2010 Lexus RX 350 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
February 24, 2009

The 2010 Lexus RX 350 leaves few owners wanting more luxury or practicality, but the "passionate pursuit of perfection" could use a little more passion.

The crossover SUV experts at TheCarConnection.com have studied the new 2010 Lexus RX and researched reviews from around the Web to compile this comprehensive look at the latest Lexus luxury SUV. TheCarConnection.com's editors also drove the 2010 Lexus RX to help you decide which vehicle is perfect for your needs and to provide you with the best shopping information possible.

The 2010 Lexus RX 350 arrives in showrooms completely revamped—yet completely familiar to anyone who's driven the previous two editions of the five-seat crossover vehicle.

Sized at the larger end of the two-row crossover class, the 2010 Lexus RX 350 shares the familiar shape that spawned this entire class of vehicles back in the late 1990s. In this edition, it's lost some of its better details but is instantly recognizable as a Lexus first, an RX second, and a soft-hearted sport-ute third. The fastback may be growing ever more AMC Eagle-like, but the tall roofline and handsome proportions are still in evidence, as is a bit more sculpturing to fit with the latest Lexus theme of "L-finesse." Inside, the Lexus RX 350 has given up a touch of its refinement, though, with a newly styled interior that divides driver controls visually from the passenger zone—leaving a large swath of silver-painted plastic and a less sophisticated look in the place of the subdued, woody library feel of the last RX generation.

For the Lexus RX, 2010 brings a moderately updated drivetrain. The RX 350 sports a 3.5-liter V-6 with 275 horsepower (up a slight 5 hp from before), teamed to a six-speed automatic transmission and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive; the latter has an adaptive torque split for rapidly changing driving conditions. (There's a hybrid edition covered separately as the 2010 Lexus RX 450h.) The new transmission, with its extra forward gear, also has a sport-shift mode. And with help from the new "eco driving" light and a careful right foot, the 2010 RX 350 can be coaxed to 18/24 mpg fuel economy. The bigger surprise is the increased powertrain noise found in the latest edition, a little unexpected in a vehicle that's taken great pride in its isolation from the road.

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Isolation is the story with the Lexus RX 350's road manners, too. There's absolutely nothing to offend in the feel of its electric power steering or its improved double-wishbone suspension—but nothing to excite, either. Ride motions are damped very well, though, and 18-inch wheels are standard, with 19-inchers available. Larger brake rotors give the RX considerably improved braking feel, too.

The RX's rear suspension is new as well, and it leads to the biggest improvement in the package: about 5 percent more cargo room behind the second-row seats. The area is more usefully shaped, too, and the two rows of seats continue to offer ample leg-, head-, and shoulder room for four adults (a third can squeeze into the middle of the second row for short trips). It helps that the RX has grown an inch or so in most directions, but the difference is only immediately obvious to your luggage.

Inflation has come to the 2010 Lexus RX 350 too—there are 10 airbags in all, curtain airbags and side bags for the rear seats among them. The RX also sports standard anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control on all models, as well as a hill-holder feature for safer take-offs on swoopy terrain. Optional safety equipment includes a dynamic-handling system that weaves together traction and stability control; a Pre-Collision System that uses radar sensors to detect a possible impact, then readies the brakes and seatbelts for an imminent crash; adaptive lighting; and automatic high beams. TheCarConnection.com will revisit the RX's safety ratings when NHTSA and the IIHS perform their safety tests.

Standard equipment includes a CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, and 10-way power front seats. The most controversial feature in the new RX is likely to be the available Remote Touch controller, which Lexus compares openly to the iDrive system from BMW and Audi's MMI. The controller is shaped more ergonomically than those click-wheel setups, and Lexus says it feels natural like a computer mouse. It can be used to control the navigation system—which is mounted farther away on the dash than in prior versions for better visibility. A head-up display is also available to cut down further on driving distraction. In TheCarConnection.com's experience, it's far more usable and intuitive than the click-wheel iDrive clones, but it's still a computer interface that can distract drivers, and it can take weeks to learn to use.

