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Lexus RX350 2009 review: road test


Few and far between they may be but the sheer joy and, sometimes, childlike delight they elicit make so much of the rest of it worthwhile.

The great thing is that they need not be earth-shattering — nor even particularly practical — they are just memorable for being what they are.

The first experience of Saab's delightful dancing cup holder that, when freed from the dash, pirouetted and opened with all the grace of a prima ballerina is just one example.

A more recent — and practical — example is the joystick control centre in the new.

Tagged the Remote Touch system, the control toggle for what were previously touch screen functions is intuitive, elegant and a no-brainer for anyone who has ever used a mouse.

It uses the principle of physical feedback through the toggle to alert the user when the cursor has moved over an active command area of the screen.

The strength of the clunky feel and audible click — a combination known as Haptic feedback and used by gamers, mobile phone manufacturers and surgeons operating by remote — can be adjusted for sensitivity.

So ergonomic and just plain touchy-feely is the toggle and mouse button arrangement that it is hard not to play with it just for the fun of it.


There are lots of other nice things about the upgraded RX350 — standard satellite navigation, reversing camera, side view camera (mounted in the passenger side door mirror), adaptive headlights, a heads-up display for speed and navigation controls — but the headline act is the toggle and mouse show.

Engine and economy

Improvements to the RX350's 3.5-litre V6 have lifted its output to 204kW and 346Nm, with the engine now coupled to a sequential-shift six-speed transmission replacing the five-speed shifter from the previous model.

Those engine tweaks and the extra ratio, according to Lexus, are more than enough to offset extra weight from extra equipment, giving the RX350 an official fuel economy rating of 10.8L/100km, down from 11.2L/100km.

Unfortunately we didn't see anything like that during the test run with an average north of 12.5L/100km closer to the mark, although that was predominantly in city traffic.

AWD system

AWD for the RX350 is a full-time active torque control system with drive to the front wheels until wheel slip is detected then torque is delivered to the appropriate corners.

While the car is almost exclusively going to spend its life ferrying the well-heeled around town, the clever torque-shift system is certainly capable of some light off-road work and adds a layer of control on wet tarmac surfaces.


That is on top of a safety package that includes a fully integrated stability control system (vehicle dynamic integrated management), pre-collision system — which tightens the seat belts and adds urgency to the brakes when a bank of sensors determine a crash is imminent — and 10 airbags.

Interior and fit-out

Trim levels are what we have come to expect from Lexus. There are swaths of nice leather, some shiny plastic wood bits and a generally refined and whisper-quiet environment in which to move from point A to point B.

The lightly bolstered seats are comfortable, both heated and cooled and have 10-way electronic adjustment with memory function.

Front passenger space feels generous but that impression slips when you move to the rear seats. The main offender is head room, where the price is paid for the styling of the roofline which makes the car look less boxy than some key rivals. There is reasonable space in the boot with no pretence to a third row of seats Dynamically the RX350 can hold its own with most of its SUV competitors.


The ride is comfortable without being plush and stable enough to handle some enthusiastic driving.

While the suspension keeps the RX350 from being roly-poly the steering is a little too ‘playstation’ and rather devoid of feedback.

The engine delivers good power and urge without hunting up and down the ratios, making for a fairly relaxed drive experience.

The Bottom line: If you must have an SUV you may as well have one with a really cool feature.

Pricing guides

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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
Pricing Guide


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