Lexus RX 350 Pebble Beach Edition Review

10 years ago, I looked at the first Lexus RX (then the RX 300) and wondered if anyone would buy it. I mean, it was nice...but it looked pretty strange. I think my photographer (I was reviewing cars on television at the time) and I dubbed it the "lunar rover".

Obviously, a lot of people disagreed. The RX (now the 350) is celebrating 10 years on the road, and though there have been refinements, the basic shape is still pretty much the same. And it gets credit for jump-starting the entire crossover SUV segment.

The price has even stayed in the same general ballpark...if I recall, the '99 was about $33,000...the '09 base price is $38,900 and Lexus has made virtually everything that matters standard.

So how to jack up that price point to keep the dealers and stockholders happy? By packaging the non-essentials. And a special edition is always a good way to do that.

The Pebble Beach Edition was introduced to coincide with August's huge annual classic car week (rapidly approaching 10 days) in Monterey, California (nearby Pebble Beach hosts the premiere event, the Concours d'Elegance). For $3,880, you get special 18 inch wheels, a special front grille, a roof rack, HID headlamps, a body-color rear spoiler, a leather-trimmed interior, power tilt and telescoping steering column, memory seating, a moonroof, carpeted floormats and exterior badges that say "Pebble Beach Edition".

That, a navigation system that includes a Bluetooth phone interface and rear backup camera, heated seats, rain-sensing wipers and headlamp washers and a transmission cooler propelled the bottom line to $47,020. Not a bad deal for what you get...but the real story is the value in a "base" RX 350.

EPA estimate: 17 city/22 highway.

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