The Lexus RX virtually created the luxury crossover segment when it debuted in 1998, and now in its third generation, the RX line continues to set the standard. The RX was all new for 2010, and those changes are updated for 2011 with new features, colors and added refinement.
The RX 350 carries an MSRP of $37,975 and is equipped with standard 18-inch wheels; both a design touch with their five-spoke design, as well as an indication of the smooth confidence of the RX chassis. With an agile, fully independent suspension, the RX inspires confidence behind the wheel. The rear suspension is also packaged compactly to allow a larger cargo area without intrusion. Electric power steering ups efficiency and eliminates the need for the hydraulic oil of conventional systems, a benefit for the environment. Wheels on the RX can be upgraded to 19-inch units as well, putting 235/55R19 tires under each corner where 235/60R18s normally live. The lower-profile tires with larger wheels sharpen handling response thanks to stiffer tire sidewalls, adding an extra dollop of sport to the RXs reflexes.
A smooth and efficient 3.5-liter V6 engine powers the RX 350, putting out a stout 275 hp and 257 lb/ft of torque. The engine is equipped with Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence for a wide power band, and the valve train itself is updated for reduced friction, benefitting both fuel economy and power output. A six-speed automatic transmission with direct-downshift control finds the proper gear for conditions and can jump over gears when aggressive kickdowns are needed. That quick response helps the RX 350 feel like it’s clued in to what the driver is thinking, and in normal circumstances, the transmission has been designed and programmed to shift with the famed Lexus smoothness. Drivers looking to participate more in the experience can use the Multi-Mode Automatic Transmission's manual shift gate, too.
RX buyers can choose between front-wheel or all-wheel drive with the latter equipping the RX 350 with the electronically controlled Active Torque Control AWD system. With the ability to vary torque between fully front-wheel drive and a 50/50 front to rear split, the AWD system improves performance in low-grip situations and reverts to the higher efficiency front-wheel drive default when extra traction is not needed. Lexus has reduced the weight of the AWD system by 35 pounds from previous versions, and the efficiency of the system has been improved by 30 percent as well. AWD can also aid handling in dry conditions by sending engine torque to the rear wheels when the front tires start to slip in cornering and other maneuvers. An AWD LOCK function operates below 25 mph and maximizes the available traction.
The hybrid powertrain in the RX 450h increases the efficiency thanks to industry-leading gas/electric technology that is also available as front- or all-wheel drive and doesn't sacrifice any of the 40 cubic foot cargo capacity. The RX 350's already good fuel economy of 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway increases to 32 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. The RX 450h is both luxurious and exceptionally efficient.
All RX models carry plenty of comfort and convenience features like the SmartAccess key system that makes fumbling with a fob a thing of the past, automatic headlamps, dual-zone climate control and a premium audio system with nine speakers and Bluetooth functionality. Ventilated front seats are available optionally, and a 12-speaker audio system is part of the Comfort Package along with adaptive front lighting, intelligent high beams and rain sensing wipers. A rear-seat entertainment system is also available and the ultimate audio upgrade is a 15-speaker Mark Levinson Surround Sound system with a 7.1 channel environment, a system you'll only find in Lexus vehicles.
Navigation is also available with a Hard Disc Drive system making DVD map discs a thing of the past. Voice recognition that understands casual language is a feature of the navigation system that's unique to Lexus and makes the system easier to use.
Lexus Enform with Safety Connect are telematics and safety enhancements that carry a complimentary subscription. Safety Connect is standard equipment on all Lexus vehicles, and the navigation option brings with it Lexus Enform. Safety Connect puts emergency services right at your fingertips, and Enform further enhances the capabilities by adding XM services like NavTraffic, NavWeather and Sports and Stocks with trial subscriptions. Safety Connect call centers are at the ready to assist you 24 hours a day, and Lexus Enform's integration with the eDestination function at the Lexus Drivers website can send destinations wirelessly from the web to your vehicle. New for 2011 is a standard Brake Override System called Smart Stop Technology that reduces engine power if both gas pedal and brakes are applied at the same time.
Supporting all the technology is the classic Lexus interior comfort. Designed with the L-finesse philosophy, the handsome cabin envelops occupants and puts information and controls in clear, easily understood groupings. Human Machine Interface studies were used to make the controls easy to interact with and reduce distraction. The result of those studies is the direct impetus for the optional head-up display and innovative console-mounted navigation controller.
An easy-to-use vehicle that's packed with technology is a significant achievement, and that's what Lexus has done with the RX line. Standard 10-way power front seats are comfortable and supportive, and upholstery choices include high-quality fabric and two different types of leather, one smooth, one butter soft. Wood trim in Brown Walnut or Espresso Bird's-eye Maple are matched to the selected interior color and provide a rich warmth to the atmosphere. Larger items will fit in the cargo area, thanks to a rear seatback that's split 40/20/40, and the rear seat also slides and reclines, making the rear seats long on comfort as well.
Satin Cashmere Metallic and Stargazer Black are new hues on the color palette, and the body that the new paint colors adorn is an expression of the trademark Lexus L-Finesse design cues that lends a family appearance to all the Lexus models. There's an athletic stance with a broad-shouldered look with elegant brightwork used around the side windows to accentuate the sleek profile and lend a tasteful, refined appearance. The flowing bodywork has been worked over carefully in the wind tunnel for a low coefficient of drag of .33, which helps the RX slip through the air while sipping fuel.
Blessed with a distinctive profile that immediately identifies it as a Lexus RX, the latest iteration is as friendly as a custom-tailored suit made from the finest cloth, despite being filled to the brim with the latest in electronics and entertainment. The Lexus RX was the original luxury crossover, and it continues to number among the very best with its blend of comfort, efficiency and refinement.