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2010 Lexus RX 350 - Soft, Squishy, Safe and High

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Ok, let me say this upfront -- I am not a huge fan of the SUV/crossover category. I prefer a different type of vehicle and one that differs from the Lexus philosophy of driver involvement. Which is to say somewhere between clobbered into a comatose state and numbed out with a double dose of Novocain.

Yet, all that having been said, I can see the appeal of this car to many buyers. In fact, it was Lexus bestselling vehicle for quite some time, right up until the economic collapse that killed luxury car sales.

I had a chance to drive the 2010 Lexus RX350 and examine its interior bits and poke around the car. This car is the embodiment of Lexus from my point of view. Lexus may want you to think of solidity, comfort, flawless execution and reliability. Oh, and good resale value. However, the impression it and all Lexus vehicles make on me is that they are soft, squishy and safe. And in this particular case, high-up. That sounds mean, but it isn't meant to be. Let me explain.

Soft

Lexus might make a few performance cars, but none is a hard-edged vehicle with the exception of the exceptional LF-A supercar. They might have sharper steering than before, they might handle more deftly, but they are Japanese in nature. They are accommodating, they are clear in their purpose, they are reliable and generally inoffensive. But to be all those things, they need to have the hard edges sanded off, and they need to be comfy. And the RX350 is just that. It's soft like a pair of loafers that you love, or a great couch that you can sink into.

There is a certain softness to the RX350 from how the seats hold you, to the softness of the doors closing (either the remote hatch release, or just the gentle thud of the passenger and driver doors). When you roll through the radio stations, there is just enough soft feedback in the buttons and knobs to let you know you did something, but no audible and annoying clicks or beeps. Even the outside design looks beveled and honed to have the hardness removed and give you softness. It is not about the straight edge, it is about the gentle, soft curve, inside and out.

And more than anything, the ride is a genuinely controlled Lexus softness on 4 large wheels. I live in a snowy clime, in a city that has long viewed a smooth road as a suspicious Platonic ideal. I use the word "ideal" because it is something pretty unattainable (like a good credit rating score) and pie-in-the-sky. In reality, the roads in my city are a cross between Viet Cong shelled donkey route and a 7th century unrepaired cobblestone path. With a thin layer of asphalt just to keep the local Mafioso with a good income.

So after plowing through the snow with the electronic transfer case locked for a 50:50 split and then bounding over potholes large enough to lose babies in, I marveled at how good the ride is. Soft, but controlled. But soft. As the intended buyer of this car wants it. It is a pillow and couch with nice leather and a layer of down.

Squishy

Whether you grab the squishy steering wheel, or mash on the squishy brake pedals to test out the stopping power (which is good), you know this thing isn't a European vehicle. It has "North American lazy mall shopper" written all over it. It has got "Pass me. I'm in the slow lane now" etched into the engine block. It squishily says, "I am a little fat, round and soft. And I am happy with that."

Squishy means you don't slam the power down, cuz you will get sea sick. You gently roll around in this car. You creep up to crusing speed. You cruise, you shop, you go to dinner in this car. Maybe pick up the kids or grandkids. You take it to the club. And if you have had a stressful day, you drive this thing a little like a stress ball and squish your anger out. Especially as soon as you give it the boot or the brake and realize, whoa! I should chill out, old squishy RX350 is telling me to take it easy. And then you do. I guess squishy is therapeutic.


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