2010 Lexus RX 350
MPG: 18 city/25 highway
- Nice improvements to a very nice vehicle
- Improved ride and handling
- Improved ride and handling
- Competitors have three-row seating for same money
- Just “OK” fuel mileage for non-hybrid
By Jim Prueter
RX gets redesign for 2010
The RX is a big deal for Lexus. Not only was the RX the earliest luxury crossover vehicle, it’s also been one of the most popular and the best selling of all Lexus vehicles sold in the U.S.
RX has never been the best looking, best performing or roomiest SUV, but it has always had a strong appeal to buyers. Sales surpassed the 100,000 mark in 2007, but were down to 84,000 last year in a declining economy and with customers anticipating a newly redesigned RX.
Redesigned yes, the untrained eye will struggle to see much difference. It’s still unmistakably RX in appearance. The front and rear fascias are a bit different, but the nose isn’t as sharply pointed and there are larger wheels; the frosted taillight effect remains a carryover.
The new RX is about two inches longer overall, 2.2 inches wider in the front track, and a 2.6 inches in back accounting for the biggest dimensional changes. What’s hard to explain is the gain of 470 pounds to an already portly vehicle, which now weighs 4340 pounds. Lexus tells us it has beefed up the RX 350’s structure to perform better in collisions. That could account for the extra heft.
More noticeable than the subtle exterior changes is a new interior that is completely unlike the previous RX in terms of design. Dash panels have a sweeping, futuristic look, pleasing soft-touch textures in a choice of solid or two-tone color schemes. Keyless starting is now standard.
Also new is the optional Remote Touch multifunction control system. Other manufacturers use similar systems, like BMW’s iDrive, Audi’s Multi Media Interface and Mercedes-Benz’s Command. Unlike those systems, Remote Touch is completely intuitive and doesn’t require a trip to the owner’s manual or night classes at the community college to figure out. Bravo Lexus.
To get Remote Touch, you’ll have to opt for the navigation system, which replaces the previous touch-screen interface. It is controlled by a small, square, joystick/mouse-like knob located just where your hand rests on the curved center console.
A pointer, operated by just an index finger, navigates the eight-inch dashboard screen. Point the large arrow at your selection and press one of the “Enter” buttons on either side of the curved hand rest. Programming any of the functions couldn’t be easier. The drawback is, the amount of time looking at the screen while controlling the pointer and making selections requires taking your eyes off the road. However, navigation functions are not operational while the vehicle is moving.
Front bucket seats are well cushioned and comfortable. Power operation is standard as are cloth seats, however, we’ve been told it will be nearly impossible to find an RX that isn’t equipped with leather upholstery.
Most adults will find ample backseat legroom and Lexus moved the backrest-recline lever from the top of the seat to the outside bottom seat cushion. The RX doesn’t offer three rows of seating.
RX is available in two models: the RX 350 and RX 450h hybrid. The hybrid has a blue outlined L logo badge on the grille as well as blue-tinted headlamps and “hybrid” lettering on the lower portion of the rear door.
We tested a pre-production front-wheel drive RX 350. Pre-production vehicles are about 90 percent of the final assembly line production vehicle. It usually means some trim parts aren’t assembled with the final texture, or panel colors could be off a bit. In this case, we thought our tester was near perfect, with the only noticeable missing feature being heated seats.
We thought the new RX had less noticeable body roll and lean during curves and cornering. There was no thumping, no harsh road feedback, and it is very controlled andquiet. The rear suspension has changed from struts to double wishbones, which, in addition to improving handling, creates less intrusion into the cargo area. The new electric power steering is an upgrade with a noticeably improved, light feeling.
The RX 350 is powered by the same 3.5-liter V-6 as last year’s RX and is rated at 275 horsepower, five more than 2009. There’s a new six-speed automatic transmission that replaces the old five-speed automatic. Lexus claims a zero to 60 time of 7.4 seconds and the RX will cover the quarter-mile in 15.7 seconds. We thought it had plenty of punch and performed exceptionally smoothly. Fuel economy is about the same as last year’s RX.
The hybrid RX is powered by a derivative of the 3.5-liter V-6, but it runs on the Atkinson cycle motor, like the Toyota Prius, rather than the Otto cycle of the old RX 400h. That makes it more efficient in both mileage and in exhaust gas recirculation recovery systems. Power for the hybrid is up, from a combined 268 to a combined 295 horsepower.
Standard safety gear includes ten airbags, including two knee airbags and seat-mounted side airbags for both front- and backseat occupants. Head-protecting side curtain airbags span both rows, active head restraints, antilock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control are also standard.
Optional safety gear includes a backup camera but you need to purchase the navigation system if you want to view it on the eight-inch navigation screen. Otherwise, it’s available as a stand-alone option that uses a small screen in the rearview mirror to show what’s behind.
As of this writing the 2010 RX has not been crash-tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Overall we were more than pleased with the improvements to the new RX and enjoyed our time behind the wheel. The RX goes on sale later this month and pricing information has not been announced but we anticipate a modest, if any, increase.