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Car Review: 2014 Lexus RX 350

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There are certain vehicles that you know are special from the first time you see it, and that’s exactly how we felt regarding the 2014 Lexus RX 350. There’s no question that Lexus created the blueprint for the luxury crossover utility vehicle 15 years ago with the original RX models. The 2014 RX 350 maintains its segment leadership by evolving that original and admired formula.

EXTERIOR

From the bold, brand-signature spindle grille, to the classy 19-inch alloy wheel with all-season tires, the 2014 Lexus RX 350 arrives in style. The distinctive skin of this SUV makes an impression with sharp LED daytime running lamps, Xenon HID headlamps, rain sensing wipers, power folding electrochromic heated outside mirrors with blind spot monitor and roof rails. The silky smooth skin is highlighted with a rear taillights and hatch that blend in so discreet that they look like one piece of sheet metal. The styling has evolved from the early days of the RX 350, but the overall shape hasn’t drifted too far from the original, and that’s what you call staying power in the marketplace!

INTERIOR

The upscale ambience in the Lexus RX 350 cabin is just the beginning of a customized experience every time you set foot in the fabulous interior. Lexus interiors have set new standards in design, materials, standard features and details, and the RX 350 shows why. The 10-way power front seats, ebony or espresso bird’s eye maple and dual-zone automatic climate control system set the tone for the luxury found throughout the cabin. The RX 350 upholds another Lexus tradition: the inclusion of true premium audio as standard equipment. The nine-speaker Lexus Premium Audio System offers a multitude of music source choices, including a CD player, SiriusXM Satellite Radio capability with a 90-day trial subscription included, Bluetooth audio streaming and USB/iPod control. The seats are truly made for each individual driver and passenger, enhancing the driving experience for all.

The Display Audio/Rear Backup Camera Package upgrades the audio system to 12 speakers. For the ultimate in mobile sound, Lexus exclusively offers Mark Levinson audio systems, a brand revered by audiophiles. The RX 350’s as-tested 15-speaker Mark Levinson Surround Sound system will delight discerning ears, no matter the music choice. The system delivers 330 total watts of power through a 15-speaker array with an incredibly low 0.1 percent total harmonic distortion (THD). Clearly one of the finest audio systems we experienced in a review vehicle.

The standard SmartAccess system combines push-button starting and touch-sensitive exterior door handles. When the driver turns off the ignition, the seat automatically slides up to two inches rearward and the power tilt/telescoping steering wheel tilts upward and slides forward to ease exit. The next time the driver is seated and pushes the “On” button, the seat and steering wheel return to their preset positions automatically. Convenience and ease of use make another leap in the 2014 Lexus RX 350 with the addition of available Siri Eyes-Free Mode technology licensed from Apple. Compatible with the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 models forward, Siri lets you call contacts, select and play music from iTunes, get turn-by-turn navigation through Siri and Apple maps, and much more. To help you keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, Siri can read notifications and calendar information and allow you to add reminders, calendar appointments and notes.

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PERFORMANCE

Not only do you have a great looking vehicle with an outstanding interior with the 2014 Lexus RX 350, but the performance can stand alone as a reason to drive this SUV. The RX 350 continues in front-wheel drive and all-weather drive models, along with the F SPORT exclusively with all-weather drive. Each is powered by the silken-smooth 3.5-liter DOHC V6 engine with 270 horsepower. The standard model (FWD and AWD) uses a six-speed automatic transmission, while F SPORT uses eight-speed automatic transmission. Our AWD test model performed at a very high level in tough winter driving conditions that makes one feel confident and safe when venturing out into snowy conditions. With available Active Torque Control All-Weather Drive, the RX 350 is ready for any weather. The electronically controlled system can vary the torque distribution from purely front-wheel drive to a 50:50 split between front and rear wheels. When accelerating, or starting on a low-grip surface, torque is quickly provided to all four wheels. At steady speeds, torque is sent only to the front wheels, prioritizing fuel efficiency.

The deft balance of excellent handling with serene ride comfort that Lexus achieved with the RX 350 reflects the brand’s obsessive attention to true luxury. For example, the front suspension coil springs are inversely wound and compress in opposite directions. That arrangement prevents the negative effects of suspension compression on steering, helping to result in better straight-line stability. The double-wishbone rear suspension would be right at home in a razor-sharp sport sedan. In the RX 350, the rear suspension design has the added benefit of yielding a wide, flat rear cargo area. Fuel efficiency was respectable coming in at 18mpg in the city and 24 mpg in highway driving.

Safety is also a component that the RX 350 carries investment to customers with, as all Lexus RX models are equipped with 10 standard airbags, including side curtain airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, rear side airbags (for the outboard seating positions) and knee airbags for the driver and the front passenger. Options help the RX 350 driver see more clearly, and to be alerted to what is not seen but may pose a danger. The Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control uses millimeter-wave radar to measure and help maintain a pre-set following distance from a vehicle traveling directly ahead. The radar sensor can detect certain obstacles in front of the car, and a PCS computer uses various sensors to determine whether a collision is imminent. In such a situation, PCS preemptively retracts front seat belts and pre-initializes Brake Assist so that increased braking will be applied the instant the driver depresses the pedal.

OVERVIEW

After spending a week driving the 2014 Lexus RX 350, we walked away very impressed with the refinement of the new design that launched in 2013 and the complete package this vehicle delivers to customers. The sticker price as tested came in at $53,104, which is where we expected, but that shouldn’t deter buyers from exploring the RX 350 for their next purchase. This Lexus has that “it” factor in just about every facet, and we felt the interior was one of the best regardless of category that we tested recently. We would like to see more improvement in fuel efficiency, so hopefully that comes soon, but other than that, Lexus has a real winner in the 2014 Lexus RX 350.

  

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