2010 Lexus RX 350. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Grant Yoxon
2010 Lexus RX 350
First introduced in 1998, the Lexus RX was a pioneer in what is one of the most popular segments today – CUVs or crossover utility vehicles. CUVs combine the ruggedness and practicality of the sport utility vehicle with the driving comfort and stability of a car. 2010 marks the third time that the RX has been thoroughly revised and updated.
A leader in luxury crossovers, the RX set a standard for ride comfort that continues with the new 2010 model. Some seemingly minor changes enhance both ride comfort and vehicle stability – important for winter driving. The wheelbase has been lengthened slightly, 25 mm (1 inch), while more significantly the track has been widened 70 mm (2.5 inches). At the same time, the engine’s output centre has been lowered 15 mm giving the RX’s powertrain a lower centre of gravity. While the stretching and tweaking may sound insignificant, the impact on stability and agility are very noticeable.
Several other changes also contribute to better handling in both winter and summer. A new double-wishbone rear suspension replaces the strut based suspension of the previous model, giving the RX sharper handling and more rear cargo room. Electric power steering reduces parasitic drag and improves fuel economy. And larger rotors, front and back, with new two-piston front calipers improve braking performance.
Perhaps the most significant change with implications for winter driving is the all-new, electronically controlled Active Torque Control all wheel drive system. The previous RX 350 model’s AWD system used a viscous coupling locking centre differential to provide 50/50 torque distribution. In the 2010 RX 350, Active Torque Control AWD uses an electronically controlled coupling ahead of the rear differential to vary torque distribution anywhere from 100 per cent front to 50/50 front and rear, depending on driving dynamics and road conditions. The new AWD system is 15.9 kg (35 lbs.) lighter than the previous system and reduces parasitic losses by 30 per cent.
When accelerating, torque can be moved equally to all four wheels. But when driving at a steady speed, torque is sent only to the front wheels, reducing fuel consumption. In a situation where the front end begins to plough (understeer), the system increases rear wheel torque, but will decrease rear wheel torque when the rear end loses traction (oversteer). In deep snow, torque can be locked 50/50 front and rear, at speeds below 40 km/h.
For the first time, Lexus’ ultimate vehicle stability control system, VDIM (Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management) is optionally available on the RX 350. VDIM manages all of the RX’s stability control systems, including anti-lock brakes, brake assist, vehicle stability control and traction control, to anticipate and manage a loss of control, but also adds steering assist torque to improve handling on surfaces with uneven friction, like ice and dry pavement.
To get VDIM, one must opt for either the $10,000 sport package or the $15,300 ultra premium package on top of the $46,900 base price for the 2010 RX 350.