- Velvety ride
- Lexus service and reputation
- Remote Touch controller better than iDrive
- Available hybrid version
- Engine note is now noticeable
- Remote Touch still takes some getting used to
- Passionless driving experience
- Not much that's really new for '10
The 2010 Lexus RX 350 leaves few owners wanting more luxury or practicality, but the "passionate pursuit of perfection" could use a little more passion.
The 2010 Lexus RX 350 arrives in showrooms completely revamped—yet completely familiar to anyone who's driven the previous two editions of the five-seat crossover vehicle.
Sized at the larger end of the two-row crossover class, the 2010 Lexus RX 350 shares the familiar shape that spawned this entire class of vehicles back in the late 1990s. In this edition, it's lost some of its better details but is instantly recognizable as a Lexus first, an RX second, and a soft-hearted sport-ute third. The fastback may be growing ever more AMC Eagle-like, but the tall roofline and handsome proportions are still in evidence, as is a bit more sculpturing to fit with the latest Lexus theme of "L-finesse." Inside, the Lexus RX 350 has given up a touch of its refinement, though, with a newly styled interior that divides driver controls visually from the passenger zone—leaving a large swath of silver-painted plastic and a less sophisticated look in the place of the subdued, woody library feel of the last RX generation.
For the Lexus RX, 2010 brings a moderately updated drivetrain. The RX 350 sports a 3.5-liter V-6 with 275 horsepower (up a slight 5 hp from before), teamed to a six-speed automatic transmission and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive; the latter has an adaptive torque split for rapidly changing driving conditions. (There's a hybrid edition covered separately as the 2010 Lexus RX 450h.) The new transmission, with its extra forward gear, also has a sport-shift mode. And with help from the new "eco driving" light and a careful right foot, the 2010 RX 350 can be coaxed to 18/24 mpg fuel economy. The bigger surprise is the increased powertrain noise found in the latest edition, a little unexpected in a vehicle that's taken great pride in its isolation from the road.
Isolation is the story with the Lexus RX 350's road manners, too. There's absolutely nothing to offend in the feel of its electric power steering or its improved double-wishbone suspension—but nothing to excite, either. Ride motions are damped very well, though, and 18-inch wheels are standard, with 19-inchers available. Larger brake rotors give the RX considerably improved braking feel, too.
The RX's rear suspension is new as well, and it leads to the biggest improvement in the package: about 5 percent more cargo room behind the second-row seats. The area is more usefully shaped, too, and the two rows of seats continue to offer ample leg-, head-, and shoulder room for four adults (a third can squeeze into the middle of the second row for short trips). It helps that the RX has grown an inch or so in most directions, but the difference is only immediately obvious to your luggage.
Inflation has come to the 2010 Lexus RX 350 too—there are 10 airbags in all, curtain airbags and side bags for the rear seats among them. The RX also sports standard anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control on all models, as well as a hill-holder feature for safer take-offs on swoopy terrain. Optional safety equipment includes a dynamic-handling system that weaves together traction and stability control; a Pre-Collision System that uses radar sensors to detect a possible impact, then readies the brakes and seatbelts for an imminent crash; adaptive lighting; and automatic high beams. TheCarConnection.com will revisit the RX's safety ratings when NHTSA and the IIHS perform their safety tests.
Standard equipment includes a CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, and 10-way power front seats. The most controversial feature in the new RX is likely to be the available Remote Touch controller, which Lexus compares openly to the iDrive system from BMW and Audi's MMI. The controller is shaped more ergonomically than those click-wheel setups, and Lexus says it feels natural like a computer mouse. It can be used to control the navigation system—which is mounted farther away on the dash than in prior versions for better visibility. A head-up display is also available to cut down further on driving distraction. In TheCarConnection.com's experience, it's far more usable and intuitive than the click-wheel iDrive clones, but it's still a computer interface that can distract drivers, and it can take weeks to learn to use.
Other options include leather seating, a side-view monitor, USB connectivity for MP3 players, a Mark Levinson sound system, a hard-drive navigation system, XMNavTraffic, a rear-seat entertainment system, ventilated front seats, remote start, and a sport-minded suspension. Perhaps the most sought-after feature in the Lexus RX is the Lexus ownership experience; it's costlier than some five-seat crossovers and not the most distinct, but Lexus has long dominated customer-satisfaction and service rankings. What you give up in driving flair, you win back in ease of ownership.