Lexus does a superb job of designing steering wheels. The wood used on the RX350's wheel feels luxurious and gives the impression that the vehicle is very substantial and smooth. It feels as if it were taken out of an LS460 and all of the positive tactile sensations came along with it. It's a good thing the steering wheel itself feels so good, because not a lot of feedback makes its way from the wheels that touch the ground to the wheel in your hands.
The new RX is an incredibly nice small luxury SUV. It's definitely not for me, though: not at this crazily optioned price, not with this lack of involvement behind the wheel, and not with the RX's ubiquity. It'd be much easier to find a less-common Mercedes-Benz GLK or Lincoln MKX in a crowded mall parking lot than an RX350.
Solid. That's the best way to describe the RX350 and may go a long way toward explaining why so many people buy it. Certainly, they are not after style. I actually admired the original RX (it was pretty rare back then to see a car from the factory with clear tail lights), but this latest model looks pinched in all the wrong places.
What's nice about getting into the RX350 is that you're immediately immersed in the lovely Lexus luxury cabin. It just hits you in the face as soon as you open the door, and it makes you feel glad to be climbing in. Our test car had a black interior trimmed in a dark, mahogany-type wood, and the combination looked fabulous. I like the asymmetrical sweep to the center stack. I appreciate the superb Lexus/Toyota navigation screen, the completely intuitive radio controls, plus knobs for volume and tuning. There's a great feeling of solidity to this vehicle. You get into it, and you realize why Lexus sells so many RXs. The RX has an extraordinarily smooth, refined, and powerful powertrain, and it goes down the road beautifully, as long as the road doesn't have too many curves in it. That's what most buyers want.
When the RX was introduced a little more than ten years ago, there were those (including the then-editor of Automobile Magazine) who said that a vehicle that didn't hew to the sport-utility formula of rough-and-rugged, go-anywhere off-roaders wouldn't succeed. But Lexus knew better, and the RX is now a seemingly ubiquitous presence on American roads. Never mind that it isn't intended for off-road use and that it's not aimed at enthusiastiastic drivers, the RX is a vehicle that is comfortable, practical, and luxurious. Everything in it feels solid and well put together. Of course, it doesn't come cheap. The seemingly reasonable sub-$40,000 base price is just a starting point, as the vehicle we tested was larded up with more than $15,000 of extras, including a $4980 rear seat entertainment package, which seems really pricey but is apparently worth it to those who want to keep the youngsters occupied. As with all Lexuses, the seats are comfortable, the controls are well-designed ergonomically, and the driving experience is a no-drama affair. As has been Lexus's custom, they've hit the mark square on the head.
It shouldn't be surprising that this Lexus RX350 logbook is relatively sparse on driving impressions. This isn't a driver's car - and was never meant to be - and that's just fine. Instead, the RX does comfort, and it does comfort quite well. The cabin is luxurious without being lavish, and the seats are well suited to long trips. The engine is stellar. It is quiet and smooth when cruising, but provides excellent acceleration when you need it. The ride is generally quite nice, but I was occasionally surprised by how much the body moves up and down over bumps. The motion is never harsh or jarring, but it can get a bit annoying.