Full 2011 Lexus RX 350 Review
What's New for 2011
After a complete redesign last year, the 2011 Lexus RX 350 returns essentially unchanged.
When it comes to luxury crossover SUVs, the 2011 Lexus RX 350 delivers what the vast majority of shoppers want: pleasant driving dynamics, plenty of space for people and cargo, high-tech features, impeccable interior materials and solid build quality. While there are some shoppers who desire more than five seats or more athletic performance, there is no shortage of alternatives for that minority. As it stands, the RX 350 fits quite nicely into that Goldilocks zone with broad appeal that seems just right.
After a redesign last year, the Lexus RX 350 returns essentially unchanged, and that's a good thing. With this crossover you get pretty much everything Lexus is typically known for, including a class-leading interior that surrounds passengers with top-notch fabrics, leathers and rich wood trim. It's also exceptionally quiet on the freeway and has a ride as smooth as Barry White's voice. For power, the RX 350 has a 275-horsepower V6 that provides snappy acceleration and respectable fuel economy.
Besides providing blissful transportation, the RX 350 will please the pragmatic as well as tech-loving early adopters. There's plenty of cargo space for trips to the local home improvement superstore or for a long-distance family road trip. Some options, though costly, add a 21st-century flair. Lexus' Remote Touch interface utilizes a mouselike controller with tactile feedback ? a more elegant setup than the more complicated systems found in competing vehicles. Entertainment options like an audiophile-pleasing Mark Levinson sound system and rear-seat video screens round out the RX 350's impressive portfolio.
As impressive as the 2011 Lexus RX 350 is, you still might want to check out a few alternatives. The Lincoln MKT, Mercedes-Benz R-Class and Volvo XC90 can provide a third row of seats for those with bigger broods. And if you want a crossover SUV with spicier performance then the Acura MDX, BMW X5 and Infiniti FX35 would all likely be better choices. But overall, we think most shoppers will find the RX 350's combination of luxury, comfort and utility to be very appealing, indeed.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The five-seat 2011 Lexus RX 350 is a midsize luxury crossover SUV that's offered in one well-appointed trim level. Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, automatic headlights, heated outside mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, 10-way power front seats, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, second-row seats that slide and recline, cloth upholstery, wood interior trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a nine-speaker stereo (with a six-CD changer, steering-wheel-mounted controls, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio).
Most options are grouped into packages. The Sports package adds 19-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension and Lexus' Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system. The Premium package adds a sunroof, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, leather upholstery, a power rear liftgate, driver seat memory settings, a rear-seat armrest and an iPod/USB input/interface.
The Premium package is required for the addition of the Comfort, Luxury and Navigation packages. The Comfort package adds heated and ventilated front seats, bi-xenon adaptive headlights with automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers and an upgraded 12-speaker audio system. The Luxury package includes 19-inch wheels, power-retractable outside mirrors, upgraded leather seating, right-hand sideview camera, a wood and leather steering wheel and extendable front seat cushions. The Navigation package features a hard-drive-based navigation system (with real-time traffic and voice control), Lexus' Remote Touch interface, a back-up camera, increased Bluetooth functionality and the Enform enhanced telematics features.
Individual options include front and rear parking sensors, a premium Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system, a dual-rear-screen DVD entertainment system, a head-up display and adaptive cruise control paired with the Pre-Collision System (primes the brakes and tightens the seatbelts if a collision is deemed imminent). Some of the various package features are also available à la carte.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Lexus RX 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 275 hp and 257 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission, but buyers can choose between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. In a recent test, a FWD RX 350 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined for the FWD model, with AWD models making 18/24/20 mpg. Equipped with the optional towing package, the RX 350 can pull up to 3,500 pounds.
Standard safety equipment for the 2011 Lexus RX 350 includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front- and rear-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and dual front knee bags. Safety Connect, a traditional telematics service with automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator and emergency assistance button is also included. The Sports package's VDIM system adds additional traction capabilities. Optional is the Pre-Collision System that comes packaged with adaptive cruise control. It determines when an accident is unavoidable and pre-emptively stiffens the suspension, retracts the front seatbelts and initializes brake assist.
In Edmunds brake testing, a front-wheel-drive RX 350 came to a stop from 60 mph in 133 feet. This distance is about 10 feet longer than the Lexus' main competitors. In government crash testing, the RX 350 earned perfect five-star marks for front and rear passenger protection in frontal and side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the RX 350 a perfect "Good" rating for its performance in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Upscale appointments, exceptional cabin materials and cutting-edge tech features make the 2011 Lexus RX 350 look and feel much more expensive than its entry-level status would suggest. Authentic wood trim and high-quality leather lend an air of opulence, and the optional Mark Levinson audio is one of the best sound systems on the market.
Another noteworthy option, the Remote Touch interface, replaces the traditional touchscreen operation with a mouselike controller on the center console. The controller features haptic feedback when rolling over on-screen controls, allowing the user to "feel" the buttons. We found this system to be immediately intuitive and easier to use than other competing interfaces.
Rear passengers will find the seating roomy and comfortable thanks to reclining and sliding adjustments. Luggage and cargo space are accommodating as well, allowing up to 40 cubic feet behind the 40/20/40-split-folding rear seats and 80 cubes with them stowed.
The 2011 Lexus RX 350 doesn't disappoint when it comes to a smooth ride. The compliant suspension and plentiful sound insulation ably isolate passengers from the outside world in a silent bubble of luxury. The 3.5-liter V6 is also notably quiet, but it's also powerful enough to swiftly accelerate this crossover with ease. The softly sprung suspension never feels floaty, though those with an appetite for sporty handling may want to consider ordering the Sport package with its more firmly tuned suspension.