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The New 2010 Lexus RX 350: The Best Just Got Better - REVIEW and ROAD TRIP VIDEO

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Editor's Note: In this special profile of the new Lexus RX 350 we present Marty Bernstein's in-depth ride and drive review along with the comprehensive RoadTrip video of the RX 350, and it's "hybrid" sister the RX 450h, that Mark Fulmer and Marc Rauch produced during their ride and drive in San Diego. Click PLAY to watch the video.

The New 2010 Lexus RX 350: The Best Just Got Better

By Marty Bernstein

Last week I drove and rode in the new 2010 Lexus RX 350 – the third generation of the nation’s first luxury car based SUV. When first introduced in 1999 the RX 300 garnered some acclaim but also much questioning and skepticism from many auto critics and pundits.

Well, the latter group was wrong, dead wrong. And once again, consumer response– the people who spend the bucks -- proved it’s what sells that spells success, not what we, the auto writers, say should sell.

• SEE ALSO: Lexus Buyers Guide

The RX series has become the profitable backbone of Lexus’ business during the past decade and paved the way for Toyota’s luxury division growth and reputation. Sales of the first two generations totaled almost 800 thousand units, roughly 80K per year.

An amazing number for a breakthrough luxury car, but a number Lexus believes it can not only reach but exceed thanks to a top to bottom, front to rear, inside and out total reinvention of their best-selling car in the new RX350. And that’s in this economic downturn too.

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This is not just an improved or refreshment, this is better, much better than the two previous generations. During the introduction to the media last week in Sea Island, GA, the presenters noted the new RX was based on what owners said they wanted in a new version inside and out and how they met these needs.

Based on a day of driving and riding, the Lexus customer got what they wanted and more. Follow me through a written walk-drive-about:

Exterior Design
The new RX has remained true to its iconic shape and design because RX owners like it – and they’re the ones that count. There’s a new wider stance and a lower profile. A chrome accent sweep on the lower door base adds to the sleek looks.

The grill is bigger and bolder and so is the Lexus “L” logo. Both headlights and tail lights sweep beyond their usual positioning and have special design angles to reduce wind noise.

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A rear spoiler is now standard which neatly hides the standard am/fm antenna and rear window wiper too. Changing this wiper blade might be a problem. And visibility is good, but a dinky little window inside the A pillar is useless.

Typically there was no night driving, but specs indicate bi-Xeon headlights are available in addi-tion to the standard projector beam Halogens. Taillights are of the LED variety. Outside mirrors have integrated turn signals. There are ten color choices with outstanding depth of color on the models previewed.

Creature Features

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Interior - Some really big improvements have been made where they really count: where you sit and drive or just sit. Lexus has always been known for its interiors and this tradition continues in the new RX.

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Revised seating is firmer than soft, but not cushy – it’s supportive, very comfortable and offers serious adjustments in addition to heating and optional ventilation. The steering wheel has a number of control features in addition to steering for cruise info, driver support systems and customization with up to 25 different items for personalization.

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Back seats are bigger with 40/20/40 seating and headrests for all. Cargo space has been made bigger and for many a great, time saving one-lever control to fold down the back seats.

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The instrumentation for speed and tachometer are augmented with gauges, needles and icons marked in white that were easy to read and understand. Other info symbols are bright and colorful, without being distracting.

There are three choices of interior colors – light gray, black and a new parchment – and choices of sea and wood trims to enhance the mood and atmosphere of quality and elegance without being outlandish or ostentatious.

Technology Time
Even a semi-Luddite can appreciate the number and sophistication of the technological innovations that abound in the new RX 350. I must start with speech recognition for the navigation system which is simply sensational. Want it to zoom in any direction, just say the words and your the navi has changed. There's not instant transmission, but it is more than acceptable. The new location for the navigation screen and the ease of review while maintaining eyes on the road it’s great.

The new heads-up display of important driving and information would be on my list. This projected information does not interfere with the driver’s line of sight, but adds important information instant availability.

Without a doubt the neatest new techno-treat is the device called “remote touch” it’s like the touch screen on your laptop and operates in the same manner. No more touch screen touches and fingerprints. Use it like a mouse, it’s that easy. Show it to your friends with the infamous Bimmer iDrives … watch ‘em drool.

The navigation system using either voice or remote control is very easy to se. A super-big hard disk replaces map date DVDS which is very nice. The voice prompts were clear and precise.

Audio was excellent and there’s an optional XM feature that give you information and updates including temperatures and weather and road conditions. No cop warnings though. Lots of plugs and jacks for superphones, iPods and other electronic tools and toys.

Driving Dynamics
The RX 350 is not a sportscar, nor should it handle like one. That said, it is a very good driving machine either in-town on the highway or a freeway. On the roads of Georgia, one must be very careful and watchful of the various insane speed limits because most of the time I was 10 to 15 miles over before noticing it. The new electric steering is very smooth and quick acting. The new 6-speed transmission is smooth, quiet and responsive.

The powertrain of 275 hp delivers 257 lb of torque with peak response between 2,300 and 6,100 rpm. Fuel economy is what was expected, 18/24/20 which is more than the previous model. An important feature of the drive is the interior quietness promised with the addition of special sound damping materials on the underside of the vehicle in several locations.

Bottom Line
Remember the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Well, the old Lexus RX certainly wasn’t broke, hell, it was the benchmark standard for the classification, but the new version is so much better, the com-petition is gonna have to really hustle, just to attempt to keep up.

Opps, I almost forgot … there’s just one more improvement in the new Lexus RX 350 – a new and improved price. With all the goodies, additions and reinventions to the 2010 model, for which Lexus has figured an added value of $2,000, it has lowered the price by $900! MSRP for the base model is $38,200. Options abound with prices ranging fro $3,628 for the premium package to $6,881 for the navigation package.