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Tom Crosby: Lexus RX350 adds complimentary upgrades for 2018

Tom Crosby

The Lexus RX350 last year continued to be the best selling luxury mid-size sport utility vehicle in the United States due to a competitive price, luxurious interior, high resale value and solid reliability.

For 2018, Enform Safety Connect/Service Connect, once complimentary for a year, is now complimentary for 10 years. It includes emergency alerts, remote functions like engine start and door unlocks, maintenance alerts, roadside assistance and apps for radio, weather, traffic, sports and even stock quotes.

The RX brand – Lexus’s most popular – competes against Maserati Levante, Porsche Macan, Mercedes Benz GLE Class, BMW X3 and Audi Q7 – all costing hundreds to thousands of dollars more similarly equipped.

With room for five, second-row seating is spacious in the RX 350. Several competitors have squeezed in a tight third row, prompting Lexus to launch a third row RX 350L this year.

Our test-drive RX 350 F-Sport added $8,353 in options that included a 12.3-inch touchscreen with navigation, 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio, blind spot monitor, rear-cross traffic braking, improved headlamps, moonroof with roof rails and 3M paint protection.

Behind the wheel, the RX 350’s appeal immediately emerges with the V6 engine providing decent acceleration and the ride cushioned appropriately with MacPherson front strut and rear double wishbone adaptive variable suspension. Precise handling comes with front-wheel drive augmented by a full-time torque wheel control that engages all four wheels when needed for control and stability on 20-inch chrome wheels.

Mileage remains impressive at 22-mpg average using the 8-speed automatic transmission. Needed bursts of speed are aided with steering wheel mounted manual paddles in F-Sport S+ drive mode. An Eco mode conserves fuel.

Outside, the F-Sport theme adds a blackout mesh pinched Lexus spindle grille, black side mirrors, F-Sport badging and satin-finish chrome lower protector.

Inside, leather dominates upholstery and trim, front seats are heated, cooled, bolstered and formfitting comfortable.

Telescoping information gauges on an 8-inch LCD screen combine tachometer and digital speed among other features. Outside noise is muted, except for some enhanced engine growl under acceleration.

Cargo space is adequate, although rear seats don’t fold flat, but there is ample knick-knack space, including flip-out map pockets.

Top connectivity for a plethora of information and function with the now standard Enform system accessing the 12.3-inch dashboard screen is manipulated by a mouse-like center console toggle switch that remains jittery and potentially distracting to drivers.

Crash safety ratings and Lexus driving safety features are top tier.

LIKES: Power, handling, luxurious interior, spacious, comfort, ride, reliability, value.

DISLIKES: No third row, twitchy infotainment switch.

 

FACT FILE

2018 LEXUS RX350 F SPORT 5-DR SUV

Base price w/destination fee:  $51,315 ($59,668 as tested)

Curb weight: 4,387 lbs.

Wheelbase:  109.8 inches

Length:   192.5 inches

Width: 74.6 inches

Engine specs:  3.5 liters, 24-valve, V-6, VVT-i

Horsepower:  295 hp at 6,300 rpm

Torque:  268 ft.-lbs. at 4,700 rpm

Transmission:  8-speed automatic/manual paddles

EPA rating: 19 city mpg, 26 highway

Range:  19.2 gallons, regular unleaded

Performance:  0-60 in 7.8 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996 and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.