First Drive – 2010 Lexus RX350

The Lexus RX350 is the class leader, the segment champion, it is what all others are measured against.  You get the idea.  Without question the competition is trying to knock this vehicle off its podium.  Most “car guys” hate the RX350 and for one reason, it is the essence of beige.  What’s beige you ask.  Beige is boring, bland, not dynamic, uninspiring and overall just blah.  Yet that seems to resonate with the general public in the U.S.

The RX350 is a cross-over utility vehicle that is front-wheel-drive based with optional all-wheel-drive.  The 2010 is the third generation of the RX cross-over.  The second generation RX was very evolutionary while the third generation is a slightly more drastic change, but still in many regards evolutionary.  Though, being evolutionary is not a bad thing, when you are the segment leader.  Lexus is doing something right with the RX and rightfully would like to keep the sales momentum going.  Losing market share over a huge redesign would be a nightmare.  So what is the reason this vehicle sells so well?

The entire experience of both riding and driving the third generation Lexus RX is easy.  Everything is easy: from the ingress into the vehicle, to the light steering, to the simple yet good-looking gauge cluster.  Things seem intuitive and easy to operate.  Everything has a buttery smooth feeling while operating the RX.  The transmission is smooth and never seems to have a rough spot, while the powertrain is refined. The ride is never harsh either.  The dual pane windows make the RX especially quiet as well.  The leather is soft and supple while at the same time the seats are supportive.  The family will definitely be very comfy cruising to the coffee shop in this cross-over.

As I mentioned above the exterior on the RX continues as an evolutionary design.  The styling is called “L-Finesse design” by Lexus and is used across the whole brand.  Highlighted by soft curves and flowing lines the CUV is not “sharp” like the Cadillac SRX styling.  Instead, it’s soft and inoffensive.  The whole front end of the RX does have more sculpting overall then the previous generation.  From the side view, the front fenders have a shoulder like line that continues down the side of the CUV to meet the rear taillights continuing into the rear bumper.  The rear has an integrated rear spoiler, which hides the rear wiper when not in use.  In my opinion, the exterior overall is improved from the last generation mainly due to more sculpting and more character lines that flow into each other.

The interior of the new RX has had a complete overhaul.  The center stack now has a swoosh starting in the center stack that goes across the front passenger seat onto the dash.  The center stack has a LCD screen in the upper brow that shows the radio and climate control information.  The materials all feel terrific with soft touch pieces placed almost over the entire cabin.

There was however, one piece of plastic that felt particularly out place.  This piece felt so out of place I wanted to make a point to talk about it.  The piece of plastic on the center console right to the left of the gearshift and it runs down into the center console between the seats.  This is the lone piece of plastic that felt ridiculously cheap and it was very hard.  It was out of place next to the soft touch dash materials.

Note The Ridiculously Cheap Feeling/Looking Piece Of Plastic

The gauge cluster had a cool blue hue that bled down from the top of the cluster.  The rear seats slid fore and aft to either increase rear seat legroom or rear cargo room depending on preference.  The seats also fold flat at the pull of a handle.  This is a feature I noted on the new Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain that I thought was especially clever.  This feature is notably absent from the new Cadillac SRX.

The powertrain as I mentioned was very smooth.  The sole engine choice in the RX350 is a 3.5L V6 putting out 275 hp and 257 ft-lb to either the front wheels while all wheel drive is optional.  The power it channeled through the six-speed automatic with manual shifting capabilities.  Rated at 18/25 mpg in front wheel drive I saw an average of 18.5 mpg.  There is an eco indicator that comes on when you are driving gently.  The RX350 I drove was front-wheel-drive and exhibited little to no torque steer (tugging of the steering wheel under hard acceleration).  Going around corners the suspension is soft and you will feel some body roll.  This is not a sports car or even a sporty CUV, though it makes no such claims.

The RX350 I had was equipped with both packaged and standalone options.  The premium package costs $2,400 and added things such as: USB audio connectivity, front seat memory, moonroof, power rear hatch and auto dimming mirrors.  Standalone options included: the integrated back up camera system which tied into the rear view mirror for $350, wood and leather steering wheel and shit knob for $330, heated and ventilated front seats for $640.  The total sticker price after destination came to $42,220.

Personally I never loved the last generation Rx350. Admittedly I liked it more then the first generation.  I somewhat feel the same way about the new third generation.  I am not in love with it but it is better then the second generation.  Clearly, I am not the correct demographic for this vehicle.  This makes sense as it would not be high on my personal list of vehicles to own.  All that said, I would have absolutely no hesitation recommending this vehicle to someone looking for a luxurious crossover to get from point A to point B.

Would it be my top recommendation in the competitive luxury CUV segment?  Only if the RX is what the person already wants to buy because really I have no reason to say it is a bad vehicle.  I just wish there was more engagement to the driving dynamics.

In the end, I can see why this is the class leader in the segment. With this third generation the Lexus RX has the goods to continue holding the sales segment title.  If I were to use cooking as a metaphor for the RX: the third generation has certainly had a bit of spice added for additional flavor, but the chef has not deviated too far from the winning recipe that made it the sales success it has enjoyed.

Full Disclosure- Vehicle was from a local Lexus dealership.

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