RX 330, the number-one selling luxury SUV, receives improved performance and additional luxury details for model year 2007. The new RX 350, available as both front-wheel (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) models, adopts a powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine that improves both performance and fuel efficiency. The 2007 models also receive advanced luxury and convenience options and additional refinements for enhanced drivability.
By Kevin “Crash” Corrigan
The RX line-up from Lexus has proven to be extremely popular with luxury SUV buyers over the past few years.
That’s not surprising, as this fine offering from Toyota’s up-scale division, has scooped several J.D. Power awards for quality.
The 2007 version, the RX 350, still resembles last year’s model, but there have been a few changes made to the vehicle for this year. The most obvious, is the new 3.5 Litre DOHC V6 engine which is much more powerful than the previous engine. This new addition produces 270 hp at 6200 rpm. All this power is then fed through a 5 speed automatic transmission with an integrated transfer case, and a viscous coupling-controlled, limited slip differential. All of this makes this full-time 4WD SUV quite the performer.
The RX 350 also boasts a Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system which includes Traction control (TRAC). Basically, this system uses sensors to detect oversteer and understeer whilst cornering, and then uses a combination of the throttle and brakes to maintain stability. Speaking of brakes, the RX 350 comes with four wheel disc brakes, ABS, EBD and Brake Assist, so stopping the vehicle is relatively easy.
All this tech stuff is great and worked very well whilst I was driving it, and as we all know, the words Lexus and Reliability tend to go hand in hand, so I imagine that it will keep on working fine.
This is, however, only part of the reason why so many people seem to like this Lexus charmer. Safety features also tend to be high on the wish list of Lexus shoppers and the company doesn’t disappoint. It appears to have every airbag and safety system known to man, right down to some especially designed for the driver’s knee area.
Another big part is the quality and feel of the Lexus interior. I have to say that I was suitably impressed, especially with the fit and finish. I loved the attention to detail, like the way the centre console glides opens with a gentle touch of a button. I also like the automatic cargo cover, which retracts when the rear hatch is opened. I did however have a slight problem with the power mirror adjustment, as I couldn’t find the switch at first. Stupid me, it was obvious, it was right in front of my eyes. Except it wasn’t, because the designers at Lexus had decided to put it in its very own, tidy little compartment, and even put a door on it. Nice, but OTT or what?
I was also a little taken back by the goodies on offer. Maybe it was because my tester was their base model, the Leather Package. Of course, it could have been the fact that I had just jumped out of a new Mazda Crossover, which although nearly 10K cheaper, did have “all the toys”. I thought, wait a minute! Where’s my Sat Nav system? And who stole my back-up camera? They even forgot to cut a hole in the roof. You see, to get these sort of things, you need to dig a little deeper into your pocket and move up through the Luxury Package, the Premium Package, and even as far as the Ultra Premium Package for the Sat Nav system and Camera. By this time, you’re talking over 64K.
Now don’t get me wrong, I genuinely believe that the RX 350 is a great vehicle and that it offers tremendous value really, especially considering the superb build quality of the vehicle. The option packages have obviously been designed to keep the base price as low as possible. However, I couldn’t help thinking that the way these packages are put together, if any more features are invented, next year, we’ll be looking at the “Super Dooper, Ultra, Luxury, Premium Package”.
All joking aside, the RX 350 is a superbly built luxury SUV. It has stylish good looks, a level of build quality that others would kill for, and a reputation for reliability that’s hard to beat. When you think about it, that’s a winning combination to be sure.
The RX 350 adopts a 3.5-liter V6 engine featuring all-aluminum construction and dual Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i) that helps optimize torque for quick and powerful response at all speeds. This advanced engine produces 270 horsepower and 251 lb.-ft. of torque, up 47 hp and13-lb.-ft. from the 2006 RX 330.
The improved performance enables the RX 350 to sprint from zero to 60 mph in just 7.3 seconds for the FWD model and 7.4 seconds for the AWD model, substantially quicker for both models over their respective predecessors.
