4.05.2011

2011 Lexus RX 350 Review


The shape is instantly recognizable. It's the vehicle that started the whole luxury-crossover segment more than a decade ago...looking much like it does today. 
Sure, there have been refinements. That's what's kept the Lexus RX 350 at the top of its game...but the fact that the basic design is within walking distance of what it was in the late 90s is testament to just how right Lexus got the RX.

Rear 3/4 view of 2011 Lexus RX350

RX 350s are everywhere. In traffic this afternoon, I was behind three of them, all white. But familiarity and popularity have done nothing to lessen the status. This is THE luxury crossover. A lot of people wouldn't drive anything else (note to self: a piece on people who're on their fourth or fifth RX might be very interesting).

A big factor in the RX's favor is price. Base is only $37,975. That gets you a 3.5 liter 275 horsepower V6, a 6 speed automatic transmission with "snow mode", 18" aluminum alloy wheels, a raft of safety features, a premium audio system with a six-disc in-dash CD changer, Bluetooth and a 90-day trial to XM Satellite Radio.

Ah, but we're not done. Also on the standard equipment list is an auto dual-zone climate control system with rear vents, a power tilt and telescope steering column, 10-way power driver's and front passenger's seats, height-adjustable headrests for all the seats, genuine wood trim and a bunch more.

Interior shot of 2011 Lexus RX350

And the cockpit is one of the nicest, most serene places you could spend your commutes and vacations in. If it sounds like you could stop with just the standard equipment and keep the tab under $40,000, you could. And you'd have a very nice piece. But the one we drove also had the Comfort Package (rain sensing wipers, High Intensity headlamps, Adaptive Front Lighting (the headlights turn with the front wheels, helping you see around corners), and heated and ventilated front seats. That's $1,950.

It also had the Luxury Package (semi-aniline leather trim, a moonroof, retractable outside mirrors, wood and leather steering wheel and shift knob, a wide-angle backup camera, an upgrade to 19" alloy wheels, a USB audio plug, power rear door, memory for the seats and mirrors, illuminated scuff plates and headlamp cleaners. Add $4,900.

That's not all, though. The Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound system with a 6 disc DVD changer and 15 speakers was also on the list ($1,610). And then there's the navigation system with XM NavTraffic and NavWeather at $2,465.

Oh, and a cargo net for $59.00.

Tack on the delivery fee ($875) and you're at......

$49,834. Which (and you won't hear me say this too often) is actually reasonable for what you're getting. The quality of the vehicle itself and the upgrades makes the experience of driving an RX 350 equipped like this one exceed the sticker price. It feels like $60,000 (in fact, it feels better than some $60,000 vehicles we've driven) and it's a shade under $50,000. 

Not many cars can say that, and it's probably a huge chunk of the reason the RX 350 continues to be the leader in its segment.

EPA mileage estimates: 18 city/25 highway.

One more thing: Especially when buying a luxury vehicle, the dealership experience matters a lot. One of our recent RX350 vehicles came from Bell Lexus in Phoenix.  Sales Associate Anthony Covington spent half an hour acquainting me with the finer points of the vehicle before I left the lot...and pointed out things the Lexus PR department hadn't...like how finishing the insides of the wheel wells helps keep the exterior cleaner, the ride quieter and reduces the risk of long-term damage and/or corrosion. Or how, since the redesign, the edges of the doors extend all the way to the bottom of the body...protecting the doorsills, which means you don't get road grime on your trouser cuffs as you enter and exit the car. It's a pleasure to deal with people who know their product that well.




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