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2010 Lexus RX first drive Page 2

 
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Materials still feel a bit lacking in the RX, but it’s a complaint common to all Lexus vehicles. The leather is nice, but it feels overly processed and chemical-laden, rather than the luxurious and pampered feel one finds in German or Italian leather. Similarly, door panels, dashboard elements and headliners feel somewhat cheaper, emitting hollow sounds when thumped. Mercedes and BMW, though still not perfect in their implementations, have risen above this level of construction in recent models.

Fuel Economy

'L-Finesse' design language in the center stack

'L-Finesse' design language in the center stack

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Perhaps the most surprising deficiency of the new RX is its fuel economy. The new vehicle uses a 3.5L V6 engine for both the 350 and 450h models, with the hybrid adding a 50hp (37kW) electric drive system to spin the rear wheels. Despite the power-boosting hybrid pack, the 350 is only 20hp behind the 450h, due to the hybrid 3.5L’s use of a modified Atkinson cycle.

Neither variant uses direct injection, however - another surprise, given the availability of the technology in similar engines throughout the Lexus lineup. Lexus officials at the event said that the efficiency and power gain simply didn’t justify the cost in this particular application. That’s an odd outcome, especially given the rather weak performance of both cars on a two-hour jaunt through the Texas hill country.

The RX 350, piloted by a trio of journalists, managed just 20-22mpg in none-too-spirited driving at constant 60-70mph speeds. The RX450h only fared marginally better, at 22-23mpg in identical conditions. The hybrid’s strength admittedly lies in city, rather than highway, driving, but even in our limited time in town, the crossover’s efficiency rating never climbed above 26mpg.

Performance
Neither vehicle is geared, in presentation or demeanor, toward vicious performance, and both live up to that reserved image. Stately comfort - check; easy driving - check; fairly quick acceleration - check; corner-hugging grip - wait, what?

A fair amount of body roll - standard fare for the segment, but outright disconcerting if your daily driver is a sports car - is to be encountered on moderately quick turns, or under sudden maneuvers. It’s not an unsafe amount of body roll, however, and once accustomed to it, it’s even a bit reassuring - you know you’re cornering by the angle of the horizon as much as by lateral g-forces.

The 275hp to 295hp (205-220kW) engines provide enough pep to make passing easy, and the smooth-shifting transmissions are good enough to prevent you from even noticing their operation, but don’t expect the RX to be your black-horse stoplight king. From a stop, the RX prefers smoothness over speed, and under braking it is stable, but never sudden.

Overall first impression
Not exactly parsimonious with fuel, but highly advanced in certain technological aspects, the RX is a vehicle that rightfully sits at the top of its segment. So far few true contenders to its position have emerged, though the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLK are arguably gathering their strength. Having experienced both the RX and the new 2010 Cadillac SRX - though not on the road with the latter, lamentably - within a 10-day period, I’d put the new Caddy crossover at the front of the list of Lexus’ true competitors. Until any challenger proves its merits to be greater than those of the RX, however, it remains the undisputed king.




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Comments (5)
  1. man that interior sucks. actually it all looks pretty crap... some late lexus's have seemed very cheap and this is no different. too much of toyota seem to be inspiring lexus when it should not only completely show up toyota but be different.
     
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  2. I drove the new RX and have to disagree with the review.The interior is the nicest in its class and blows away the Mercedes and bmw x5.The x3 should net even be mentioned in the same sentence.The new rear suspension made this SUV feel much better planted and heavy.The ride was best in class,as will as the quietness.I don't know if many buyers are going to race people from a stop light or not,but most are more mature than that.
     
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  3. I drove the new RX and have to disagree with the review.The interior is the nicest in its class and blows away the Mercedes and bmw x5.The x3 should net even be mentioned in the same sentence.The new rear suspension made this SUV feel much better planted and heavy.The ride was best in class,as will as the quietness.I don't know if many buyers are going to race people from a stop light or not,but most are more mature than that.

    You raise a good point in that most Lexus buyers are fairly mature, though the RX does draw one of the youngest segments of all Lexus models. As for stoplight racing, that reference was thrown in as a jest, though I personally find SUV drivers to be among the most aggressive on the road, regardless of brand or market segment.

    I respect your opinion on the materials issue, but having recently spent time in a number of Mercedes and BMW vehicles, I have to disagree. Perhaps three or four years ago I would have swung the other way on the matter, but of late, the Germans have been building some truly impressive interiors. That's not a black mark against Lexus however; it's a very fine interior, and ergonomically, nearly ideal. It's just not quite on the same level as its immediate competitors.

    As for ride quality, I agree, it's very pleasant, but again I have to disagree with you when it comes to noise. The new RX, while it may be the benchmark for the segment, suffers from more wind noise at the side mirrors and engine vibration than I would find acceptable in a vehicle in its price range.

    But the whole point of a review is to give a perspective, and since we're coming from different backgrounds and experiences, we understandably have different perceptions of what the RX is like. I'm sure the RX will continue to be Lexus' best-selling model; it's a very good vehicle. But I'd be doing a disservice to the reader if I didn't point out the flaws I found in it, regardless of whether each individual agrees with me (which, in the end, is impossible).
     
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  4. The RX has always been much better looking than the similar offerings from Acura. And being a Lexus you know you're getting quality engineering for a good price. The topics raised by the guys above are subjective to the individual taste of the buyer but I imagine few will find enough faults with this car to walk away from it.


    But this remains to me the most hated car on the road and the reason is 3 letters long: (blinding) DRLs. When I'm crossing paths with an RX (and I'm not bothering anyone else) I flip on my high beams so they get a taste of what's like to be on my seat. Seems this car has moved the blinding lights to the fog light position. This is a step to the side and a little forward. Eliminating these useless gimmicks will make the RX a 10 in my book.
     
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  5. fug, fug, fug.

    looks like a squished IS. not pretty.
     
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