Other options include leather seating, a side-view monitor, USB connectivity for MP3 players, a Mark Levinson sound system, a hard-drive navigation system, XMNavTraffic, a rear-seat entertainment system, ventilated front seats, remote start, and a sport-minded suspension. Perhaps the most sought-after feature in the Lexus RX is the Lexus ownership experience; it's costlier than some five-seat crossovers and not the most distinct, but Lexus has long dominated customer-satisfaction and service rankings. What you give up in driving flair, you win back in ease of ownership.

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2010 Lexus RX 350

Styling

The styling of the 2010 Lexus RX 350 doesn't stand out, but that might be a positive to those looking for practical luxury. 

The 2010 Lexus RX 350 represents the next generation of the RX Lexus lineup, but the styling hasn't changed too drastically.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the exterior of the 2010 Lexus RX 350 still carves the same conservative, middle-of-the-road profile that Lexus is known for. Some reviewers aren't very impressed; Jalopnik says that Lexus "managed to take a boring but tidy SUV and crank the snooze up to 11." Others, however, appreciate the broad appeal of the Lexus RX 350.

The latest Lexus design language, which they have christened "L-finesse," works well on the Lexus RX 350, according to Cars.com. "L-finesse models have a clean, uncluttered look that's accented by sharp, angular design elements, such as the headlights," assesses Cars.com, and "the design theme doesn't diminish the RX's distinctive appearance." Edmunds finds the changes to be quite subtle, claiming that "to the untrained eye, it appears to be exactly the same midsize luxury crossover SUV as the 2009 Lexus RX 350," and while the "front and rear fascias are slightly different, and the wheels are larger...the basic silhouette is intact." Autoblog reviewers chime in by noting that the "sharp creases and broad shoulders [of the 2010 Lexus RX 350] give the RX a more hunkered-down appearance while still remaining innocuous."

The interior of the 2010 RX Lexus RX lineup gets a more significant makeover, boasting new styling elements throughout the cabin. Cars.com notes that the interior, "unlike the exterior, makes a bigger break from the previous RX in terms of its design" and is "offered in solid or two-tone color schemes," while the "dashboard has sweeping lines and makes wide use of soft-touch materials." Autoblog states that the interior of the Lexus RX 350 gets "a completely revised instrument panel, center stack and navigation system," while Road & Track mentions the addition of "an 8-inch navigation screen" as optional equipment. Car and Driver declares that the interior, though different, stays "conservative yet pleasing to the eye—parchment with brown walnut, or gray tones with charcoal maple."

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2010 Lexus RX 350

Performance

The 2010 Lexus RX 350 achieves, for most, a happy compromise between ride comfort and handling, combined with peppy straight-line acceleration. 

The 2010 Lexus RX 350 knows its role—comfortable family transport—and performs it well. As long as you don't expect sports-SUV performance, you shouldn't be disappointed by the latest RX Lexus.

Edmunds reviewers report that the 2010 Lexus RX 350 gets last year's 3.5-liter V-6 "and it's only rated for 5 horsepower more and 6 pound-feet of torque more than last year's version made at the same rpm. So that's 275 hp at 6,200 rpm and 257 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm."

Despite the Lexus RX 350's hefty curb weight—front-wheel-drive versions weigh over 4,300 pounds—reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the engine performs capably on the road. Road & Track notes that the RX Lexus offers "satisfying thrust—0-60 mph comes in 7.4 sec." Cars.com also raves about the engine, finding that their test 2010 Lexus RX 350 "[charged] strongly up hills without the 3.5-liter V-6 feeling burdened."

The real improvement on the 2010 Lexus RX 350 comes in the power delivery department, where reviewers love the new six-speed transmission. Edmunds calls the six-speed "excellent," noting that it "offers shifts that are as quick as they are smooth." Cars.com concurs that it "is very well-behaved; during slow or steady acceleration it changes gears smoothly, but when you press hard on the gas pedal it delivers quick, firm shifts that match the urgency of the situation." Car and Driver has good news for drivers seeking a more engaging experience; they report that the automatic has a "manual shift control" feature. As for drive wheels, front-wheel drive is standard, while Road & Track says that "all-wheel drive is optional, and now uses a clutch pack to shuttle torque rearward as needed."

