Lexus RX350 Sport – ‘ADDING SPORT TO THE LUXURY’
The original, mid-size luxury crossover is still perfectly blending luxury with multi-activity functionality, and continues to raise the bar for design, engineering and luxury innovation to the segment it first introduced way back in 1998. The sport package with front-wheel-drive that I tested adds more aggressive looks and driving capability to the mix.
The RX350 teams a 3.5 liter, all-aluminum, DOHC, VVT-i engine with a six-speed multi-mode automatic transmission for an output of 275hp at 6,200rpm and 257lb.ft. of torque at 4,700rpm with 90% of peak torque available from 2,300 to 6,100rpm. That’s plenty of get-up-and-go power at launch.
The intake and exhaust manifolds have been tuned for enhanced performance and fuel economy. An insulated engine cover, styled in the shape of two cylinder banks, conceals the V6 to help ensure a quiet cabin while easy-access points facilitate routine service.
Dual variable valve timing with intelligence is used to control both intake and exhaust camshafts independently; optimizing engine performance at all speeds and loads. Refinements to the valvetrain, including roller rocker arms and slimmer valve stems, reduce friction and weight to further improve fuel economy. Also helping to enhance torque is the improved Acoustic Control Induction System (ACIS), which varies the intake runner length in response to engine speed and throttle position. The ETCS-i (electronic throttle control system with intelligence) softens throttle response during initial acceleration for smoother launch and to help reduce wheel spin and torque steer.
The RX350’s six-speed automatic transmission yields a quick shifting response with help from miniature high-flow linear solenoids that control transmission-fluid line-pressure. The torque converter uses a low-speed lockup damper to enable lock-up from second to sixth gear to help improve fuel economy.
When applying the throttle rapidly during kick-down, the direct-downshift control allows the transmission to directly shift from sixth to third or fifth to second, skipping the intermediate gears to achieve the quickest response. Under normal kick-down pedal application, downshift control uses the intermediate gears to ensure the smoothest shift is attained. ‘Shift-shock’ is further reduced. In automatic mode, the transmission is fun and easy to use whether you are going straight-ahead at speed, traveling up or down hills, or when you are maneuvering around slow city traffic.
The Multi-Mode Automatic Transmission allows you to shift manually when desired by first moving the gated shift lever to the ‘S’ slot and then pushing it forward (+) to up shift and backward (-) to downshift. An artificial Intelligence shifting (AI-SHIFT) control sets shift patterns based on the vehicle speed and throttle position and estimates road conditions and your input to automatically control the shift pattern. For example, when driving in hilly areas, AI-SHIFT can prevent unnecessary shifting. When descending hills, the transmission prevents up shift to achieve more engine braking.
Lexus offers its RX350 luxury utility models with a choice between front-wheel drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD). The RX350 AWD features an electronically controlled active torque control AWD system.
My test RX350 came with FWD with the Sport Package for enhanced looks and more responsive handling. The Sport Package includes 19X9in. 7-spoke alloy wheels wrapped with 235/55R19in. Michelin all-season radial tires, firmer springs, struts, gas-charged shocks and a thicker front stabilizer bar, plus a re-calibrated VDIM (vehicle dynamic integrated management system).
Lexus engineers provided the RX350 with an engaging driving experience with a smooth, quiet ride by engineering a rigid body structure, using vibration canceling engine mounts, strategically located sound deadening materials, an acoustic glass windshield and refined aerodynamic shape.
A key factory in the RX350 Sport’s handling agility is the uniquely designed double-wishbone rear suspension. Inversely wound front coil springs compress in opposite directions, preventing the negative effects of suspension compression of steering. The ‘sport-tuned’ suspension features MacPherson struts, coil springs and stabilizer bar up front and double wishbones, coil springs, gas-charged shocks and a stabilizer in the rear.
The suspension is firmer and more responsive to my inputs and I was able to ‘tweak’ the tires at launch with little torque steer getting in the way. The sport package comes with the VDIM handling technology that anticipates loss of vehicle control in many driving in many directions. VDIM governs all of the vehicle’s dynamic handling systems-the ABS, BA, vehicle stability control (VSC), which can be shut off, and traction control (TRAC)-employing them collectively and seamlessly to make corrections while allowing higher dynamic capability. VDIM also interfaces with the electronic throttle control system.
