For 2007, the Lexus RX 330 receives a new 3.5-litre V6 to become the RX 350. The 400h hybrid version, introduced in 2006, retains its 3.3-litre engine.

Other changes include a new satellite-ready stereo with MP3 and WMA capability; a new noise-reducing windshield that reduces wind noise by two decibels; a new tire pressure monitoring system; larger rear-seat entertainment display screen; and a new optional navigation system with greater clarity and ease of use.

The RX is Lexus’ smallest SUV, and is more of a tall sedan than a small truck, with passenger-car handling and feel, but with more cargo capability.

The RX 350 uses a new 3.5-litre V6, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission; its all-wheel drive system uses a centre differential to split engine power evenly between the front and rear wheels. The RX 400h uses a Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain, with 3.3-litre V6 engine and electronically-controlled, continuously-variable transmission (CVT), along with a rear electric-drive motor-generator. It’s a full hybrid, meaning that it is capable of operating on gasoline or battery exclusively, as well as a combination of both; the switch is seamless and the driver does not feel the modes changing. The only indication is notification on the touch panel display screen.

Features on the RX 350 include 17-inch alloy wheels, power tilt and telescopic wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, six-CD/MP3 stereo with eight speakers, heated leather seats, ten-way driver and eight-way passenger power adjustment, 40/20/40 split rear seats, auto-dimming rearview and exterior mirrors, tonneau cover, water-repellant door glass, rain-sensing wipers and driver’s side knee airbag.

Options on the RX 350 are a $2,950 Luxury Package, including power sunroof; a $5,000 Premium Package with wood and leather steering wheel and HID headlights; a $5,640 Premium 18 alloys package; and a $12,500 Ultra Premium Package with Mark Levinson stereo and rear seat DVD entertainment system.

The RX 400h adds on-demand electronic four-wheel drive, 18-inch alloy wheels, power sunroof, LED taillights, and self-levelling high-intensity discharge headlamps with washers. It can be upgraded with an Ultra Premium Package, including rear-seat DVD and navigation system.

Both RX models are a manageable size, with numerous creature comforts, good seating position, and a rear seat that slides backward or forward to maximize legroom or cargo space, depending on what’s more important at the time. Handling is sportier than most larger SUVs, but there’s still a smooth, comfortable ride. The RX 350 returns decent fuel mileage; the RX 400h tops it, of course, but there’s also a $10,700 premium, which buys a lot of gas. Do your homework and determine if a hybrid is right for your driving conditions first.

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