Fuel economy isn't much to brag about on the Lexus RX 350, though it’s par for the course in this class. The official EPA estimates for the front-wheel-drive Lexus RX 350 are 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, while the AWD clocks in at 18/24 mpg. If you're interested in the RX Lexus lineup but want a more fuel-efficient alternative, check out the 2010 Lexus RX 450h, which TheCarConnection.com covers in a separate review.

The 2010 Lexus RX 350 gets a few performance modifications that increase responsiveness and overall drivability without sacrificing ride comfort. Compared to the previous Lexus RX 350, Edmunds says that the 2010 version "has a better feel for the road," with "less body roll" and "better [steering] weighting than the old hydraulic-assist rack." MotherProof is equally impressed, noting that "there's absolutely no roly-poly sensation, even on twisty roads during what we'll call 'spirited' driving." Braking performance is commendable, and Cars.com praises the "natural response" of the brake pedal on the 2010 Lexus RX 350.

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2010 Lexus RX 350

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Lexus RX 350 does almost everything right inside, except for an unexpected dose of road noise. 

The 2010 Lexus RX 350 has a lot going for it in this category, including vastly increased storage space, but in a major setback compared to the outgoing RX Lexus, the 2010 edition is uncharacteristically noisy.

Before delving into the Lexus RX 350's shortcomings (which shouldn't take long anyway), it's worth addressing its many strong suits in terms of comfort and quality. The first is evident as soon as you sit down in the front seats, which Cars.com says "have soft cushioning and are comfortable. Power operation is standard, but leather upholstery is optional," while "length-adjustable seat cushions for greater thigh support are newly optional." Edmunds notes that the "five-passenger seating layout" in the 2010 Lexus RX 350 is virtually unchanged, aside from the fact that there's a "0.6-inch increase in front legroom." In the backseats, Edmunds reports that the 2010 Lexus RX 350's wider track means that "rear shoulder room edges up slightly," but most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com express disappointment at the lack of a third row. Cars.com states that "the redesigned [Lexus RX 350] doesn't offer a third row, which the [Acura] MDX includes as standard equipment." Overall, however, by keeping the RX Lexus down to just two rows, Lexus can offer "generous passenger room" for all five passengers, notes Road & Track.

Despite only marginally increased dimensions, the 2010 Lexus RX 350 boasts a significantly larger cargo space. Autoblog says the Lexus RX 350 has "an additional 40 cubic feet of cargo space over the outgoing model," although Edmunds reports that "cargo volume with the rear seats folded down drops more than 4 cubic feet to 80.3." Edmunds attributes the increase in full-seating-capacity cargo space to the elimination of "strut towers," which makes the cargo bay "larger...and more usefully shaped." Inside the cabin, MotherProof points out that "there's a new storage space beneath the center console for a large purse...[and] also new underfloor storage in the cargo area for smaller items."

Interior materials are, for the most part, up to Lexus's high standards. Cars.com reviewers find that the interior of the 2010 Lexus RX 350 "makes wide use of soft-touch materials," although, unusually, "leather upholstery is optional (cloth seats are standard)." Car and Driver adds that "the leather feels softer than ever, especially the new optional semi-aniline variety," while "the seats have been redesigned to spoil backs and backsides better than an army of Swedish masseuses." The LED screens are also standouts, according to a Jalopnik reviewer who says, "a white Organic LED multi-informational display ensures exceptional readability from a wide angle."

The one unexpected downside to the new RX Lexus lineup is the intrusion of road noise into the cabin. Car and Driver says that "each RX [they] drove exhibited considerable wind noise emanating from the A-pillar area at highway speeds." Cars.com reviewers mention that the "noise from bumps was quite pronounced too," in addition to the road noise noted by the Car and Driver folks.

Crossover utility vehicles like the RX can straddle a fine and finicky line between comfort and safe handling, with some too bouncy and queasy and others too stiff and jarring. But the RX 350 strikes a great balance, with ride comfort an especially appealing attribute for the RX 350. Cars.com comments that the Lexus RX 350 "has a taut ride, but it's not firm to the point of being harsh" and "overall, the suspension absorbs bumps well."

