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Lexus RX350 2009 review

Three decades ago the townfolk would have piled kindling in the town square in preparation for burning the heretic who forecast 4WDs with airconditioning.

Twenty years ago the same grilling would be applied at the mention of automatic transmission and even a few years ago dark clouds would form above the person uttering leather upholstery.

The fact is that the 4WD as we once knew it is gradually being morphed into a station wagon, with all the comforts of a sedan and all the appearance of a go-anywhere leisure machine.

Take all that to the ultimate stage and you will have a vehicle that looks tough but has a soft centre. In case you missed it, that stage has already arrived. The Lexus RX350 is one of the latest SUVs to lavish features and comfort on its occupants.


It would be staggering for a 1970s Land Rover owner to even contemplate what's inside this wagon. But just to make you jealous, here's some of the features: Radar cruise control with a pre-collision warning system; swivelling xenon headlights; rear-view camera with clearance and parking sensors; and head-up display of vehicle speed.

Thankfully, none of this requires much input from the driver. Though it looks a lot like last year's RX350, this one is bigger, lower and more powerful.


It is a beautiful drive — a machine that will just eat the kilometres. Lexus has successfully endeavoured to rid the wagon of almost all noise and the result is a bit numbing.

The wagon is as quiet as a mouse and is almost un-nerving in the way it isolates the outside world. This will suit some owners who will then bask in the feature list. There's plenty of thrills when the accelerator is prodded but it doesn't transfer to the occupants. The RX350 could just as easily be electric.

The test vehicle showed that SUVs can make sense in the country thanks to Lexus neatly incorporating a full-size spare wheel. Too often carmakers talk safety and then fit a space-saver spare wheel that is, at best, dangerous as an alternative tyre in the country. At least Lexus gives you the choice.

In the Sport Luxury tested, that list extends to more things that you'd probably have time to play with. But play you will. The cameras will alert you what's behind the wagon will give you a sense of security and the 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system will wrap you in its warm sound.

The leather front seats have heaters and ventilation and almost infinite electric adjustment. Lexus made a change this model that, while logical, took away one of the wagon's best features — a touch screen. Now there's a mouse-like controller on the centre console that accesses everything from the sat-nav to the radio from the big screen.

Owners of the previous model complained about glare _ and fingerprints _ on the screen so Lexus lifted the screen higher, placed a hood to shield light, and fitted a computer mouse to access all the data. Shame, because it's now easy to see, but not as easy (or as quick) to get information.

This is an impressive vehicle. It's a solid alternative to a conventional sedan but its appeal lies more in its quality and features than any driving pleasure.

Pricing guides

Based on 23 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

RX400H Hybrid 3.3L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO $12,500 – 18,040 2009 Lexus RX 2009 RX400H Hybrid Pricing and Specs
RX450H Prestige 3.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $11,300 – 16,610 2009 Lexus RX 2009 RX450H Prestige Pricing and Specs
RX350 Special Edition 3.5L, ULP, 5 SP SEQ AUTO $9,800 – 14,740 2009 Lexus RX 2009 RX350 Special Edition Pricing and Specs
RX350 Sports 3.5L, ULP, 5 SP SEQ AUTO $9,600 – 14,410 2009 Lexus RX 2009 RX350 Sports Pricing and Specs
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist


Pricing Guide


Lowest price, based on 18 car listings in the last 6 months

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