Jude Morte / Jude Morte, Brent Co | March 12, 2009 00:00
RX for the premium crossover SUV deprivedIn ancient times, the "Rx" symbol found on many a physician's prescription represented the abbreviation of the Latin term for "recipe" or "concoction" for the sick.
Similarly, in modern automotive times, the RX branding on Lexus' luxury crossover SUV represents a great recipe for the premium crossover SUV deprived, sans the bulky exterior and imposing hugeness. And with the recent unveiling of its third generation, the RX concoction – this time as the P 4.208 million RX 350, to be exact – just got closer to luxury crossover SUV perfection.
For starters, the exterior has a dash of design inspiration from its IS 300 sibling, as the trapezoidal grille looks as if it was lifted from it. The grille's top edge bleeds into the Toyota Camry-like headlights, while the overall profile and window treatment mimics the outgoing RX. At the rear, the distinctive taillights that melded with the rear window (similar to the current Ford Focus) are gone, replaced by more generic units set into the more standard location below. However, an odd character line that juts downward doesn't do the chunky rear quarters any favors.
Inside, the softly padded but well-shaped front seats offer enough support to make an all-day drive comfortable. The steering column has power assisted tilt/telescope steering, while the rear seats are up high enough to provide proper thigh support. The latter also reclines and slides to adjust to a variety of passengers. The lack of a third seat option may seem odd to some folks, but consumer feedback told Lexus that current (and perhaps future) RX owners felt that the vehicle's size was just right and that a third row wasn't a mandate. In addition to optimizing occupant comfort, the multi-adjustable second row seats also make installing a baby seat easier. By sliding back, they allow more room for a parent to maneuver the seat into place, while the reclining feature can adjust to suit the angle of the baby seat when facing forward. Other creature comforts – such as a keyless entry and start system, electrochromic heated side mirrors, ultraviolet ray-reducing exterior glass, a Bluetooth-capable head unit, 10-way front seat power assist, noise/vibration resistant windshield glass, nine-speaker Lexus Premium audio entertainment and power assist for closing/opening the rear hatch make all facets of an RX 350 road trip more enjoyable and less of a chore.
Under the hood is a 2GR-FE 3.5L V6 engine that puts out 274 hp and 346 NM of torque, all mated to an all wheel drive setup and a six speed automatic (with sequential shift). Although 400 pounds more that the model it replaces, it manages to keep itself steady on turns of all sorts, thanks to a revamped suspension - featuring a rear double-wishbone setup that not only improves handling but opens up cargo space behind the seats due to its more compact design.
Another reason for the RX 350's weight gain is to improve its safety features. A bevy of active safety aids – ABS, Brake Assist, stability and traction control and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution – helps the vehicle decelerate or keep stable at all times. The passive safety stuff – including front occupant knee airbags and front/rear curtain shield airbags – envelops the occupants in a protective cocoon. An adaptive front lighting system makes night driving fun. Parking sensors make parallel parking and long backing easier, while rain sensing wipers help with visibility in all sorts of cloudbursts.
Lexus' newest luxury crossover SUV prescription makes it more appealing to small families and frequent haulers.