Smooth cruising for four adults

This week we’re evaluating the Lexus RX350 in FWD and without all the extra stuff like the F Sport package and hybrid drivetrain. This is the RX in its purest form. It’s also the least-expensive way to have an RX and a build configuration that you’ll likely find stacked like cordwood at the local Lexus dealer.

It probably comes as no surprise to hear the Lexus RX 350 rides like a cloud on stilts. Lexus has always done a fantastic job building smooth-riding suspension systems for its sedans. That expertise carries over into the RX, along with the 20 years of experience Lexus has with build the luxury crossover. It’s almost hard to believe the RX nameplate is 20 years old in 2018.

Continue reading for our driving impressions.

Everyday Usability

What it's Like to Daily Drive the Lexus RX350 Exterior
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Not surprisingly, the Lexus RX handles these daily challenges with a snap – mostly

A major part of owning a vehicle is its performance when not driving. How easy is it getting in? Can young kids open the door and climb in without help? How comfortable are the seats? These are questions that have to be asked.

Not surprisingly, the Lexus RX handles these daily challenges with a snap – mostly. All four doors have passive entry exterior handles, so grabbing one with the key in your pocket will result in an unlocked door. Handy. The same is true for the rear tailgate.

Getting in does require a high leg lift. The doorsills are somewhat tall and take some getting used to. Once in, the seats cuddle backsides with very soft leather and cushy padding. The seats are old-school Lincoln Town Car soft where it’s hard to move, but they provide plenty of comfort regardless of time or distance. Sadly, Lexus hides its heated and vented front seat option behind a hefty price barrier, making customers shell out $640 for the option on top of requiring the $4,180 Luxury Package and the $1,350 Moonroof Package. That’s $6,170 added to the RX’s base price of $43,270 just to have heated and vented seats. Oh Vey! Oh, and then you’ll have to pay another $150 for a heated steering wheel.

Missing content and pricing aside, the RX’s front seats are very comfortable. The same is true for the second-row seats, too. Softly cushioned seats offer 38 inches of legroom, a folding center armrest, and reclining seatbacks. HVAC vents in the center console keep air blowing, though the temperature is set by the front passenger’s setting. The rear seats are not heated, either, regardless of how much money you throw at Lexus.

What it's Like to Daily Drive the Lexus RX350 Interior
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The rear seats work rather well for my six-year-old and her booster seat

The rear seats work rather well for my six-year-old and her booster seat. She’s able to open the door, climb in, and buckle herself just fine. Partial credit is due to the width of the rear seats. The outboard positions have plenty wide for even full-grown adjust, so her booster has plenty of room between the buckle and door.

Cargo room is a downside to the RX, at least when compared to its main competitors. It offers 18.4 cubic feet in the cargo area and 56.3 cubic feet with the 60.40-split second row folded flat. You can read how it compares here, but just know the RX is the least spacious out of the Cadillac XT5, Audi Q5, and Lincoln MKX. Still, the RX has plenty of cargo space for a week’s worth of groceries or a trip to IKEA.

Behind the Wheel

What it's Like to Daily Drive the Lexus RX350 Interior
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In addition to the comfortable front seats, the RX’s cockpit provides ergonomic controls that are logically arranged

In addition to the comfortable front seats, the RX’s cockpit provides ergonomic controls that are logically arranged. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is a pleasure to hold and its many buttons make short work of accessing common features.

The center stack has two real knobs for radio volume and tuning, making listening to the radio less stressful than some vehicles currently on the market. HVAC controls are well placed, though the buttons are on the small side and require a glance down to find. The infotainment system is, well, typical for the Lexus Enform system. You can read my full thoughts about it here.

The gauge cluster is mostly easy to read and the center information screen offers plenty of vehicle information. Unfortunately, it does not offer a digital speedometer. Opt for the F Sport package and the cluster is replaced with an LFA Supercar-inspired design, complete with a digital speedometer. There is also an optional head-up display if the F Sport isn’t your thing.

What it's Like to Daily Drive the Lexus RX350 Interior
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Lastly, the RX has plenty of storage spots that make life more organized

Lastly, the RX has plenty of storage spots that make life more organized. There’s a great spot ahead of the shifter for a cell phone. It’s even large enough to accommodate an iPhone Plus. The cup holders are well designed, as is the storage box under the armrest. A decently sized glove box and massive door pockets hold everything else. And as a bonus, Lexus includes hidden storage under the palm rest for the Enform’s joystick. It’s large enough for an older, non-plus iPhone or things like business cards or parking receipts.

Driving Impressions

What it's Like to Daily Drive the Lexus RX350 Exterior
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The Lexus RX’s smooth ride makes it a fantastic daily driver, both around town and on the highway

The Lexus RX’s smooth ride makes it a fantastic daily driver, both around town and on the highway. The supple ride soaks up bumps and road imperfections without translating them into the cabin. Set the cruise control and watch the RX eat miles away. It would make a fantastic road trip machine for two people. The flip side of its smooth ride is body lean in turns and nose dive under hard braking. It’s hardly a problem, but it’s more pronounced than in the RX 350 F Sport. Most will never notice the extra movement. Road and tire noise are also kept to a minimum.

The RX 350’s power comes from the familiar 3.5-liter V-6. Here it produces 295 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. A smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic sends power to the front wheels. The sprint to 60 mph takes only 7.7 seconds and its top speed is 124 mph. The torquey V-6 has no problems spinning the front tires from a stop, especially when turning. Torque steer is present, though it’s not detrimental to the overall driving experience. The brakes are equally impressive, hauling the RX to a stop with confidence. I especially like the pedal feel.

What it's Like to Daily Drive the Lexus RX350 Exterior
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Fuel economy is EPA-estimated at 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined

Fuel economy is EPA-estimated at 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined. Thanks to a 19.2-gallon fuel tank, the RX has a cruising range of roughly 518 miles. It’s a good thing those seats are comfy, right?

Stick around for our full review of the 2017 Lexus RX350.

References

Lexus RX

2016 Lexus RX
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Read our full review on the 2017 Lexus RX.

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Read more Lexus news.

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