2008 Lexus RX 350 Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 18, 2008

The 2008 Lexus RX 350 has a well-earned reputation for luxury, but fun is off the menu.

TheCarConnection.com's editors read the latest reviews on the new 2008 Lexus RX 350 to write this comprehensive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove the Lexus RX 350. These experiences enable this team to offer you a definitive opinion on this luxurious mid-size SUV. This review also compares the 2008 Lexus RX 350 with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

A decade ago, the world had precious few SUVs and almost no crossovers, so the concept was completely fresh. With the RX series, Lexus pioneered the crossover-style SUV, based on a unit-body car platform rather than a heavy-duty truck frame. Crossover utility vehicles offer a better ride, as well as improved handling and fuel economy than truck-based SUVs, but they still deliver many of the features buyers want in an SUV: more cargo space than a car, a better view over traffic, and a sense of security that accompanies an elevated driving position.

The Lexus RX was an immediate hit. Since then, this mid-size crossover SUV has been totally redesigned once (in 2003 as the RX 330) and was last revised in 2007. Then it received the larger engine it still uses today and got its name changed to the Lexus RX 350. It remains the best-selling Lexus model and outpaces in-class competitors at a rate of nearly three to one.

The 2008 Lexus RX 350 crossover vehicle will sport the same price it did as a 2007 model, regardless of whether you specify a front-wheel driver or all-wheel drive. Lexus confirms all optional equipment prices will remain unchanged as well. For 2008, the RX gets some minor updates, including a new grille design and new chrome door handles. It's a careful design outside, with a little more luxuriant flair inside--and it's a little hard to tell the difference from the previous generation, a good-looking car in its own right.

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The standard engine in the RX 350 is a 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 teamed with a standard five-speed automatic transmission. Curiously, this same engine and transmission are used in the 2008 Toyota Highlander, but in that installation, it does not require premium fuel. The RX 350 accelerates from 0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds for the front-drive model and 7.4 seconds for the all-wheel-drive model. Fuel economy checks in at 18/23 mpg for the FWD model, 17/22 mpg for the AWD version.

The RX doesn't offer the big towing capacity or off-road capability of a true truck, but an all-wheel-drive RX 350 handles gravel and snow with ease, and it can tow up to 3,500 pounds with the optional trailer package. Handling is perfectly predictable, and a little unengaging, compared to the likes of the Nissan Murano. Stability control is standard, as are a driver's knee airbag and front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags.

Major optional equipment for the 2008 Lexus RX 350 includes a power-tilt/telescoping steering wheel with memory, an illuminated entry system that lights the door handles, scuff plates, and front footwells--and a wide-opening, multipanel moonroof. The Lexus RX also offers an available factory-installed rear-seat DVD entertainment system with a new-design 9-inch screen. Its optional navigation system comes with Bluetooth wireless technology.

Dynamically, the Acura MDX is a better-handling vehicle, and all of the other competitors listed offer available V-8 engine options that deliver much more power. Some competitors will carry diesel engines in 2009 models. If you need additional seats for kids, the Cadillac, BMW, and Audi all come with small third-row seats.

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2008 Lexus RX 350

Styling

The 2008 Lexus RX 350 hits a sweet spot of luxury and utility with its interior and exterior styling.

The 2008 Lexus RX 350 was one of the first luxury crossovers to hit the market. In 2007 it was redesigned, and reviewers from around the Web—including those here at TheCarConnection.com—are pleased by its rakish lines and sophisticated take on utility.

Kelley Blue Book notes that the Lexus RX 350 avoids "harder angles and squared-off edges favored by traditional SUVs" in favor of "matching rounded body contours with well-defined accent lines." Cars.com says “the RX 350 harkens back to an earlier Lexus — not quite cutting edge, but still elegant to my eyes.” Car and Driver says it’s "easy on the eyes," and Edmunds calls it “smooth and sophisticated.” Automotive.com feels “it's stylish and at home in the valet line at a fancy restaurant,” while its “beefy front bumper and pronounced fender flares are designed to suggest the rugged, off-pavement expected in an SUV."

