Lexus RX350 Test Drive
An Editor at our local paper asked me to accompany her on a test-drive of the new Lexus RX350 SUV, and she brought it by my house on the weekend.
The RX350's biggest improvement over the RX330 is the extra 47 horsepower pumped out by the V-6. It's now an even 270. But even that amount of power didn't make this all-wheel-drive SUV feel particularly fast. However, that might be due to the fact that I was hammering it on ice.
Yes, in the middle of our ice storm I was sliding around, testing out the all-wheel-drive and the traction control (beepbeepbeep!) system. Weighing four thousand lbs., I thought the 350 would dig in and hold the snow. But it didn't. And that's a good thing.
It didn't feel "dead" like many TC-equipped cars. The system actually allowed some noticeable wheel slippage before it sucked the fun away. For people who really like to drive, this SUV seems a perfect fit. What I didn't like was how incredibly stiff the gas pedal was. It was only a 30 minute drive, and my right leg was exhausted.
Maybe that's how Lexus keeps fuel economy down. After all, this thing guzzles the petrol, achieving a pathetic (U.S.) 24 mpg. The 2006 Porsche 911, with 55 more horsepower, gets 26 mpg. But nobody will really notice, because they'll be too distracted by the soft leather and real wood finishes inside. I crashed into six parked cars simply because I was admiring the beautiful orange-toned wood grain. In fact, I didn't even notice the police until they threw a spike strip down in front of me. A quick yank on the nice thick steering wheel and I had evaded them. Yep, the RX350 is nimble, and feels more like a car and less like a big truck.
Until you try and parallel park. On the passenger side, the blind spot is about the size of a beige Corolla. Don't ask me how I know that. I just do.
When I think of Lexus, and the brand they've built over the years, I'm forced to think of luxury. I expect to be pampered in a Lexus. But this is not the case with the RX350. There are no luxurious features of note. Except, possibly, the auto windshield wipers and headlights.
Nope, I'm wrong. Lots of other manufacturers have these too.
Sound from the 8-speaker stereo was sub-par. Sure, it went loud, but even at normal levels it sounded plasticky and lifeless. Speaking of plastic, there must have been a huge sale at the plastic factory when they designed the centre console. Real wood trim combined with more cheap plastic than you could shake a stick at. What's up Lexus?
Finally, the RX350 has two, count 'em, two distracting noises invading the cabin. At highway speeds there's an awful lot of wind noise, which can possibly be attributed to the roof rack. At lower speeds it disappears, while a terrible engine drone starts instead. It's especially annoying from idle, up to about 2,500 rpm.
$54,000 (Cdn, as tested) seems pretty steep for a lot of steel and noise. Overall, it was simply 'Okay'. On the steak-scale, I give it a T-bone: Substanial, but not very tasty. If it wasn't for the unacceptable noise levels, I could live with it.
One-and-a-half Martini-thumbs down to the Lexus RX350.