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Lexus RX350 2012 Review

I fear the words “electric-assist steering” as much as lying awake at night worrying about the bed bugs biting.
EXPERT RATING
7

Lexus swamps the cabin with technology - but makes it easy to understand. The problem with modern electronics is that the onion layers of technology can bring tears to your eyes.

It's brilliant stuff and you'll feel justified in forking our lots of money for a car that has more thinking power than a university Arts freshman, but it can leave you crying in frustration.

Understanding the complexity of a high-end car's features, and being able to master it, is proven a burden on the very people who fall into the “lots of money” category.

That's where a 15-year-old grandchild - or a car that makes all the mumbo-jumbo so easy to figure out - comes in handy. With the Lexus, you don't need grandkids.

VALUE

Lexus - apparently a corruption of Luxury Exports to the US - aims itself at more long-standing prestige rivals and though there's similarity in concept, no competitor ladens models with so much eye-watering gadgets.

On a value-for-money scale, Lexus wins. The features list is enormous and you don't have to fork out for the $93,900 Sports Luxury version here. Rather, look at the $77,400 Luxury model.

If you have no need for driving exhilaration and intend only to stay within the city limits, even the four-cylinder RX270 - same stuff, different drivetrain, less money - makes sense.

The intensity of the Sports Luxury tested here runs from Mark Levison 15-speaker surround sound, Head-Up display and virtual-camera navigation, to voice-command functions, a traffic management service and pre-collision technology.

DESIGN

The basic 2011 wagon remains beneath restyled sheet metal and a bolder, spindle-shaped family grille. It's the grille that defines the 2012 model but look closer and there's new headlight with daytime running lamps. Inside is a cleaner look, some new trim, a redesigned centre console and a steering wheel that bears some relationship to the one in Lexus' neat LFA sports car.

Whoopee. The central touch controller - virtually a computer mouse for left-handed drivers - is improved and though there's a lot of information beneath its button, it's logical and easy to use. The leather and wood-trimmed RX350 is generous in cabin space and the 40/20/40 split rear seat and electric tailgate are handy inclusions.

TECHNOLOGY

Electronics win the day here. The voice control means hands-free access to the phone, navigation and audio. Bluetooth has audio streaming and automatic phonebook transfer. There's live traffic alerts and congestion avoidance advice, USB back-up and transfer, hard-disc drive navigation and cockpit-view mapping that artificially positions the camera above and behind the vehicle.

Mechanically, the body is stiffer (simply, 24 more spot welds) while the engine remains the Toyota-Lexus 3.5-litre V6 with 204kW/346Nm. The engine has quieter mounts and an electrically-operated induction system that alters the tube length to maximise torque. The drive system is part-time all-wheel drive, picking up the rear wheels when needed by engaging an electro-magnetic coupling in the rear differential housing. An AWD-Lock button maximises grip up to 40km/h.

SAFETY

Lots of news here. The RX350 gets features including the radar cruise function within a pre-collision system, 10 airbags, the Lexus VDIM umbrella that comprises electronic stability and traction control, brake assist, co-operative steering and brakeforce distribution.

The Sports Luxury adds the latest-generation head-up display (a digital speedo projected onto the windscreen), side monitor (to detect passing cars) and clearance and parking sensors. There's also a reverse camera with an overlaid guide, adaptive front lighting that turns into corners, and hill-assist.The spare tyre is a space-saver.

DRIVING

I fear the words “electric-assist steering” as much as lying awake at night worrying about the bed bugs biting. But Lexus has played the game well. The steering feel is a bit gooey and vague at low speeds but feels almost positive when cruising.

It's no Porsche but it's sensibly weighted for the Lexus type of owner. Power is adequate with the hallmark being on smoothness and quietness rather than acceleration. That said, pressed hard and the 2-plus tonne RX350 can surprise.

Its handling is fine and though I'd like more feel in the steering, again it suits its market. SUVs and corners have rarely been best friends and the RX350 doesn't break the creed. Comfort is excellent and will beat many sedans hands down. Its features and its comfort make it an enjoyable wagon. But it's big and can be awkward to park.

VERDICT

Better than before but though technically a smart car, begs the question that is it all too much for most buyers?

Lexus RX350 Sports Luxury 

Price: $93,900 
Warranty: 4 years/100,000km, roadside assist
Resale: 56 per cent
Service Interval: 6 months/10,000km
Safety: 10 airbags, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC
Crash rating: 5 stars
Engine: 3.5-litre V6 petrol, 204kW/346Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto; AWD
Thirst: 10.8L/100km; 95RON; 254g/km CO2
Dimensions: 4.8m (L), 1.9m (W), 1.7m (H)
Weight: 2085kg
Spare: Space-saver

Pricing guides

$29,745
Based on 24 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$24,990
Highest Price
$35,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
RX270 (FWD) 2.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $16,100 – 22,440 2012 Lexus RX 2012 RX270 (FWD) Pricing and Specs
RX350 F-Sport 3.5L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $20,900 – 28,380 2012 Lexus RX 2012 RX350 F-Sport Pricing and Specs
RX450H Luxury 3.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $20,500 – 27,830 2012 Lexus RX 2012 RX450H Luxury Pricing and Specs
RX450H Prestige 3.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $16,100 – 22,440 2012 Lexus RX 2012 RX450H Prestige Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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