2010 Lexus RX 350
2010 Lexus RX 350. Click image to enlarge

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2010 Lexus RX 350
By Paul Williams

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2010 Lexus RX
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The Lexus RX series of vehicles has been a benchmark for the luxury crossover segment since its introduction. In fact, you could easily support the assertion that the RX actually established this segment, way back in 1998.

Built in Canada at the only Lexus plant outside Japan, the 2010 Lexus RX 350 is an all-new version of this very popular vehicle. Starting at $46,900, our $55,330 Touring version adds a range of desirable features including voice-activated navigation, premium audio, power rear door, adaptive front lighting with bi-xenon headlamps, driver seat memory, perforated heated and cooled front seats, wood trim and 19-inch alloy wheels.

2010 Lexus RX 350
2010 Lexus RX 350. Click image to enlarge

Expensive? Well, yes, it’s getting up there. But with a luxury nameplate one expects luxury pricing, and compared to similar vehicles in the segment, the RX 350 is competitive. Lexus Canada sold about 9,000 RX 350s here in 2009.

This begs the question: what are the similar vehicles in this segment? The RX 350 is a midsize crossover, but it’s interestingly proportioned and priced. You might think the BMW X5 would compete, but that’s considerably larger and more expensive, while the BMW X3 is a clearly a compact. Likewise the Acura MDX and RDX; Audi Q7 and Q5; Mercedes-Benz GL and GLK don’t quite compare to the RX. Even the Mercedes M-Class is wider, heavier, taller and more expensive.

Cleverly, the RX 350 is in the middle, and the obvious luxury competitors don’t really have vehicles that directly compare with the RX 350 in size, price and features. For the most direct comparisons, look to the Lincoln MKX and maybe Infiniti FX35. But the base Acura MDX, although bigger, is price competitive.

Since picking up the RX 350, the weather has changed dramatically in our area. The typical snowy, cold, February climate has changed to an unseasonably warm, sunny March. The roads are clear, the birds are singing and the local renovation and furniture outlets are packed with families getting ready for the annual assault on their home.

2010 Lexus RX 350
2010 Lexus RX 350. Click image to enlarge

The RX 350 has been a regular visitor to these venues, where its sleek shape, commanding proportions and luxurious Matador Red paint make it stand out like a supermodel at a weight-loss clinic.

It’s not often that a test vehicle attracts so much attention, but this red RX 350 has generated more positive comments from passers-by, both men and women, than any vehicle I’ve reviewed in the past couple of years. It could be the red. It’s a brilliant colour; with a very rich and distinctive lustre. Whatever the reason, the vehicle makes a statement in the parking lot.

Fit and finish throughout are impeccable, and the quality of the materials is also first-rate. Numerous details enhance the vehicle’s presentation, including the tasteful interior wood trim, the aluminum roof rails, the rich illumination of the instruments and the exterior chrome accents.

The tailored and precise finish is not just skin deep. Lift a carpet or open a compartment and what greets you is more tailoring and more precise fitment. It’s what you expect from a high-end item, but don’t always get.

2010 Lexus RX 350
2010 Lexus RX 350. Click image to enlarge

On the road, the Lexus is smooth and quiet; easy to drive with good visibility all around. It doesn’t exhibit the jounce experienced in some crossovers when driving on uneven surfaces, and even at 1,970 kilograms (4,510 pounds) it feels quite agile.

The 3.5-litre V6 engine is rated at 245 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque, which is modest in a vehicle of this type. The six-speed automatic transmission is barely noticeable in operation. All-wheel drive is standard and full-time, and fuel consumption in my mostly city driving is in the 12.0 L/100 km range, which I think is acceptable for a large vehicle like this. Premium fuel is required, however.

Regarding the parking lots alluded to above, this is a large vehicle (even though it’s officially “midsize”), so zipping in and out of parking spaces as you might do with a compact car or crossover is not recommended.

Behind the wheel, the driver is presented with a tidy instrument panel and a centre stack with a range of controls to manage major amenities. There are less buttons, knobs and switches than you might expect because most of the controls are built into or duplicated by the “Remote Touch” control device that is included in the Touring Package.

2010 Lexus RX 350
2010 Lexus RX 350. Click image to enlarge

This is a kind of enhanced joystick that alters or sets a range of navigation, audio, climate and communication features via the LCD display. Although Remote Touch bundles many controls into one central device, it does seem that sometimes simple things like changing a radio station or increasing the audio tone would be more simply accomplished by turning a knob or pressing a button. Nonetheless, it does reduce dashboard clutter, and that’s a welcome result.

Speaking of controls — specifically climate controls — I found the automatic system wanting on occasion, as it persisted in blowing frigid air into the cabin in an attempt to maintain my pre-set 22 degrees, even when it felt too cold in the first place. This meant that I regularly had to modulate the temperature by raising it to a displayed 25 or 26 degrees, causing it to become too warm and requiring further adjustment.

Also, the system isn’t as quiet as that experienced recently in the Lexus flagship sedan, the LS 600h L. Then again, that vehicle costs more than twice the price of the RX 350, which presumably has to push more air into the large cabin to maintain a steady temperature.

The Bluetooth hands-free phone system, happily, is a piece of cake to use. Just say “pair phone,” and follow the simple instructions. It took a matter of seconds and works well.

The 2010 Lexus RX 350 is an appealing vehicle that seems to offer the perfect blend of utility and luxury. It’s very easy to get used to this particular combination of attributes.

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