KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
One of the most successful crossover SUV offerings in the history of the genre, the mid-size RX series continues to attract buyers with its distinctive combination of style, luxury, comfort and safety. This line of car-based five-passenger family haulers includes both the volume-leader RX 350 and the RX 400h Hybrid (reviewed separately), and offers V6 power in both front- and all-wheel-drive configurations. Key RX 350 competitors in the prolific mid-size premium SUV/crossover segment include the Acura MDX, BMW X3 and X5, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti FX35 and FX50, Lincoln MKX and Mercedes-Benz ML350.
You'll Like This Car If...
With its luxury-sedan sophistication, SUV versatility, first-class creature and safety features plus a premium Lexus pedigree, the RX 350 deserves serious consideration from anyone shopping for a single vehicle with a truly multifaceted personality.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Those who regularly plan to head off-road would be happier with a more SUV-like alternative like a Land Rover LR2 or Mercedes-Benz ML350. When towing duties matter most, the Acura MDX and BMW X5 both offer greater maximum capacity.
What's New for 2009
Other than addition of some new colors, there are no major changes for the Lexus RX 350 for 2009.
Given its primary mission as a luxury-oriented carryall, the 2009 Lexus RX 350's cabin is well isolated from wind and road noise. With chassis tuning focused more on ride comfort than precision handling, it's also better suited to effortless cruising than to attacking a twisty two-lane. However, a relatively compact 37.4-feet turning circle makes the RX 350 fairly easy to maneuver in tighter confines, while the available four-position air suspension can raise itself to clear obstacles, lower itself for cruising and even dip for easier entry and exit. A viscous center coupling in the optional all-wheel-drive system can transfer power fore or aft from the normal 50/50 split to instantly compensate for changing traction conditions. All RX 350s come with an effective Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) package that gets a new positive cutoff switch to indulge more enthusiastic drivers and the anti-lock disc brakes excel in short, drama-free stops.
Power Rear Liftgate
This thoughtful standard opens and closes the RX 350's large one-piece liftgate at the touch of a button on the key fob or the dash, making it quicker and easier to load and unload the cargo bay.
Optional Multi-Panel Moonroof
Available in place of the conventional power moonroof, this three-element alternative is 150 percent larger and lets in 250 percent more outside light but creates no additional wind noise. It comes in a package that also includes leather upholstery, corner-following bi-xenon Adaptive Headlamps and a power tilt and telescoping steering column.
Living up to its Lexus heritage, the RX 350's space-efficient cabin has a quality appearance with an impressive level of fit and finish. Standard cloth upholstery, signature Optitron electroluminescent gauges and real wood trim are complemented by a major assortment of comfort and convenience touches. This sophisticated five-passenger transporter pairs supportive 10-way power seats with a 40/20/40 rear bench that splits, folds, slides, reclines, and will comfortably handle two full-size adults or a trio of kids. Accessed by a power liftgate, the RX 350's cargo bay can hold 38.3 cubic feet of your carry-on items with the rear seat up and 84.7 cubic feet with the seatbacks flipped forward and down.
Consciously avoiding the harder angles and squared-off edges favored by traditional SUVs, the 2009 Lexus RX 350 celebrates its crossover character by matching rounded body contours with well-defined accent lines and passenger-friendly proportions. Its smartly raked windshield and large glass area help improve driver sightlines while both front and rear doors are large enough to ensure easy access to all seats. Crystalline head- and tail lamp covers, subtle chrome highlights on the grille and door handles and S-rated 225/65 all-season tires on handsome 17-inch alloy wheels emphasize its upscale personality.
Notable Standard Equipment
Passenger-pleasing appointments abound in the RX 350, starting with ivory-colored cloth upholstery, walnut or bird's-eye maple wood accents, a mega-roster of power assists headed by 10-way power seats and a power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control and an eight-speaker AM/FM/CD unit with six-disc changer. Other highlights include a driver information system, cruise control, numerous modest storage cubbies plus a large locking glovebox, dual 12-volt powerpoints and an anti-theft system. Leading the list of safety features are Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control (TRAC), antilock disc brakes with Brake Assist (BA) circuitry and front, front-side and side-curtain airbags plus a driver's-side knee airbag.
Notable Optional Equipment
The 2009 Lexus RX 350 offers several grouped upgrades, beginning with a Premium Package that includes leather upholstery, a power moonroof, power tilt and telescoping steering column and memory for the driver's seat, mirrors and steering wheel. The Premium Plus Package adds bi-xenon Adaptive Front Lighting (AFS) to that mix while the Performance Package brings special 18-inch wheels with V-rated 235/55 tires, four-mode air suspension and a five-speed sequential automatic transmission. Other extras include an oversize multi-panel moonroof, 11-speaker/210-watt Mark Levinson premium audio system, voice-activated navigation system with rear backup camera, rear-seat DVD entertainment system, rain-sensing windshield wipers, distance-maintaining Dynamic Laser Cruise Control and a towing package.
Under the Hood
Both front-drive and all-wheel-drive 2009 Lexus RX 350 models use an identical 3.5-liter all-aluminum V6 that features Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) to help bolster low and mid-range responsiveness. Smooth and free-revving, it makes a very enthusiastic 270 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. The standard transmission is an equally efficient five-speed automatic, and included in the Performance Package is sequential shifting. That matchup allows both front and all-wheel drive RX 350s to run from zero to 60 miles per hour in less than 7.5 seconds and still earn class-competitive fuel economy numbers from the EPA. Step up to the optional towing package and the trailering capability on either RX 350 variant jumps from 2,000 to 3,500 pounds.
270 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
251 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/23 (FWD), 17/22(AWD)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on a front-drive 2009 Lexus RX 350 starts at just over $38,500, while the all-wheel drive model is closer to $40,000. Prudent buyers are well advised to ponder option choices carefully, as either version can top the $50,000 mark when fully loaded. While the BMW X3 and X5 are projected to have marginally better residual values, the RX 350 is expected to outpoint the Cadillac SRX, Infiniti FX35 and FX50, Lincoln MKX and Mercedes-Benz ML350 in that critical department. As is typical of the entire SUV/crossover category, an all-wheel-drive RX 350 will likely maintain a slightly higher percentage of its original selling price than a comparably equipped front-drive model.