2018 LEXUS RX350

WILD LOOK, LEXUS QUALITY

The Lexus RX350 is by far the most popular luxury SUV in the U.S. Over 110,000 passed through dealer’s doors in 2018. This despite the fact that the RX features very aggressive styling that is polarizing. Some have likened it to something from Star Wars, with its sharp angles, bold character lines and a scary-looking spindle-shaped grille. But the styling notwithstanding, there is a lot to like about this Lexus.

 Step inside the RX, and the contrast with the exterior is striking. It exudes subtle luxury. Rich leather seats on my test car looked elegant in a dark red color. Brushed silver trim on the dash and doors added just the right amount of contrast to the dark gray finish. Seats front and rear coddle passengers. Head- and legroom are excellent. Storage capacity in the rear is more than adequate at 18.5 cubic feet.

But all is not sweetness and light. The infotainment system leaves something to be desired. It features a large enough (12.3-inch) display, but it’s controlled by a troublesome mouse-like device. The mouse is overly sensitive, so that the curser jumps around on the screen. it is easy to miss what you want to select. Furthermore, there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Operating an app, like Pandora, can be a hassle. Fortunately, redesigned Lexus cars now have these electronic upgrades, as well as a more user-friendly touchpad controller.

Under the hood, Lexus offers a choice of two different powerplants, a 3.5-liter V-6 (the RX350), or the same engine paired with an electric motor in the RX450h. The gas engine generates 295 hp., and the gas/electric pumps out 308. Both are teamed with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The RX450h also gets standard all-wheel drive. My test car was a RX350, and it accelerated briskly, and the engine never sounded strained.

Both the RX350 and the hybrid RX450h come in standard trim and with the F-Sportpackage. (There is also a longer, seven-seat version, the RX450hL, which will be reviewed separately.) The base RX models are equipped with the expected niceties, like a power tailgate, navigation and rain-sensing windshield wipers. But more importantly, they also come with the Lexus Safety System, which includes frontal-collision warning and braking, adaptive cruise control and a lane departure monitor.

The F-Sport versions increase the macho factor with 20-inch wheels, lower body cladding and aluminum pedals for the driver. Furthermore, there are luxury upgrades, such as distinctive leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel and an adaptive suspension.

Behind the wheel, my F-Sport test car handled predictably in everyday driving. The adaptive suspension stiffened moderately when cornering. And when the “S-Sport” feature was engaged, the steering tightened, the throttle response quickened and shift points adjusted. However, the steering did not convey much feel of the road, and the RX ran wide when pressed hard into turns. This is not an SUV you buy for its sportiness. Its strong suits are its plush ride and its quiet cabin. This is an SUV you can drive long distances and not feel tired.

Pricing for RX350 starts at $44,595. The RX450h starts at $51,745. The F-Sport adds $5,650 to the bottom line of the RX350 model, and $5360 to the hybrid version.

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