April 24, 2012
Cockpit controls are managed by the Lexus “Remote Touch” system, which is a stubby, joystick-like control in the centre console connected to the large, bright display at the top of the centre stack. Remote Touch uses haptic technology (tactile feedback) to help the driver make selections from the display (navigation, communications, climate, vehicle status, trip computer), and works much like an enhanced computer mouse. Supplementary knobs and buttons are present for common-use items, activities like tuning the radio or adjusting the climate control. Redundant controls are also available on the steering wheel, behind which the large major gauges are bright and easy to read.
2012 Lexus RX 350. Click image to enlarge
A good argument can be made that all these buttons, knobs, features, and displays are a driver distraction, but such “infotainment” equipment is de rigeur in luxury vehicles these days, and the Remote Touch system does a decent job of simplifying its operation.
Outward visibility is good and is augmented by the rear camera and optional Wide View Side Monitor System that assists when parking by displaying an overhead view to the right of the RX 350 at slow speeds. You’ll protect those nice 19-inch wheels with this.
On the road, the RX 350 impresses with its ride. Quiet, smooth, and almost sedan-like, this vehicle is perfectly suited for relaxed long-distance cruising. In town, it effectively cocoons occupants from the hustle of the urban commute. Handling is biased toward comfort as opposed to performance, although that being said, I didn’t find the suspension particularly soft.
Exterior design continues the theme of aerodynamic, soft lines that have identified this vehicle since its introduction. The rounded corners and mid-range ground clearance of 185 mm contribute to the low coefficient of drag and therefore to the good fuel economy (my experience was 10.4 L/100 km, combined). The exterior features also give the RX 350 the look of a large, tall wagon, commonplace for vehicles of this type, now. However, the Lexus still manages to retain its signature look.
An interesting (at first startling) feature, and part of the Ultra Premium package is the adaptive front lighting system. We had occasion to drive on some narrow, twisting country roads at night, where it was pitch black and still snowy. Based on your speed and the angle of the front wheels, the adaptive headlight system estimates where you will be in three seconds time, and swivels the headlights depending on which way you are turning. This effectively allows you to “see around corners” and, surprisingly, it works very well.
The 2012 Lexus RX 350 doesn’t disappoint with its powerful and quiet V6 engine, smooth-shifting automatic transmission, compliant ride, and luxury appointments. It’s not the sportiest vehicle of its type, but its power is sufficient and handling is composed and sure-footed. Buyers may want to know that the 2013 model receives a refresh that includes the new Lexus “spindle” grille. Depending on your preference, you may wish to buy now, possibly taking advantage of year-end deals, or wait for the new-look 2013 version.
Pricing: 2012 Lexus RX 350