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TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Lexus RX 350 in order to give you an expert opinion in this Bottom Line. TheCarConnection.com's SUV experts also researched available road tests on the new Lexus RX 350 to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.
The RX 350 remains the best-selling Lexus model and outpaces competitors at a rate of nearly three to one. For 2009 the Lexus remixed the color palette of the RX 350 but otherwise left the SUV alone in preparation for its replacement in 2010.
When Lexus originally launched the RX series, there were precious few SUVs and even fewer crossovers, so the Lexus RX was an immediate hit. Based on a unit-body car platform rather than a heavy-duty truck frame, Lexus can be credited for pioneering the crossover-style SUV. Crossover utility vehicles offer a better ride, as well as improved handling and fuel economy compared to 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 2009 RX 350 is a good-looking car in its own right. But because of its careful, conservative design evolution, it can be hard to tell the difference between a current and previous-generation RX.
The RX last received a redesign in 2007, but the most significant changes were under the hood. The RX got a new, larger-displacement engine: a 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 teamed with a standard five-speed automatic transmission. 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 mpg city, 23 highway for the FWD model, 17/22 mpg for the AWD version. There’s also a more fuel-efficient but more expensive hybrid version of the 2009 Lexus RX, called the RX 400h; it’s covered in a separate review.
Handling is perfectly predictable and a little unengaging in the 2009 Lexus RX 350 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. 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. Crash-test results have been unanimously good.
The 2009 Lexus RX 350 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. Other optional equipment for the 2009 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.
- Silent interior
- Superior refinement and quality
- Luxury amenities
- Smooth, powerful engine
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- Bland, ubiquitous exterior
- Handling isn’t great
- Premium fuel stipulation