for Remote Touch, an optional “joystick” used to access system functions (navigation, audio, phone). It replaces touch screen controls on the navigation system, allowing the 7-inch screen to be positioned higher and deeper in the dashboard, for better visibility.
Remote Touch is a more intuitive way to operate these functions, but drivers will need to log some study time with the owner’s manual to understand the workings.
Driving the latest edition in the series, it’s easy to understand the popularity of the RX. Prices start at $36,800 (FWD) and $38,200 (AWD).
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009