With some luxury car makes, money goes into expensive engineering designed to stretch the limits of performance. But unless you own a test track (or enjoy collecting traffic tickets), those dollars might as well be in your lock box at the bank.
In a Lexus, every dollar of the price shows up in soft-touch dash materials, buttery leather seating surfaces, magical sound-deadening architecture and moving parts as elegant as fine clockwork. In short, Lexus puts your money where your fun is.
The RX 350 is a good example of why Lexus still mints the gold standards of luxury crossover SUVs. Its refined 3.5 liter, six-cylinder engine packs only
275 horses; however, they are not mere nags but Lipizzaner stallions.
DRIVING IMPRESSIONS: Sliding into the perforated leather seats of the Mica Truffle RX 350 from Lexus of Chattanooga is bracing. Immediately, you feel the perfectly bolstered seats cradle your back, and your hands reach for the gleaming walnut steering wheel. The two-tone interior < parchment and gray < creates contrast with the brown walnut accents to create a perfect color mix. The whisper-quiet engine < this is a Lexus < is silky smooth until you ask it to sprint, and then it¹s off to the races. Steering is sharp, and hard cornering on a Highway 153 cloverleaf is composed and, dare I say, fun.
STYLE: The RX 350 was completely redesigned for 2010, and its exterior profile shows some handsome tweaks. A higher beltline gives the RX 350 a more pulled-together look, and chrome ground effects draw your eyes downward to the new, tailored sheet metal. Inside, the dash and center stack are simply elegant. A new computer-mouse sized toggle in the center controls the next-generation navigation system.
Our tester featured navigation, comfort and convenience packages, which boosted the bottom line about $9,000 but added the navigation system, 19-inch, seven-spoke alloys, 12-speaker stereo, moonroof and leather seating, among other niceties. Lexus¹ collision notification system is a nice new safety option.
BOTTOM LINE: Pound-for-pound, the Lexus RX 350 might be the best mid-size luxury crossover SUV on the market. These days, when even premium-brand buyers are weighing cost like never before, value is king. And being the best of the best never hurts.
Tested model: 2010 Lexus RX 350.
Color: Truffle Mica.
Engine: 3.5 liter, six-cylinder.
Transmission: six-speed automatic.
Fuel economy: 25 mpg highway, 18 mpg city.
Base price: $37,625.
Price as tested: $47,304.