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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The mid-size Lexus RX 350 crossover is designed for busy moms who deserve a luxurious edge to modern utility. Loaded from head to taillights, everyday highlights that conjure grateful emotions include a power liftgate, a sliding and reclining rear seat, and a dual-screen rear entertainment system – and of course, a pampered interior.

I drove a 2015 Lexus RX 350 with the standard 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine with Variable Valve Timing paired to a six-speed automatic transmission with Snow Mode. Available in two models (with or without a sportier F Sport features), standard equipment include: wood interior trim; dual-zone climate control; ten-way power front seats; leather upholstery; wood interior trim; heated and ventilated front seats; moonroof; power tilt-and-telescopic steering column; steering wheel with mounted controls; a Mark Levinson premium audio system; Bluetooth; SmartAccess passive entry system; roof rails; a cargo area tonneau cover; a rearview camera with a seven-inch display; and power tailgate. Total vehicle price without options came to $42,195.

Not much has changed for the model year (BIG CHANGES COMING FOR 2016 MODEL) – a rearview camera with a seven-inch display screen is now standard equipment. The main rival to the Lexus RX 350 continue to be the Acura MDX, but extends to the Buick Enclave, Infiniti FX37 and Volvo XC90. They only justifiable citation for the RX 350 would be its lack of a pop-up third row.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The RX 350 has always possessed a high-class look, both inside and out. The center console layout is streamlined and contoured. Mark Levinson audio systems are some of the best on the market. In terms of practicality, the remote power liftgate, the SmartAccess entry (no need for clicking the key fob – just walk up to the car to unlock the door), a ten-way driver power seat, and roomy second row for child seats will be instant favorites. The RX350 is a vehicle that cries for more optional equipment, and that can add up – my test drive featured a $1,390 Comfort Package (rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated front seats); a $4,060 a navigation system and dual-screen rear DVD player; and a $2,760 Premium Package (leather trim interior, Blind Spot Monitoring, roof rails) – the list goes on and all told, it added $11,235 to the price. The F Sport trim includes a more aggressive grille and rear bumper along with more pronounced fenders and larger wheels

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2015 Lexus RX 350 ratings of “Good” in all categories. With all-wheel drive, the vehicle earns an overall 5-Star rating with The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – the 2015 Acura MDX has a 5-Star rating with both the all-wheel and front-wheel drive versions.

Cost Issues: The 2015 Lexus RX 350 starts at $40,970; the newer F Sport trim starts at $48,710; and my fully loaded test drive came in at $53,430. A starting price for the 2015 Acura MDX is $42,765. If you want to go down in price, I’d recommend looking at a fully loaded three-row 2015 Mazda CX-9 crossover which costs around $38k.

Activity & Performance Ability: The Lexus RX 350 is an enjoyably smooth ride with commanding acceleration on any mountain grain or city incline with forceful brakes to match. But to really tap into the pleasure of this vehicle, be expected to cough up the dough for the many premium packages – for example, you don’t want to be without adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision braking system or rear DVD player, especially if as a mom you want to up the safety and entertainment factors for all. There is plenty of cargo room to store all baby necessities and weekend luggage.

The Green Concern: EPA-estimated fuel economy results are 18-city and 24-highway for a combined 20 miles-per-gallon with the all-wheel drive (the 2015 Acura MDX has a 1 mile-per-gallon gain combined). You’d have to drop down in engine size to garner better results.

The 2015 Lexus RX 350 continues to dominate the luxury mid-size crossover market with an inviting interior, quick-working entertainment technology, and pleasing performance. If you can live without an optional third row, you’ll be hard pressed to find this vehicle lacking anything.

2015 Katrina Ramser