This Lexus’ interior is as swank as its exterior. Edmunds says “you'd never guess this is an entry-level luxury SUV,” and reports that "real wood and leather trim on the console, door panels and steering wheel come standard and make for a rich ambience." Automotive.com notes "the instrument cluster in the Lexus RX 350 features three large, round gauges trimmed in silver, with legible script and near-perfect backlighting," and mentions "a new interior wood trim option...the Lexus RX 350 has splashes of walnut on the doors and center console and on its steering wheel." According to Truck Trend, "inside, the Lexus RX 350 2008 offers an additional wood trim color, Black Bird's-Eye Maple, on units with a light gray interior." Kelley Blue Book adds "cloth upholstery, signature Optitron electroluminescent gauges and real wood trim are complemented by a major assortment of comfort and convenience touches." Car and Driver sums it up: “This is 'sport' as in something off the Ralph Lauren rack.”

7

2008 Lexus RX 350

Performance

A versatile all-purpose vehicle, the 2008 Lexus RX 350 performs best as a plush everyday hauler.

Automotive experts at TheCarConnection.com find few complaints about the 2008 Lexus RX 350 in terms of power and performance.

Automotive.com reports that the Lexus RX 350 is "powered by a 3.5-liter dual-overhead-cam V6 engine that delivers 270 horsepower...[which] takes the RX beyond snappy to a feeling of real power without sacrificing the trademark smoothness...[it] is so powerful that it responds aggressively, even abruptly, to anything more than a bit of gas [and] takes a bit of practice to adjust to the throttle response." According to Kelley Blue Book, it only gets better from there: "smooth and free-revving, it makes a very enthusiastic 251 pound-feet of torque.” Edmunds says, “Performance is swift and silent.” Truck Trend notes that the V-6 "harnesses the benefits of advanced technologies to optimize performance, fuel economy and low emissions...enabling the Lexus RX 350 to sprint from zero to 60 mph in just 7.3 seconds for the FWD model and 7.4 seconds for the AWD model."

The Lexus RX 350 2008 transmission is equally impressive: Automotive.com reports
"the five-speed automatic makes good use of the power from the RX 350's engine...it quickly kicks down a gear or two when the driver dips the accelerator, and holds that gear all the way to the redline when the pedal is floored, before shifting up smoothly and smartly." Kelley Blue Book tells us that "included in the Lexus RX 350 2008 Performance Package is sequential shifting."

The RX doesn't offer the big towing capacity or off-road capability of a true truck, but an all-wheel-drive RX 350 handles gravel and snow with ease, and it can tow up to 3,500 pounds with the optional trailer package.

One would not expect a vehicle such as the 2008 Lexus RX 350 to have stellar fuel economy, but this one does reasonably well for itself, according to Edmunds: "fuel economy estimates are down this year due to revised EPA testing procedures, but the RX is still efficient for such a powerful SUV...ratings are 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway for the FWD model and 17/22 for the AWD version."

The Lexus RX 350’s handling is perfectly predictable, but a little unengaging compared to the likes of the Nissan Murano. Automotive.com reports that "it's easy to drive and easier than most SUVs to park, with light steering and responsive brakes...RX 350 is smooth in just about any situation, [and] travels over rough, broken, pavement without jostling whoever is inside, but it does not float." Cars.com is in agreement on this point: "it handles deep rush hour with light and lively controls and feels nimble." Edmunds suggests "the suspension is tuned more for a plush ride than sporty handling," advising that "those seeking a firmer dynamic should consider the 2008 Lexus RX 350 Performance Package." Nonetheless, it is a maneuverable vehicle: "a relatively compact 37.4-feet turning circle makes the RX 350 fairly easy to maneuver in tighter confines, while the available four-position air suspension can raise itself to clear obstacles, lower itself for cruising and even dip for easier entry and exit," contends Kelley Blue Book.

9

2008 Lexus RX 350

Comfort & Quality

There’s little in the area of comfort and quality that eludes the 2008 Lexus RX 350.

The 2008 Lexus RX 350 may not be at the very top of its class in terms of comfort and quietness, but it comes close. This is the conclusion of most of the reviews we've seen here at TheCarConnection.com.

Car and Driver says "the Lexus RX 350 2008 supplies five adults an immaculate interior, prolific luxury appointments...a very comfy middle ground for many." According to Automotive.com, "The Lexus RX 350 feels spacious when you settle in...luxurious and inviting...optional leather upholstery is luxuriously soft and slightly bunched...the seat bottoms are relatively flat, making it easy to slide in and out." As if this were not enough, Edmunds reports "the second-row seat reclines, slides fore and aft and is split 40/20/40 to optimize both passenger comfort." Kelley Blue Book notes that the 2008 RX 350 "pairs supportive 10-way power seats with a 40/20/40 rear bench that splits, folds, slides, reclines, and will comfortably handle two full-size adults or a trio of kids." No third-row seat is available, however.

