2012 Lexus RX 350
By Antony Dickson
When you hear the name Lexus, the first thing that comes to mind is luxury. Lexus, as a brand, have successfully created a brand image that speaks opulence. All Lexus vehicles are proof to the fact. Every year, they keep getting better. The RX 350, that first made its debut in 1998, is growing in popularity ever since and is a best seller for Lexus. For 2012, the RX 350 is equipped with an array of driver-focused innovations and advanced safety technology.
The RX 350, an SUV by nature, drives beautifully on tarmac and is probably meant to stay on the road. I’d say most owners would not venture out on an off-road adventure in their RX 350s, even though it has the capabilities to tackle the wild. Simply because its too luxurious and plush to be punished on rough terrain. Given that, most SUV owners don’t really go off-roading. Most SUVs are bought either with safety or long road trips in mind. The RX 350 covers both these aspects, in style too.
Step into an RX 350 and you will be welcomed by fine leather, wood trim and hi-tech gadgets all around. This 5-seater offers excellent space for all occupants with plenty of room in the boot to spare. The tester we had came with all the toys possible. Starting with heated and ventilated leather seats in the front to an amazing sounding 15-speaker system, the RX 350 truly puts you in the lap of luxury on wheels. The Mark Levinson Surround Sound system in the RX 350 is one of the best that’s out there. There’s even a pair of screens for the rear seat passengers equipped with a pair of headphones and a DVD remote control. Some features of the RX 350 include perforated leather seat surfaces, heated and ventilated front seats, a power rear door with jam protection, Lexus Adaptive Front Lighting System, a back-up camera, a heads up display and the Lexus Wide View side monitor system. it does not end here. The list goes on and on. It is in the luxury department that the RX 350 scores over its competition, some of which even offer a third row of seats. An interesting feature is the mouse-like controller that makes navigation on the screen controls make drivers feel very much at home and is very easy to use compared to others.
Driving the RX 350 is calm and quiet experience. The RX 350 is as smooth as it can get. The RX 350 takes in the worst of the potholes with ease without rattling the passengers inside. Inside the cabin, outside noise is barely noticeable and almost feels like your wearing noise-cancelling headphones. The excellent sound system further kills unwanted noise levels. When it comes to performance, the 3.5 litre V6 under the hood, provides a good amount of power. The engine pumps out a peak 270 horsepower and up to 248 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration is smooth, maybe too smooth for enthusiasts. I personally thought it needed more oomph for some added excitement. But a lot of drivers prefer the smoothness that gives a comfortable ride instead of a jerky ride usually felt in performance vehicles. The RX 350, however, gets off the mark pretty quick. This engine is mated to a sequential shift six-speed Super Electronically Controlled automatic transmission, giving the RX 350 quick, smooth acceleration while delivering impressive fuel efficiency. I averaged a little over 12 litres/100 km in combined city/highway driving. The RX 350’s power plant is enhanced with an engine oil cooler, stainless steel exhaust system, and heavy-duty battery, starter, alternator and heater.
The RX 350 handles well in all weather conditions thanks to the all-wheel-drive system equipped with the Active Torque Control System, which automatically adapts to changing road conditions by adjusting front and rear torque for optimum traction, performance and efficiency. The available Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system utilizes a sophisticated network of sensors that monitor everything from speed, to steering, to braking and can anticipate a loss of traction and correct it before it occurs. So even an amateur driver can tackle almost all kinds road conditions with this system.
The RX 350 does very well in the safety department too. The 2012 Lexus RX 350 includes all the same safety features that have made the RX a 2011 Top Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. All RX 350 models are standard equipped with Lexus active safety technologies designed to protect occupants by helping drivers avoid accidents in the first place. These include Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Antilock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA) enhancements, and Lexus Smart Stop Technology (SST). The RX 350 surrounds driver and passengers in a class-leading suite of 10 airbags, including dual-stage driver and passenger airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, front seat mounted side airbags, rear seat side airbags, and side roll-sensing curtain airbags.
The RX 350 is now available in seven trim configurations, ordered as the well equipped standard model, or enhanced with a choice of the Premium Package 1, Premium Package 2, Touring Package, Sport Package, Ultra Premium Package 1 or Ultra Premium Package 2. The RX 350 starts from $44,950. However our tester, equipped with the Ultra Premium Package 2 was priced over $66,000.
Overall, the RX 350 is a great SUV though some may find it quite sober. Performance enthusiasts would definitely opt for more aggressive SUVs such as the BMW X5, the Acura RDX or the Audi Q5. Most women, I found out, showed a special liking to this SUV. Someone who wants a calm and quiet ride with all the toys possible, the RX 350 delivers on all counts.