The new performance of the RX 350 is comparable to the output of some competitive V8 engines while still providing a fuel-economy rating among the best in class for nonhybrids. Its five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission receives enhanced tuning for more refined drivability as well as improved fuel efficiency. EPA-estimated combined fuel economy rating for the RX 350 is 22 mpg (20 mpg city/25 mpg highway) for the FWD model and 21 mpg (19 mpg city/24 mpg highway) for the AWD. Even with its significant power increase, the RX 350 maintains the previous model’s ULEV II emissions certification.
The highly sophisticated engine uses electronically controlled sequential fuel injection, which optimizes the fuel mixture and creates a precise burn, higher output and lower emissions to aid drivability. In addition, an electronic throttle control presides over several systems to maintain superior control of power flow. This system, Electronic Throttle Control with intelligence (ETC-i), helps manage idle speed, cruise control, Traction Control (TRAC) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC). The result is a substantial improvement in engine efficiency with increased power and improved fuel economy.
Comfortable Luxury, Smooth Ride, Refined Interior
The original RX set the benchmark for smooth, quiet ride quality thanks to a rigid body structure, vibration-canceling engine mounts, sound-absorption materials and refined aerodynamic details. For 2007, the RX 350 further minimizes cabin noise resulting from the powertrain, road and wind with the addition of an acoustic glass windshield along with additional sound insulation placed in the door panels, instrument panel and floor mats.
The quieter interior provides an even better listening environment for a new standard premium, satellite-ready, eight-speaker AM/FM/CD audio player with in-dash six-CD autochanger. The audio system is compatible with MP3/WPA-formatted CDs and includes Automatic Sound Levelizer (ASL), Radio Data System (RDS) and a digital signal processor. Commonly used audio functions are accessible via steering wheel-mounted controls.
For true audiophiles, a Mark Levinson Premium Audio System is optionally available. This 11-speaker system features an in-dash six-disc DVD/CD autochanger, DVD-audio and DVD-video playback as well as remarkable sound clarity at all volumes (with 210 watts at 0.1% THD, 20-20,000 Hz). The available factory-installed, rear-seat DVD entertainment system also receives an upgrade. The fold-away video screen increases in size to 9-inches from the previous 7-inch screen for improved viewing.
For 2007, the fifth-generation navigation system is optionally available on the RX 350 and includes voice-recognition that will allow the driver to input a desired destination by voice command while driving.
Like other Lexus navigation systems, the new fifth-generation system will be offered in conjunction with a rear back-up camera to supplement the driver’s visibility of the area behind the vehicle. The camera will provide the driver a view of what the camera lens can detect behind the vehicle, automatically projecting a color image on the navigation system’s seven-inch VGA screen when the reverse gear is engaged.
Visual support in the Lexus fifth-generation navigation system is greatly enhanced. The central-display screen will offer better resolution with 800 x 480 pixels as compared to the previous 400 x 240 and will display graphics in 32,000 colors compared to the 256 colors in the previous model. Not only will maps and roads look sharper and include 3D shadow effects, all details appearing on the screen will be crisper and cleaner. The result: a richer-looking display that will be more visually appealing and easier to view at a glance.
The new navigation system will add Spanish to the already offered English and French text display options. The user can select the language preference at system start-up.
Advanced All-Wheel Drive
The AWD RX 350 model is improved with the addition of a viscous limited-slip center differential, which enhances drivability in all types of driving conditions. The full-time AWD system provides a constant 50/50 front-to-rear power split. If slippage occurs, the viscous differential directs torque to the wheels with the most traction.
For 2007, a direct-type Tire Pressure Monitor (TPM) system replaces the previous indirect system and alerts the driver via a warning light on the instrument panel if a significant drop in tire pressure is detected in any of the tires.
The new RX 350 FWD model will carry a base Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $37,400 while the AWD model’s MSRP will be $38,800, a $1,030 increase on each as compared to the 2006 models.