The system’s enhanced VSC function adds steering assist torque to help aid handling on a split-friction surface. The VDIM system also provides a limited slip differential effect.
The standard electric power steering system contributes to agility and better steering feel while eliminating the parasitic losses of a hydraulic steering pump. Eliminating hydraulic oil also provides an environmental benefit and reduces maintenance. When driving conditions involve little steering input, energy consumption is reduced, improving fuel economy by nearly 3%. Steering assist is automatically adjusted in response to vehicle speed, with great assist at low speeds and greater feel at higher speeds. In addition, maneuverability in the RX350 is easy with its 40ft. turning circle. Steering response was very quick and on the mark as I easily maneuvered around slow city traffic, felt very stable when driving at speed on the freeways, and totally responsive when I was tackling curving roads in the mountains.
Quickly slowing the RX350 down from speed are big, power-assisted steel disc brakes. Up front are 12.4in. vented discs clamped with big dual-piston calipers and 12.2in. solid discs clamped with big single-pistons calipers in the rear. When using the brakes the feel was very linear and my foot always felt in control of safe braking distance. Braking control is enhanced with standard ABS, BA, and EBD. The RX350 Sport’s 19X8in. tires and wheels further enhanced my handling control with a larger footprint during launch and when cornering.
On the outside Lexus RX models blend a dynamic version of L-finesse design to create a sleek profile and wide stance that is accentuated by broad shoulders for an athletic yet elegant look. Bright finish side-windows moldings follow a subtle concaved line across the ‘A’ and ‘C’ pillars, extending at the front and rear ends.
The Lexus design cue of placing the grille lower than the headlights, along with sharper headlight graphics, yields a strong frontal expression. The RX350 offers standard halogen and optional HID headlights. The plated upper edges of the front grille extend toward the headlights to draw the front features together. The lower edges of the grille forma unique arrowhead design. Subtle surface movement can be seen in the sculpted vertical bars that change shape as they spread upward.
The flared fenders flow into the doors, and integrated rear fender flares neatly sweep around to pull together the taut rear corners of the RX350. The lower body aero-bodykit emphasizes the 19in. wheels and tires. The passenger doors extend below the aluminum entry sills, helping keep out dirt and moisture. The side mirrors feature integrated LED turn signal lamps and a wide chrome strip runs just below the unique scalloped lower door panels. The rear spoiler’s primary function is to help lower the vehicle’s coefficient of drag, but also conceals the rear wiper and houses the AM-FM radio antenna and high-mount stop lamp. The lower diffuser helps manage rear airflow. The total look of the new RX350 Sport is low and sleek, unlike any other luxury mid-size crossover sport utility vehicle on the market.
The interior is also based on the Lexus L-finesse philosophy, the dramatically designed interior clearly separates into two distinct zones-the ‘display zone’ to provide information, and the ‘operation zone’ for interaction with controls. The shoulder of the door trim comfortably envelops the occupants, the clear line of the trim beginning inside the cabin and tapering outward toward the exterior. The design imbues a feeling of continuous line encircling the occupants and defining the controls and displays. Neatly sculpted metallic surfaces, especially on the asymmetrical center stack, showcase a bold contrast of shadow and light.
A high-contrast white Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) is used for the multi-information display located next to the speedometer. Vibrant white characters are sharply displayed on a high-contrast black background for ease of use and a luxurious appearance. Blue LED lighting covers the instrument cluster and looks fresh at night.
All RX models are equipped with the SmartAccess keyless entry with push-button start. When opening the wide doors the instrument panel lighting gradually fades in. When the engine is started, the instrument gauge needles and markings illuminate, followed by the multi-information display. When exiting the RX350, the lights fade out at different intervals.
All RX350 models come with a power tilt/telescoping steering column. To easy entry and exit, the seat automatically slides up to two inches rearward and the steering wheel tilts upward and slides forward when the engine is switched off. Upon pushing the On switch, the seat and steering wheel return to positions pre-set by the driver using the three-position memory system.
The comfortable and supportive 10-way power front seats are shaped to accommodate arm movement when operating the optional Remote Touch. Both seats also feature power lumbar adjustment. The shape and texture of the armrests and switches offer an ideal combination of tactile feel and functionality. The leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel features integrated audio controls and a unique cross-section that is designed to provide a more nature grip than a conventional round-section wheel. An optional leather and wood-trimmed wheel is available for added luxury.
