The 2012 Lexus RX continues to win over drivers for its blend of impeccable attention to detail, inarguable practicality and choice of two distinct and excellent powertrains. It’s the vehicle that launched a thousand imitators, so why look at them when you can have the proven original instead?
Smooth, seamless power with standard and hybrid drivetrains
For 2012, there continues to be two models in the RX range - the RX 350 (MSRP $39,075) and its hybrid counterpart, the RX 450h. Both crossovers pack 3.5-liter V6 engines underhood, but how they go about their business is very different.
First, the RX 350: Its Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) six-cylinder engine is designed to provide maximum usable power across a broad rev range. It produces 270 hp and 248 lb/ft of torque, and more than 90 percent of that torque is available from 2,300 to 6,100 rpm. The V6 is mated to a responsive, electronically controlled six-speed transmission that can also be shifted manually when in “S” mode. Front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models are available, and the RX 350 delivers commendable fuel economy numbers of 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway combined with front-wheel drive. Adding the Active Torque Control all-wheel drive system still returns 24 mpg highway.
The Lexus RX 450h employs the Lexus Hybrid Drive System to deliver very low emissions and superb fuel economy without sacrificing any of the demeanor for which the RX family is revered. The V6 in the RX 450h is supplemented with a battery pack, electric motors and a continuously variable transmission, or CVT. The result is V8-level power and four-cylinder-level fuel efficiency. Total system output is 295 hp, yet fuel economy in front-wheel drive models is 32 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. The RX 450h AWD does quite well also, achieving 30 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.
Every Lexus RX, regular or hybrid, can be outfitted with a variety of luxury amenities. A nine-speaker Lexus Premium Audio system with XM Satellite Radio and a six-CD changer is standard, as is Bluetooth and full iPod compatibility via a standard USB connection. Two grades of leather seating are available including premium semi-aniline hides. In addition to the standard audio system, drivers can choose a 12-speaker setup or opt to go all the way with the audiophile-quality, 15-speaker, 330-watt, 7.1-channel Mark Levinson Surround-Sound system.
For additional confidence while maneuvering, the Lexus RX is available with a Wide-view Side Monitor System and backup camera. Drivers can switch the camera views by simply using a steering wheel-mounted button. Cars with the reverse can display the image in a 2.5-inch display hidden in the rear-view mirror in cars without navigation, or on the available navigation system’s eight-inch instrument panel display.
The aforementioned navigation system is hard disc drive-based, and can be operated via Remote Touch interface or by the built-in speech recognition. The Lexus Enform® telematics system not only lets you check sports scores and your stock ticker, but also adds NavTraffic and NavWeather information. Drivers who regularly have backseat passengers will be happy to know that a rear-seat entertainment system with a pair of headrest-mounted HD displays is offered. Furthermore, each display can show video from a different source, all controlled via a wireless remote and with sound piped through wireless headphones or the car’s audio system.
Safe and sound
Lexus RX models include a segment-leading 10 standard airbags, along with Vehicle Stability Control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist, Traction Control and Hill-Start Assist Control that keeps the Lexus RX from rolling backward on inclines. Drivers can also add the available Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. In addition to the basic benefits of radar-assisted cruise control during highway driving, the system uses the technology to detect obstacles and determine the probability of a collision. If it’s determined that one is likely, PCS retracts the front seatbelts and primes Brake Assist, so when the driver intervenes by pressing the pedal, more braking force is delivered. The Safety Connect™ feature that’s included with Lexus Enform can connect drivers to a response center 24/7 in the event of an emergency.
Still the best
The 2012 Lexus RX delivers style and substance that few other crossovers can match. Elegantly styled and luxuriously appointed, powerful and highly efficient, the RX delivers the utility and all-weather confidence of an SUV without compromising the qualities that make Lexus a luxury-vehicle leader.