Also available--but not featured in our model--is adaptive (or in Lexus-speak, Dynamic Laser) cruise control to enable drivers to electronically maintain a preset distance while following vehicles on the highway. The only significant external difference between the RX 350 and the outgoing RX 330 (the car it replaces) is the addition of a grille below the front bumper. The 3.5-liter V-6 RX 350 is more powerful than the Lexus RX 330, generating a healthy 270 horsepower, which is enough to propel the 4,090-pound RX 350 from standing to 60mph in 7.3 seconds. Engine tech is also upgraded in the RX 350, which uses dual variable-valve timing to optimize performance and reduce emissions. With the Performance Package, the RX 350's 5-speed automatic gearbox includes sequential transmission.
The five-door RX 350 is technically an SUV, but it is cut from different cloth than truck-based models. While calling it nimble is a stretch, its throttle response is good, and its handling and road-holding when thrown into corners is more akin to a car than a truck.
In keeping with its driving-to-the-country-club, luxury-SUV persona, the standard MacPherson strut suspension is supple with excellent damping. Our 2WD tester came with a Performance Package, which equipped it with four-wheel air suspension for driving in different conditions. At speeds of over 62mph, the RX 350 automatically lowers by 0.3 inches to increase handling and reduce the car's drag coefficient. Those wishing to get even sportier can press a button to lower the suspension a further 0.3 inches. There are also options to lower the car still further for ease of access or loading and to increase suspension height for off-road driving.
Despite being equipped with variable stability control, our front-wheel-drive version had a habit of losing its grip and wheel-spinning on challenging inclines. That minority of drivers investing in the Performance Package for off-track use should also consider upgrading to the AWD model, which provides a 50/50 front-to-rear power split and adds a viscous, limited-slip, center-differential transfer torque to those wheels with the most grip when driving in off-road situations.
The RX 350 is remarkably economical for a V-6 SUV. According to the EPA, it will get 20mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway. In our experience of city-weighted mixed driving, we observed an average of 21.6mpg, which is extremely respectable for a car of this power and weight. Thanks to its emissions-reducing engine technology, the RX 350 retains the RX 330's Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle II (U-LEV II) certification, despite being more powerful. Safety features on the RX 350 are plentiful and in line with Lexus's reputation. Four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution come as standard, as do vehicle stability control and a tire pressure-monitoring system.
Also standard are dual advanced front airbags, driver's knee airbags, front and rear side-curtain airbags, and front-seat-mounted side airbags.
As part of its Performance Package, our test model came with high-intensity discharge headlamps with Lexus's adaptive front lighting system, enabling the headlights to swivel to correspond to the direction of the vehicle when turning, and rain-sensing wipers.
The RX 350 comes with Lexus's new vehicle limited warranty, which includes four-year/50,000-mile basic coverage, six-year/70,000-mile powertrain coverage, and six-year/unlimited mileage corrosion coverage. Lexus also provides the vehicle's first scheduled maintenance service for free.