- Overall quality
- Overall refinement
- Quiet ride
- Not the class leader in handling
- Requires premium fuel
The 2008 Lexus RX 350 has a well-earned reputation for luxury, but fun is off the menu.
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.
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.