The center console box provides 0.75cu.ft. of storage capacity, enough space to comfortably store CDs and DVDs. Dual cupholders are found below Bird’s-eye Maple wood veneer that is also found on each door trim plate. The chrome-ringed gated shifter is above the bottom the center console for even greater ease of use.
The three-part 40/20/40 rear seats can slide fore and aft, recline, and fold down using the one-touch levers mounted n the luggage compartment. Compact rear-seat headrests help improve your rear visibility. The rear also features air-ducts behind the center console and a pull-down armrest with dual cupholders below Bird’s-eye Maple wood veneer and a wide storage compartment.
The dual-zone, climate-control system is very quiet and offers quick cooling and warming. An optional smog sensor is designed to detect harmful particles in other vehicle’s exhaust emissions and automatically switch from fresh air and recirculation modes.
The RX350 can accommodate a variety of music sources providing auxiliary and USB inputs, Bluetooth audio wireless connectivity and a standard integrated XM radio receiver. Standard voice recognition and Bluetooth technology allow phone calls to be made and received while driving. When an iPod is attached via the optional USB port, information such as names for the artist, track and album is displayed on the available navigation or headunit, while the iPod can be controlled through the audio system.
The RX350 comes standard with the Lexus Premium Audio System with a powerful amplifier, 9-speakers with a six-disc changer. Creative placement and angling of the speakers perfectly cross-channel sound to the occupant on the opposite side of the vehicle to transform the cabin into a crisp, clear acoustic environment.
Standard equipment not mentioned above includes cruise-control, rain-sensing wipers, washers, one-touch up/down express windows, automatic door locks, Lexus Homelink Universal Transceiver, rear black privacy glass, premium roof rails, LCD screen for ventilation and audio settings, multi-information display with Lexus personalized settings, trip computer and outside temperature gauge, tonneau security cover, sliding center console, grab handles at each door, dual map lamps, lighted vanity mirrors, pull-out storage slots in the front doors, lighted glove box, and carpeted floor mats.
Standard safety features include dual advanced front airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, front and rear seat mounted side airbags, 3-point safety belts for all seating positions, front seat pretensioners/load limiter, front adjustable seatbelt anchors and front active headrests, front/rear/side crush zones, vehicle theft-deterrent system with engine immobilizer, auto on/off headlamps, daytime running lights, variable front intermittent wipers, tire pressure monitoring system, tool kit and first aid kit.
My test RX350 Sport came optioned with the Lexus 12-speaker Premium Audio System for navigation with auto sound levelizer, in-dash 6-disc changer, heated/cooled front seats, Hard disc drive with voice command, back camera, XM NavTraffic and NavWeather, leather trimmed interior, one-touch open/close moonroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and heated outside mirrors.
The new 3rd. generation RX350 mid-size luxury crossover sport utility continues to lead the segment in styling, performance, luxury amenities and safety.
Price: Base FWD $37,625 As-Tested $43,976
Type: Midsize SUV
Where Built: Canada/Japan
EPA Class: Sport Utility Vehicles
Length: 187.8 in.
Width: 74.2 in.
Height: 66.3 in.
Wheel Base: 107.9 in.
Ground Clearance: 7.3 in.
Curb Weight: 4178 lbs.
Gross Weight: 5560 lbs.
Front Hip Room: 55.6 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 58 in.
Rear Head Room: 37.7 in.
Rear Shoulder Room: 57.6 in.
Rear Hip Room: 54.5 in.
Front Leg Room: 43.1 in.
Rear Leg Room: 36.8 in.
Luggage Capacity: 40 cu. ft.
Maximum Cargo Capacity: 80 cu. ft.
Maximum Seating: 5
Engine Number of Cylinders: 6
Engine Size: 3.5 liters
Engine Type: V6
Horsepower: 275 hp
Max Horsepower: 6200 rpm
Torque: 257 ft-lbs.
Max Torque: 4700 rpm
Maximum Payload: 1382 lbs.
Maximum Towing Capacity: 3500 lbs.
Drive Type: FWD (AWD Optional)
Turning Circle: 38.8 ft.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 19.2 gal.
EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway/Combined)
Automatic: 18 mpg / 25 mpg / 21 mpg
Range in Miles:
Automatic: 345.6 mi. / 480 mi. / 403.2 mi.