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2010 Lexus RX 350

Safety

The 2010 Lexus RX 350 surrounds its occupants in an electronic security blanket to supplement traditional safety. 

The 2010 Lexus RX 350 boasts a strong safety pedigree, as the outgoing version of this iconic Lexus crossover was a safety stalwart. The Lexus RX 350 looks to continue this tradition of safety excellence with its wide range of high-tech safety features.

Unfortunately, as is the case with many brand-new vehicles, the 2010 Lexus RX 350 hasn't yet been crash tested by either NHTSA or the IIHS. TheCarConnection.com will continue to monitor both of these crash-testing authorities for updates on the 2010 Lexus RX 350.

Crash-test ratings aside, this 2010 RX Lexus has a lot of safety features to soothe the more anxious drivers among us. Cars.com reports that this RX Lexus crossover offers standard safety features that "include all-disc antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front and outboard rear seats, front and rear side curtain airbags, [and] knee airbags for front-seat occupants." Autoblog reviewers state that, "on the safety front, Lexus has thrown Campbell's alphabet soup surplus into the new RX, with the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system orchestrating the ABS, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC) systems."

Cars.com notes that one of the optional safety features they love is the "backup camera, which is included with the navigation system option." Other options, according to Autoblog, include "adaptive front lighting...the Pre-Collision System (PCS) equipped with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control that tightens the front seat belts and pre-loads the Brake Assist if the system detects the CUV bearing down on the vehicle it's pursuing."

In addition to the safety features found inside the latest Lexus RX 350, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that visibility is respectable from within the 2010 Lexus RX 350. As noted previously, a rearview camera is available to aid with visibility while backing up, and Car and Driver raves about the Lexus RX 350's "excellent driving position."

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2010 Lexus RX 350

Features

The 2010 Lexus RX 350 offers a lot of sophistication inside, and it doesn’t require a training course to use some of the advanced features. 

On the 2010 RX 350, Lexus's engineers have packed some of the best goodies into the cabin while still keeping it practical for families.

The layout of the controls in the 2010 Lexus RX 350 shows attention to driver needs, as MotherProof points out that "the new Remote Touch infotainment system puts all the controls you need at your fingertips with a video-game-like joystick. There aren't any separate buttons for the system that require you to look away from the road."

The latest entry in the RX Lexus lineup of crossovers, the 2010 Lexus RX 350, is available in just one trim level, so you won't have to worry about various standard features packages. According to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, all Lexus RX 350 vehicles come well equipped with high-tech features, such as standard Bluetooth connectivity. Autoblog says that "interior features include standard 10-way adjustable power front seats, SmartAccess keyless entry, standard 12-speaker stereo or 15-speaker Mark Levinson System [and] HDD navigation."

Car and Driver, meanwhile, simply gushes over the options, warning that if you "go crazy on the options list...it'll be a long day in the driveway" explaining all the new features to your neighbors. Car and Driver notes that "among the myriad standard and available features [for the Lexus RX 350] are a quieter climate-control system, USB/iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, radar cruise control, a reverse camera, nine- or 12-speaker audio system, depending on whether the hard-drive-based navigation system box was checked, and, of course, an available Mark Levinson audio system with 15 speakers and 7.1 surround sound."

The 2010 Lexus RX 350's numerous optional features get lots of press in major automotive reviews, but by far the most popular new feature is the Remote Touch interface. Cars.com says this RX Lexus "is available with a new joystick-like interface called Remote Touch that's the latest in a string of multifunction control systems," but unlike systems offered by some competitors, the one found in the Lexus RX 350 is quite easy to use. Edmunds was skeptical at first, noting that their experience with other systems led them to believe that "Remote Touch [would] be more cumbersome than using a touchscreen...but between the ergonomic controller, a responsive QWERTY onscreen keyboard and our two decades of mousing experience, it's actually quicker—a lot quicker." One of the system's cooler features, according to MotherProof, is that "a new voice-control system allows for more casual use" and will respond "to things like, 'it's too cold in here' and 'I want Chinese food.'"

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