2012 Lexus RX 350 Preview

August 22, 2011

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.

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