Even though the performance of the 2015 Lexus RX 350 and 450h is entirely competitive in its class, it's clear that it takes second stage to comfort and luxury. Parents or empty nesters will find the RX plenty responsive in either guise, although 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 RX 450h 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. They pair 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. Drive it a little more rapidly, to go with the flow of traffic, and the V-6 thrums on and off in the background, with the continuously variable transmission generally keeping the revs well below 2500 rpm unless you're close to full throttle. A Sport Mode was new to the Hybrid a couple of model years ago, bringing revised throttle mapping (with more aggressive tip-in) plus different transmission shift points, and that might make some difference.
Otherwise, there's plenty to The RX carries itself over the road with the same sort of muted, comfort-oriented feel that you'll find in the brand's other conservative models like the ES and LS sedans; the down side of this is that there's really no feedback to speak of through the steering wheel.
There is one model in the lineup for which performance doesn't actually take second stage. Go for the 2015 Lexus RX 350 F Sport, and in addition to a more performance-oriented look inside and out you get an eight-speed automatic transmission instead, along with steering-wheel paddle-shifters, special twist-spoke 19-inch alloys, and a sport-tuned suspension. Although we haven't spent any time with this model yet, it should bring a more eager, responsive driving experience without all that much sacrifice.