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2015 Lexus RX350 Test Drive

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First Impressions

Search “chick car” in your favorite web browser, and it doesn’t take long to find the Lexus RX350 (view photos) displayed on the image results page. The crossover utility vehicle (CUV) that introduced Americans to the purse holder, the original Lexus RX300 was also the first luxury crossover to go on sale back in 1999. The ladies adored it. In fact, both of my sisters-in-law and my wife’s best friend have owned, or currently own, one of these bulletproof originals.

Since the RX debuted, it has been redesigned twice. Neither time did it become something that people equipped with a set of XY chromosomes can drive unless the XX-equipped owner is slumped in the front passenger’s seat, blotto from too much red wine. That is the only time it is acceptable for a man to slide behind the steering wheel. Well, then, and when a professional auto reviewer like yours truly signs up for a week of tooling around Los Angeles in one that’s painted the romantically titled shade of Matador Red Mica, a name that could’ve been ripped from the pages of a Jude Devereaux novel.

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About Our Test Car

Lexus loaned us a fully loaded RX350 with all-wheel drive for this review. The base price was $40,250, and the bottom line came to a whopping $54,274. Our RX had the Comfort Package ($1,950), which includes rain-sensing wipers, bi-Xenon headlights with an adaptive front lighting system that helps the driver to see around corners at night, and heated and ventilated front seats. The Luxury Package ($4,900) included upgraded semi-aniline leather, a one-touch power moonroof, retractable heated and auto-dimming outside mirrors, wood and leather steering wheel and shift knob, a wide angle reversing camera, 19-inch alloy wheels, a USB audio port, a power tailgate, memory for the driver’s preferred settings, and other items. A Mark Levinson premium surround sound audio system with 15 speakers ($1,610), parking sensors in the bumpers ($500), and a cargo net ($59) were also listed on our car’s window sticker. But even with all this stuff, the RX doesn’t crack $50,000.

No, it takes the optional Dual-Screen Rear Seat Entertainment with Navigation System ($5,005) to really make the sticker price pop. With dual rear screens, a set of wireless headphones, a remote, audio/video inputs, and a 120-volt AC power outlet, the RX350 can be transformed into a rolling movie theater or arcade. The navigation system includes voice command technology, Lexus Enform telematics with Destination Assist and eDestination features, Lexus Insider audiocasting, and XM NavTraffic and NavWeather reporting. It is operated using what Lexus calls a Remote Touch Controller on the center console, designed to mimic a computer mouse in operation. A reversing camera is also included with this expensive option package.

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Safety Reliability and Value

Lexus offers a couple of standard safety features on the RX350 that are uncommon in the general vehicle population. First, both the driver and front seat passenger get a knee airbag to complement the dual front airbags, dual front seat side airbags, and dual side curtain airbags with rollover sensing. Second, the RX has a new Smart Stop technology that makes it impossible for the vehicle to accelerate when the brake pedal is depressed. Other standard features include traction and stability control, along with antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.

Safety-oriented options for the RX include Lexus Enform telematics with Safety Connect service. With Safety Connect’s Automatic Collision Notification, rescue personnel are automatically notified when the airbags deploy and can rush to the RX’s location even if occupants are not able to respond to the operator. There’s also an Emergency Assist Button to be used by folks who are still conscious and need help. Buyers can also outfit the RX with adaptive front lighting that swivels when the steering wheel is turned to help see around dark corners, a reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers, intelligent high-beam headlights that automatically dim when oncoming traffic approaches, and front and rear park assist. The available radar cruise control features a Pre-Collision System that uses information from the front radar unit to determine if a crash is unavoidable, and then cinches the front seatbelts tight and preps the brake assist system to provide maximum stopping power the moment the driver hits the pedal.

In addition to all these safety features, the RX is engineered to take a hit. In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) new, more stringent testing program, the Lexus received the following scores:

  • 4 Stars for the driver in a frontal impact
  • 4 Stars for the front passenger in a frontal impact
  • 5 Stars for the driver in a side impact
  • 4 Stars for the rear passenger in a side impact
  • 5 Stars in the side pole test
  • 4 Stars for rollover resistance

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety agrees that the 2015 Lexus RX350 (view photos)is a good choice if safety is a priority, naming it a Top Safety Pick thanks to top ratings in the offset frontal, side impact, roof crush strength, and rear crash protection evaluations.

Reliability is highly rated, too, with Consumer Reports bestowing an above average predicted reliability rating upon the RX, and J.D. Power and Associates expecting long-term dependability to be better than most other crossovers in the class. The RX also received an above average rating for initial quality by J.D. Power in 2014.

So, this Lexus is safe and dependable, just like the heroic guys in one of those Jude Devereaux fantasies. Does it also provide value? Yes, it does. For starters, it holds its value quite well according to Consumer Reports and Automotive Lease Guide. And for the first four years of ownership, all you need to do is maintain the RX, because it’s covered by a four-year/50,000 basic warranty with unlimited roadside assistance service the first four years the CUV is on the road. Additionally, the engine and transmission get a six-year/70,000-mile guarantee, and Lexus promises the RX won’t rust for the first six years, no matter how many miles you drive.

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