2018 Lexus RX350: Combines SUV versatility and luxury sedan-like comfort

By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Lexus RX has been America’s best-selling luxury SUV since its introduction in 1998, and has earned a reputation as a reliable, elegant, pampering and performing utility vehicle.

RX was the first Lexus SUV, and has been its entry into the luxury crossover niche through four generations. As the category has attracted more competition, RX has refined, upgraded, teched-up and improved its line.

Two years after its introduction, the fourth-generation RX sees several changes for 2018. Most notably, the Enform Safety Connect and Enform Service Connect are now complimentary for the first 10 years of ownership. Both were previously offered with a one-year trial. Also new for 2018: a Sunroof and Blind Spot Monitoring System now available on base model; and a new Premium Package is available for the RX 450h and repositioned base model.

While the Lexus RX has been marketed as a combination of SUV versatility and luxury sedan-like comfort, it also stands out in the segment with a dramatic mix of sculpted creases and elegant curves. The focal point of the front is the Lexus signature spindle grille, set off by a lavish chrome-plated border and standard Bi-LED headlights.

The available L-shaped premium LED headlights use three unique L-shaped elements per side. The spindle theme repeats at the rear, where L-shaped LED taillights envelop the tailgate and wrap into the rear fenders. Capping off the design, quite literally, is a floating-roof effect created by elegantly blacked-out C-pillars. Where the rubber meets the road, there’s a choice of three 20-inch wheel designs. And all eleven RX paint colors feature a scratch-resistant self-restoring coat, using high-performance macromolecular polymer. All of these elements are part of the 4387-lb. (for the AWD) RX 350 that measures 192.5 inches long, 74.6 inches wide and 67.7 inches high on a 109.8-inch wheelbase. Ground clearance is 8.2 inches and maximum towing capacity is 3500 lbs.

The RX 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 aluminum block engine, coupled with an 8-speed Automatic Electronically Controlled Transmission. The system delivers 295 hp and 267 lbs.-ft. of torque, and the transmission, with “intelligence”, accelerates car-like. Traveling faster than it seems when behind the wheel, passing at speed is effortless and a zero-to-60mph run was completed in 7.5 seconds during a 15.9-second quarter-mile. EPA rated at 19/26/22 for AWD, my test ride averaged the expected 22.0mpg in mixed-use tests.

The RX’s electric power rack and pinion steering with electronic power assist was not as responsive as I would have liked, and understeer was apparent, but the in-cabin experience is luxury-smooth, as the all-wheel-drive set-up and the MacPherson strut front suspension with coil springs and the rear double wishbone, smoothed out most road irregularities.

The cabin is loaded with intuitive, luxurious and high-tech conveniences. With seating for 5, interior dimensions are comfortable at 39.4 inches up front and 39.1 in the rear; legroom is 44.1 inches in row one and 38.0 inches in row two; and shoulder room is 57.8 and 57.6. The interior cabin is a cornucopia of amenities including automatic dual-zone climate control; dust and pollen particle and deodorizing interior air filter; dual sliding sun visors; electrochromic rearview mirror with compass; power door locks with anti-lock out feature; power tilt-and-telescopic steering column; power windows with one-touch auto up/down feature; steering wheel audio controls; Lexus Display Audio with an 8-inch screen and nine speakers; backup monitor and Bluetooth® hands-free phone and automatic phonebook download capabilities.

Safety items are also plentiful and include side impact door beams, a supplemental restraint system consisting of dual-stage and dual-chamber driver’s and front passenger’s airbag, driver and front passenger knee airbags, front side airbags, rear side curtain airbags and front and rear seat-mounted airbags; a tire pressure monitor system with available tire inflation display function; active front headrests; vehicle theft-deterrent and engine immobilizer system.

The base 2018 Lexus RX 350 starts at $43,270 in front-wheel drive and $44,670 in all-wheel drive. The seven-passenger 350L is priced at $47,670 for FWD and $49,070 for AWD; the dynamic sport-tuned RX 350F Sport starts at $48,920 (FWD) and $50,320 (AWD). The 450h (gas-electric Hybrid) starts at $45,695 in AWD, the 450hL in AWD is $50,620 and the RX 450h F Sport bases at $51,055.

My all-wheel-drive test RX 350 AWD in Nightfall Mica (Dark Blue) with a Black NuLuxe Leather with Striated Black trim interior added the $3200 Navigation/Mark Levinson® Package with a 15-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio System, Navigation System, 12.3-inch color multimedia display, Lexus Enform App Suite, in-dash DVD/CD player, remote touch and climate control smog sensor. The Premium Package, for $1110, added Espresso Walnut and leather interior trim, a rear armrest storage compartment, rain-sensing wipers, leather interior trim, electrochromic power folding outside mirrors, and the Lexus Memory System. A power tilt and slide moonroof with aluminum roof rails added $1350, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Braking And Intuitive Parking Assist added $1065, heated front seats were $440, Touch-Free power rear door added $200, running boards were $639, body side moldings added $209 and door edge guards were $140. With delivery fees of $995 my test RX350 stickered at $51,358.

> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.

Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.

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