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Lexus found an upper hand against the German luxury brands when it developed the RX. While Lexus lagged behind BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz with its sedans and coupes, the RX beat all those brands to market with a richly fitted tall wagon with all-weather, all-purpose appeal. To this day, the Lexus RX--in RX 350 and RX 450h hybrid editions--remains a comfortable, understated piece, with a loyal following of repeat owners and buyers not swayed by the recently arrived BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Audi Q5.
The RX is more practical, often less expensive, and has standout tech and entertainment features in a package that won't be seen as fiscally or environmentally irresponsible. It also has a long-established reputation for reliability and dealer service that can't be erased. They're upscale, but not ostentatious.
For the first time since the current third-generation RX models bowed, for 2010, they've received a light refresh. The 2013 Lexus RX models get a version of the new 'spindle grille' that's already made its debut in the GS sport sedans, which makes it just a little menacing in our opinion, while all the snub-nosed, blunt-shouldered purposefulness--crossed with soft elegance--of the current generation's design remains. LED running lamps, new rear taillights, and a few new colors are the extent of the exterior changes, while inside there's a new steering wheel, contrast stitching for the leather, and a redesigned center console.
New for 2013 on front-wheel-drive models is a Sport Appearance Package that includes a unique front bumper, halogen headlamps and superchrome-finished 19-inch wheels.
If there's a clear pronouncement to make about the RX 350 and 450h, it's that performance takes second stage to comfort and luxury. While parents or empty nesters will find the RX plenty responsive in either guise, it's seldom exciting, edgy, or nimble, and there's a muted feeling to all of the driving inputs. Power comes from a 275-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive an option. Even with the heavier AWD system, the RX 350 steps off the line quickly and smoothly, and shifts during passing are quick yet downright seamless. Hybrid models perform nearly as well--in an absolute sense, though they manage to mute out even more of the outside world through the steering and brakes.
The 2013 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h are plush, yet not over-the-top lavish, and just a short ride in one is enough to see why it's such a popular choice for upscale realtors who don't want to look to filthy rich. There's a certain wholesomeness about the practical design, and its versatile seating is roomy and accommodating for four adults; at the same time, it's supremely smooth and quiet, with the passenger experience about as refined as you'll find in flagship luxury sedans like Lexus' own LS. Our only gripe remains that the standard front seats are a little flat and have odd back contouring, while the ride can be sharper (though still not rough) with the 19-inch wheel options.
Lexus vehicles have a reputation for being not just refined and comfortable, but also for being exceptionally well-equipped. That's definitely the case here in the 2013 RX 350 and RX 450h; you'll find a comprehensive list of comfort and convenience features, while options are pretty much limited to interior upgrades and top-notch infotainment systems. Major options include leather; a USB port; navigation with real-time traffic; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; and a superb Mark Levinson sound system. The Remote Touch controller remains a mandatory part of the interface that we're conflicted about, but nearly everyone will like that the new Enform system enables apps for Pandora streaming audio and other information services.
- Plush interior, plush ride
- Easy to enter and exit
- Tech options like head-up display
- Fuel-efficient RX 450h hybrid
- Upscale (but not highfaluting) reputation
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- Unengaging driving experience
- Anonymous styling
- Remote Touch controller feels out of place
- Base front seats