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.
I do have a few complaints. The climate controls look quite outdated, as they do on several modern Lexuses. Additionally, at night, there was no backlighting to identify the temperature and passenger temperature buttons. Instead, the only glowing elements are uncolored arrows. Could be fan speed, could be temperature. Who knows? Finally, there's the token Toyota digital clock, which looks like it was adapted from a McDonald's Happy Meal digital watch. This element deserves better integration into the interior and should have been done ten years ago.
I was surprised by how intuitive the mouse/joystick navigation controller was. Lexus has integrated a trick feature that creates detents for the joystick that correspond to the buttons showing on the screen at any given time. The natural tactile feedback makes the system very easy to use - much like reaching for the preset buttons in a car you live with everyday. Compared to the touch screens and complicated menu structures offered by many automakers, this is an innovative solution. Despite my appreciation for this technology, I can't let Lexus off the hook for the bland, outdated look of the navigation screen. The dull gray color scheme and the poorly executed digital textures make it like a Windows 98 computer. Why not have the software to back up your premium hardware?
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor