2012 Lexus RX 350 Preview

August 22, 2011

2011 Lexus RX 350

2011 Lexus RX 350

Sometimes it pays to leave a good thing well enough alone. At least, that’s what comes to mind when looking at the 2012 Lexus RX 350 five-passenger family luxury crossover SUV. According to the automaker, changes to the 2012 RX 350 are “minimal.”

There is an exterior paint color change: Nebula Gray Pearl replaces Smoky Granite Mica.

If that doesn’t get family buyers excited, however, the popular RX 350 has a whole lot more going for it. As a luxury family crossover, it’s available in front-wheel drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD), is spacious, luxurious and comfortable and offers a great deal of standard and optional connection, convenience and safety technology.

In fact, it’s the focus on safety that’s probably the biggest highlight of the third-generation mid-size luxury crossover. Consider the following standard safety equipment:

-      10 standard airbags, leading the segment, according to the automaker: side-curtain, front seat-mounted side airbags, rear side airbags for outboard occupants, and driver and front passenger knee airbags. If a predetermined threshold of vehicle tip-up is detected, a roll sensor signals the side curtain airbags to inflate.

-      Start Stop Technology, a braking system enhancement, automatically reduces engine power when the driver applies the brake and accelerator pedal simultaneously under certain conditions.

-      Hill Start Assist Control uses brake pressure to prevent the RX 350 from rolling backward when started on an incline. But the system doesn’t wait to detect rollback, as it can be controlled by the driver and works in both forward and reverse.

Optional safety technology is also impressive:

-      Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) handling technology governs all of the RX 350’s dynamic handling systems: Anti-lock Braking System, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control and seamlessly employs them to make corrections when the system anticipates loss of vehicle control.

-      The available Pre-Collision System with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control uses millimeter-wave radar to help maintain a pre-set following distance from a vehicle traveling ahead. If the system senses an imminent collision, it retracts the front seat belts and pre-initializes Brake Assist for increased braking ability the instant the driver applies the brakes.

-      Intelligent Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS) is available for RX 350 models equipped with HID headlamps. AFS estimates where a vehicle will be when entering a corner and adjusts the headlights’ lateral aim. The system includes an auto-leveling function and can be switched off by the driver.

-      An automatic high beam system uses a camera mounted in the inner rear view mirror to switch between high and low beams in response to oncoming traffic and vehicles traveling in front.

-      Optional wide-view side camera and back-up camera provide greater driver visibility at low speeds.

A 2011 Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), since the 2012 RX 350 is essentially carryover, the top safety status should also carry over. As for crash test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2012 Lexus RX 350 (FWD and AWD) receive an overall four-star crashworthiness rating.


Power comes from the 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine mated with a six-speed electronically controlled transmission with intelligence (ECT-i). This is a five horsepower decrease from the previous year. At peak, the RX 350 generates 248 pound-feet of torque (compared with 257 pound-feet of torque for the 2011 model). The new fuel recommendation is for 87-octane gasoline, which Lexus says will result in lower cost of ownership.

In a review of the 2011 Lexus RX 350, TheCarConnection gave the luxury family crossover a 8 (out of 10) rating, saying, “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.”


Whereas last year’s RX 350 came standard with a 12-speaker premium audio system, for 2012 the standard audio is a nine-speaker system with six-disc changer. A 12-speaker audio system comes with the optional Comfort Package or rear-seat entertainment system. For ultimate listening pleasure, there’s the optional 15-speaker, 330-watt Mark Levinson 7.1-channel Surround Sound system.

While Lexus Safety Connect is standard with all RX 350 models, the Lexus Enform Safety Connect telematics system is on all vehicles equipped with the optional navigation system.

There’s also an optional Heads-Up Display.

Bottom line: The 2012 Lexus RX 350 offers comfortable luxury in a capable, family-friendly crossover.


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