The 2012 Lexus RX 350 is relatively responsive and refined, but not at all exciting or nimble, and it's abundantly clear in even a short drive around the block that performance takes the second (or third) stage to comfort and refinement.
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, with buttery transmission shifts.
The RX tends to carry itself over roadways with the same muted, isolated feeling that its powertrains offer. Serious drivers will be dismayed that there's almost no affirming feedback through the steering or brakes,
In 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. In general, the driving experience is even more isolated in the Hybrid—numb, really—although you'll notice a few more vibrations and just a bit of engine noise.