2013 Lexus RX350

Lexus has ruled the luxury SUV class since it basically invented it with the RX300, way back in 1997. The current, third generation RX has just undergone its first major refresh since joining us in 2009, though it now must contend with a much more competent group of competitors.

Outside Lexus has successfully grafted on its family “spindle” grill; not only does this bring the RX350 more in line with the rest of the corporate lineup, but it also reduces some of jowliness that afflicted the 2010-12 models. Inside, little has changed—and it must be said, little probably needed to. The Lexus’ size is just right for most people, with comfortable seating for four (five in a pinch) and a large, usefully-shaped cargo hold.

However, despite updates to the RX350 infotainment system, it is now well behind the best. The concept of a haptic-feedback, mouse-like controller makes plenty of sense in the design and engineering studios, but in the real world, the driver ends up with his or her eyes off the road for much too long a time, as they try to spot a little curser floating somewhere over a large sea of available icons.

Driving the latest RX350 reminds one why it is far and away the best selling vehicle in its class, though. If there is less offensive vehicle out there, it would be a surprise. The Lexus is refined, quiet, and generally very serene. It polishes off bumps with commendable alacrity, and rarely disturbs its occupants with any unwanted intrusions of noise or harshness.

It handles as well as a vehicle in this class needs to, and if its steering is numb in feel, it is precise in action. Brake feel is actually quite well executed, and the corporate 3.5-liter V6 sings so sweetly it is a surprise others haven’t copied it more successfully yet. It combines competitive accelerative capacities (0-60 in 6.8 seconds) with excellent real-world fuel economy in the low-20s.

While others excel in certain areas—Audi’s Q5 in interior design, BMW’s X3 in handling acumen—the Lexus blends its attributes together in a way that others haven’t yet been able to match. Until they do, it is safe to say the RX350 will continue to head the sales charts.

EPA ratings: 18/24; 20mpg combined
Price as tested: $52,974
Here is what Lexus thinks of the RX350.


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