... the sort of wagon you'd be happy to drive around town and on the odd excursion beyond the city limits.
Graham 'Smithy' Smith reviews the used Lexus RX350 2006-2009: its fine points, flaws and what to watch for when buying it.
Lexus has won a place alongside the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz in the minds of prestige car buyers who believe it to be a worthy alternative to the European establishment.
The RX was an important plank in the Lexus platform given the growing popularity of crossover wagons in this country. It began with the five-seater RX330 in 2003, and stepped up with the RX350 in 2006.
The changes made to the RX in 2006 made it better placed to attack the 'Benz ML and the BMW X5, regarded as its main rivals. For starters the V6 engine was increased in capacity from 3.3 to 3.5 litres, the outcome being 18 percent more power and four percent more torque. In a nutshell, that means more get up and go when needed, and better towing performance.
Backing up to the V6 was a five-speed auto with touch-change manual shifting feeding into the permanent all-wheel drive system. Underneath it had full independent suspension and disc brakes all round. Even in base form the RX350 had a swag of standard gear, pretty much everything could want or expect in a car of its standing.
Inside there was leather trim, heated front seats, auto climate controlled air-con, cruise, power windows and mirrors, a six-speaker CD sound system, and blue-tooth phone connection. Outside it had alloy wheels, fog lights, roof racks, and a rear spoiler.
The RX350 is not the vehicle you'd choose if you wanted to go bush in a big way, but it is the sort of wagon you'd be happy to drive around town and on the odd excursion beyond the city limits.
Its uprated engine gave it noticeably better performance without sacrificing any of the smoothness for which it had been renowned.
Some thought the suspension too soft and less responsive than its rivals, but its ride was comfortable and it handled well enough.
IN THE SHOP
Reliability in service is largely determined by the initial design work and the build precision, and in those areas Toyota has excelled. There's no question that the RX350 is well designed and put together, and as a result, little appears to go wrong with them. The most important thing is to ensure any prospective purchase has been serviced correctly, so check for a service record. Make the usual visual checks for crash repairs and walk away if it's suspected a car has been in a crash.
IN A CRASH
ANCAP doesn't have a rating for the RX350, but its almost identical predecessor was rated at four stars out of five. There was a comprehensive array of safety gear in the RX350. It began with front, head and side airbags, and continued with ABS braking, and electronic stability and traction control systems.
UNDER THE PUMP
Big, heavy, all-wheel drive; they're not the ingredients to deliver fuel economy. Toyota claimed the RX350 would do 10.8 L/100 km, meanwhile Carsguide's road tester returned 11.1 L/100 km.
AT A GLANCE
Price new: $74,800 to $84,100
Engine: 3.5-litre V6; 203 kW/342 Nm
Transmission: 5-speed auto, AWD
Economy: 10.8 L/100 km
Body: 4-door wagon
Variants: Sports, Luxury
Safety: 4-star ANCAP.
EXPECT TO PAY
$44,000 to $64,000 for the Sports; $47,000 to $70,000 for the Sports Luxury.
A great choice when you want a wagon that looks down on its neighbours.
- Mercedes-Benz ML 2005-2009: Unashamedly an on-road crusader, the big 'Benz is big on cabin space, appointments, technology and safety. Pay $43,500-$112,000. 3.5 stars.
- BMW X5 2006-2009: Big and bulky, but a solid performer on road and off with a plethora of driving aids to assist when things threaten to go wrong. Pay $53,000-$85,000. 3.5 stars.
- Audi Q72006-2009: If you want a well built, luxuriously equipped all-wheel drive wagon that is quite capable in rough going the Audi could be the one for you. Pay $53,000-$110,000. 4 stars.