Few things are more American than taking a road trip over the 4th of July weekend, unless of course your final destination is a country that doesn’t celebrate the 4th of July. Dubious patriotism aside, I recently embarked on a 2,800-mile road trip from Irvine, CA to Whistler, BC in our long-term 2015 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport. Here’s how it unfolded.  

The Plan

Arguably the finest downhill mountain bike park in the world, Whistler is the de-facto destination for ironic cyclists who love to ride but hate to pedal. Though I undoubtedly fall into that category, 1,400 miles of driving each way to ride my bike down the face of a mountain didn’t seem particularly appealing. But, after taking a closer look at the route, I decided to turn what was initially a 5-day sprint into a 10-day retreat. So this was the new plan: drive to and stay the night in a series of cities along the way to help break up the trip and prevent it from turning into a death march. These waypoint cities consisted of San Francisco (7 hours), Portland (11 hours), and Vancouver (6 hours) on the way up and Seattle (4 hours) and Sacramento (12.5 hours) on the way back. 

To Reserve or Not To Reserve?

There are two key requirements when it comes to planning a trip: arranging travel and locking down hotel reservations. To make things a bit more interesting, I meddled with the latter requisite to determine if technology might improve the way we book hotels on road trips. The idea was to pre-book a month in advance the hotels enroute to Whistler and reserve the return hotels on the fly using the Booking Now and Hotels Tonight apps. With a $200/night budget, the old school method of booking at least a few weeks in advance called for more than two hours of research in order to land a series of one-and two-star hotels. Booking through the apps within 12 hours of arriving at the destination earned me 3-and 4-star hotels for the same price. Because these apps are able to display up-to-minute discounts from hotels aggressively trying to fill vacancies for the night, technology is the clear winner in this scenario – at least from a monetary standpoint. For the peace of mind of knowing your hotel is booked, where it’s located, and what the surrounding area has to offer, stick with the traditional reservation process. But if you’re comfortable with making last-minute decisions, and prefer more upscale hotels for the same amount of money, go with the apps.   

Also: Class of 2017 – New Cars Ready to Roll

The Drive

Besides the usual road trip preparations (ensuring tires are properly inflated, checking oil and coolant levels/life, stocking the car with snacks and drinks), I dropped off our RX 350 at a local Lexus dealer for a steering alignment. Aside from screaming children in the back seat, nothing is more annoying on a road trip than a cockeyed steering wheel. I also picked up a pair of headrest pillows online for about $15. During long stretches, these pillows all but eliminated neck strain caused by the sedentary conditions.  Combined with the RX’s well-shaped seats, I could drive upwards of six hours straight before encountering even the slightest hint of fatigue. Considering many driver’s seats leave me sore after only an hour or two of driving, it’s safe to say our RX has some of the most comfortable front seats money can buy.  

With an original sticker price of roughly $53,000, it’s no surprise the Lexus excelled in the areas of ride quality, interior noise, and overall refinement. The 270 horsepower V6 paired with an impressively smooth 8-speed automatic made quick work of passing and merging maneuvers while returning a very-respectable 23.2-mpg average by trip’s end on 87-octane gasoline. That figure might not seem overly remarkable on the surface, but keep in mind that I managed to achieve that number in an all-wheel-drive midsize SUV with a bike strapped to the rear hatch while regularly traveling in the fastest-moving traffic lane. In all, $324 in fuel was all it took to cover 2,800 miles.  

Granted, a smaller, more fuel-efficient hybrid would cut that fuel tally in half. But if you need the extra space, and appreciate world-class comfort, the third-generation Lexus RX is an exemplary road tripper. And, seeing as you can pick up an RX identical to our test unit for well under $40,000, it’s also a smart buy.

Check out past updates on our 2015 RX350 AWD F Sport L/Certified long-term vehicle…


Long-Term Update: L/Certified Service

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See a full review and pricing information on the 2015 Lexus RX or check out its 5-Year Cost to Own.


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