Automotive.com reports "84.7 cubic feet of cargo space available in the [Lexus] RX 350. According to Edmunds, "behind that [rear] seat there are 38.3 cubic feet of luggage space; flip the seat down and cargo capacity increases to 85 cubes...highly refined it its operation, the standard power liftgate makes life easier when the Lexus RX 350 2008 is used as a beast of burden."

Automotive.com finds "the switches and controls to be among the best." Kelley Blue Book says the Lexus RX 350 cabin "has a quality appearance with an impressive level of fit and finish." ConsumerGuide states simply, "RX models feature exemplary cabin materials and workmanship." Edmunds praises its “rich ambiance.”

Finally, Kelley Blue Book notes that the 2008 Lexus RX 350 "cabin is well isolated from wind and road noise."

9

2008 Lexus RX 350

Safety

The 2008 Lexus RX 350 scores highly in crash tests, and it has ample safety features and some interesting options.

The 2008 Lexus RX 350 emerges from federal and private crash tests with great scores.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Lexus RX 350 five out of five stars for front impact protection and four out of five for side impact. The even more demanding Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awards the RX 350 2008 its top rating of "good."

Automotive.com notes the Lexus RX 350 2008 is "equipped with the latest in passive safety features, including seven airbags...safety features that come standard include the mandated front airbags, plus a smaller airbag to protect the driver's knees, [while] front passengers get side-impact airbags for torso protection... curtain-style head protection airbags span both rows and deploy to offer head protection if the vehicle senses the possibility of a rollover."

In addition, "advanced ABS, traction control and electronic stability control come standard" in the Lexus RX 350 2008.

Safety options, according to Edmunds, include a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, and rain-sensing wipers.

ConsumerGuide says the "bulky rear-roof pillars and narrowish tailgate window impede vision astern" in all Lexus RX models. TheCarConnection.com could find no other complaints about visibility in the Lexus RX 350.

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2008 Lexus RX 350

Features

The 2008 Lexus RX 350 offers the luxury features buyers expect from a Lexus—and one of the best audio systems on the market.

The 2008 Lexus RX 350 base model is fitted with an array of standard features, but many options are bundled into expensive packages.

According to Automotive.com, "cloth upholstery, automatic dual-zone climate control, a 132-watt AM/FM/cassette stereo with eight-speakers and an in-dash, six-CD changer, cruise control, privacy glass, automatic headlamps, 10-way power adjustment for both front seats, and leather trim for the steering wheel and shift knob" are all standard equipment. Edmunds adds, "The Lexus RX 350's level of standard equipment is impressive and includes a power rear liftgate, auto-dimming mirrors all around, wood interior trim, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, four one-touch power windows and second-row seats that slide and recline."

Options come in packages. According to Automotive.com, "the Premium Package includes leather upholstery, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, a roof rack, power moonroof and entry lights that illuminate the ground below the doors," while "the Premium Plus Package...adds high-intensity discharge headlamps that turn in the direction of travel...the Lexus RX 350 2008 Performance Package includes 8-inch graphite-colored aluminum alloy wheels with wider tires, height-adjustable air suspension, sequential-shifting transmission, and rain-sensing wipers." This source adds that "heated front seats can be ordered as a stand-alone option" for every Lexus RX 350.

Edmunds reports "available Lexus RX 350 2008 features such as a rearview camera, adaptive headlights (which swivel slightly in the direction you are turning) and a voice-activated navigation system mean that this midsize luxury sport-ute gives up nothing to the more expensive prestige-brand SUVs when it comes to technology."

They also note “a stunning Mark Levinson audio system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones” are offered, "but
the Mark Levinson system is only available as part of a pricey package.”

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June 21, 2015
2008 Lexus RX 350 AWD 4-Door

if i had to buy another on i would

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Very well built vehicle. In the Canadian winters the AWD is something everybody should have because you as the driver has more control of the vehicle. There are a few rattles 7 Years old, but nothing which... + More »
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8.4
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Styling 8.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 9.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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