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Boy was I happy when I got an SUV to drive. I had all kinds of stuff I needed to get and haul home. So I went out and loaded up the Lexus RX 350 with … (wait for it) three floating corner shelves! Then they looked so lonely back there in the cargo area I bought two surge protector extension cords. I can honestly say the RX 350 was not overwhelmed with all that cargo.
All kidding aside I enjoyed the RX 350. But even if I had needed to haul home something big I probably would not have done so. Let’s face it the RX 350, any Lexus for that matter, is not some utilitarian hauler to throw your junk into.
What it is, is a very nice five person SUV; or a tall station wagon if you like. The test RX 350 was an F Sport which means it has “Dynamic sport-tuned suspension, bold F SPORT styling, LFA-inspired instrumentation …” (the LFA is Lexus’ super sports car). The test RX 350 did not have AWD. And as I did not go to snow country I didn’t miss it at all. Front-wheel-drive is fine for me.
The RX 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter, DOHC, V6. It has a fairly high compression ratio (possible due to modern electronics) and it makes an under-stressed 295 hp (in some other models this engine puts out over 300 hp.). Even though it weighs 4,222 lbs. it can get to 60 mph in around 7 seconds, maybe a tad quicker. So if you need to accelerate quickly do not hesitate – the RX 350 will not embarrass you.
The only transmission available is a very good 8-speed automatic. In its normal mode you almost don’t notice the shifts. I did appreciate that Lexus (and Toyota) have retained a gear shift lever. There’s just something about having a gear shift lever. It is second nature to just reach over and there it is; pull it back and without even looking you know when it is in drive. For those that just have to shift an automatic transmission you can do that. I’d rather just let the transmission do its job, especially in a luxury vehicle.
One of the big pluses, at least for me, of a SUV is the ease of entry and exit. The RX 350 is not so high that I had to climb in nor so low that I needed a grab handle to pull myself out of the seat. The same can be said for the cargo area – loading stuff in and out is easy.
It almost seems ridiculous to talk about how a modern vehicle rides and handles (unless you’re one of the big magazines that seem to worry about skidpad or lap times). Even with the sport-tuned suspension the ride was not harsh.
The F Sport sports 20” aluminum wheels with 235/55R20 tires. The standard RX 350 has 18” wheels. I have to wonder where this is going to end up; will vehicles in a few years have 3 foot diameter wheels?
Any FWD RX 350 is rated at 27 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg around town. I didn’t drive the test RX 350 on the highway but around town the average fuel economy per the on board readout was no better than 15 mpg. Outside of one time when I accelerated hard I drove normally. I don’t drive hard but I do drive at the speed limit more or less. I doubt that too many prospective buyers buy any Lexus for the fuel economy so maybe it doesn’t matter.
The RX 350 starts at $43,820, with the F Sport starting at $49,470 according to the Lexus web site. The test RX 350 had almost $10,000 in options.