Lexus RX350 Review

And the Volkswagen Beetle award for subtle refinement goes to....

Okay, that's a bit of a stretch. But let me toss you in the Wayback Machine here. At the top of this article is the 2010 Lexus RX 350. Now here's what that vehicle (then called the RX 300) looked like 11 model years ago, in 1999:

Of all the vehicles on the road today, I'm betting only the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis are still that instantly identifiable as the same car over that 11 year span.

It's a case of not messing with success, yet (as VW did with the Beetle) making constant changes and refinements.

We're talking about a ton more power (275 horses today compared to 210 then), slightly better fuel mileage (18 city/25 highway now versus 17 city/22 highway in '99) and a much nicer environment from which to drive.

Best of all, the refinements come at only a slightly higher price. In 1999, base price was $32,950. In 2010, $36,800. Less than $4,000 in 11 years.

Our tester added 19 inch alloy wheels, a heads-up display, bi-xenon headlamps with automatic high beams, heated and ventilated front seats, a Mark Levinson audio system with DVD changer and 15 speakers, a nav system with XM NavTraffic and NavWeather (I find being able to see real-time radar more beneficial than real-time traffic...especially in monsoon season in the Desert Southwest)...the Premium Package with leather, moonroof, auto-dimming miror, power rear door, and the ominously named Pre-Collision System with Dyanmic Radar Cruise Control.

Yeah, it all adds up. Bottom line: $49,300 including $875 delivery. Still, that's a lot of luxury and a lot of features coming in this side of $50K.

As I noted in last year's review of the last-gen RX, I wondered a decade ago whether anyone would buy a vehicle so funny-looking (I called it the "Lunar Rover"). Not only have they, but in sufficient numbers that the styling endures.