2011 Lexus RX 350 Performance

7.0
Performance
Overall, the Lexus RX 350 feels refined and relatively responsive, yet not at all nimble or exciting. Comfortable, luxurious family transport is the priority, and it's clear that this comes before performance.

The 275-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission, with a choice of either front- or all-wheel drive, move the RX 350 quickly and smoothly, with good power both off the line and for highway passing. The transmission calibration is also excellent, with smooth, buttery shifts when puttering along replaced by rapid, businesslike ones when your foot is mashed to the floor.

There's also the Lexus RX 450h, which pairs a 275-horsepower, 3.5-liter Atkinson-cycle V-6 with a version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive—one that, interestingly, electrically drives the rear wheels in all-wheel-drive form. Drive the hybrid gently and you'll glide from stops in electric-only mode, with the V-6 almost imperceptibly kicking on at 20 or 25 mph, typically. Drive it a little more rapidly, to go with the flow of traffic, and the V-6 thrums in the background, with the continuously variable transmission generally keeping the revs well below 2500 rpm unless you're close to full throttle.

The 2011 Lexus RX models accelerate quickly and handle competently enough, but there's little else to provide any excitement.

The steering and brakes have been significantly improved in the new RX, but it's all relative. While there's still not much steering feel and too much body roll to take quickly to a mountain road, the steering feels better-weighted and the brake feel more confident than previous models. However next to most rivals in this class, the driving experience feels quiet detached. RX 450h models are especially numb, with the steering quick and responsive but not relaying any feel of the road.

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