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STAYING THE COURSE

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Jan 18, 2010

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2010 Lexus RX 350 STAYING THE COURSE By Joseph Manalili A short while ago, I caught a glimpse of the re-designed Lexus RX-350 and did a double take. I wasn't sure it was a RX-350 because it looked much sportier, more solid, and, frankly, more masculine than earlier versions. I made a mental note to add that car to my if-my-car-suddenly-dies-and-I-have-to-buy-another-one list for consideration. The previous iterations of the RX-350 were certainly not on my list. They seemed designed with the rich soccer mom in mind with their odd shape and light ride. Sure, they had impressive luxury features but they were sort of boring to look at. I figured they were equally boring to drive, which I confirmed at a Lexus test drive event. They were sport utility vehicles that lacked sportiness. That can be said for many of these crossovers, but it seemed that other manufacturers tried harder to beef up their crossovers in order to take advantage of their height, size and room while making them powerful yet nimble. I did not feel the same about the RX 350 - until now. Maybe it was a week of test driving that changed my mind, but the new enhancements really toughened up the car. With a less rounded look and lines that convey more weight, the vehicle seems to have more heft in the right places, particularly closer to the wheels indicating a lower center of gravity and, thus, more stability. The sleek lines and the curve of the rear windows displayed aerodynamics without being too slick. With all that in mind and some anticipation, I turned on the engine at the press of a button and it roared to life.

With a 3.5-liter, V-6 engine, the vehicle has a lot of power ready to go - 275 horsepower to be exact. I tested it in a long drive outside the city where traffic was light. It had a lot of power in lower gears which was necessary to quickly get up to speed on our freeways. It does 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds. The vehicle really loves being pushed hard on long straightaways. The new RX weaves in and out of traffic with ease and distributed weight well with no body rolls or jerky movement. The cruise control feature works well and adjusts fine when traffic prevented a steady speed. In the city, it handles well and moves easily in tough conditions. Even with rain, the Vehicle Dyamics Integrated Management System (VDIM) anticipates the loss of traction at different times and adjusts accordingly. Overall, it is a very good driving experience. One of the most noteworthy attributes of the RX-350 is how quiet it is inside. Despite all my driving in rain, traffic, etc., the interior remains calm, smooth and quiet. Complimenting the serenity is a great premium audio system with an automatic sound levelizer, in-dash single feed 6-disc CD changer and XM satellite radio, and a plug for my iPod. I love these little features. They really add to the driving experience and notch up the enjoyment level. All of those features are controlled by a track-ball, which also controls the navigation, information, and climate systems. For those familiar with track-balls, managing the systems through this one device is easy to learn and use. The navigation system works well in locating my destination and providing easy to read directions. One nice benefit is that it actually shows the freeway lanes and any turn off lanes. That helps in avoiding unnecessary lane changes and following directions. Another great feature is the rear view camera that helps when in reverse. I found many of these features useful during my week-long test drive and wish I had them in my current vehicle.

Certain other features did not go over so well with me or with my passengers. Despite the premium package of leather and genuine wood trim, the interior does not seem as luxurious as other Lexus vehicles. In fact, I noticed some things, like the ceiling lights and sunglass case, are the same as the ones in my colleague's Camry. When you are paying so much more for a luxury vehicle, it's hard not to expect a more luxurious interior. The vehicle does have plenty of space for five passengers to sit comfortably, but they would not be able to bring much luggage. I traveled with two passengers out of town but we could barely fit three suitcases in the cargo hold. Luckily, we were light packers. Despite what I said about the trackball, I prefer a touch screen system. With the trackball, it's a little cumbersome to quickly navigate the system to change radio stations or to enter a new location to find. Overall, the RX-350 is a great vehicle to drive, with lots of pep and power. It could improve certain features including its not-so-luxurious interior and small cargo area but those are minor complaints when taking into consideration the total package. SUMMARY JUDGMENT Short of perfection, but pretty darn close to it for this third-generation take on the most popular of today's luxury crossover vehicles. For more information about Lexus products, go to www.lexus.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2010 Lexus RX-350 Price: $36,800 (base) $44,851 (as tested) EPA gas mileage ratings: 18 miles per gallon in the city / 25 miles per gallon on the highway Engine type: 3.5 liter Four Cam 24-Valve V6 Enginge with Variable Valve Timing (VVT-i) Horsepower: 275 at 6200 rpm Torque: 257 pound-feet at 4700 rpm Transmission: Six-speed automatic with ECT and sequential shift Drive configuration: front-wheel drive Steering: Power-assisted rack & pinion Suspension: Front: Independent, MacPherson struts with inversely wound coil springs, gas-pressureized shock absorbers, stabilizer bar Rear: Independent, double-wishbone with coil springs, gas-pressurized shock absorbers, stabilizer bar Dimensions Length: 187.8 inches Width: 74.2 inches Height: 66.3 inches (67.7 w/roof rails) Curb Weight: 4178 (base) 4343 (as tested) Towing Capacity 3,500 lbs.

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