Monday, November 25, 2013

Lexus RX 350 puts you in lap of luxury

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at www.sacbee.com/business

Sacramento, California – One of the best things about this whole car-reviewing gig is getting the opportunity to occasionally sample how the other half lives.

And that’s where the RX 350 luxury crossover sport-utility vehicles comes in … especially the F SPORT model.  Here’s a loaded, versatile SUV that I’m sure is enjoyed by many folks with the means to buy it.

Frankly, however, the RX is not out of sight.  Mine wore a sticker with a starting price of $47,000, with an option package that pushed the bottom line to $52,224.  That’s not a fortune, but it’s definitely in the luxury class.

And, oh, it does feel good.

The RX has been around for 15 years – the 2014 version, by the way, is virtually unchanged from the 2013 model – and it has gotten a bit more power over that time. Yet while the power plant has grown steadily stronger, it seems the luxurious feel to the RX interior has outpaced that trend.

Beyond the blizzard of top-level safety features, RX 350 buyers are spoiled with a super-long luxo list that includes 10-way power front seats (they’re heated and ventilated as well), power tilt/telescoping steering column, a power moonroof, perforated leather trimmed seats, classy wood trim and a do-everything information display.  My tester’s option package also added a blind-spot monitor, a primo Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system and an over-the-top nav system.

The F SPORT eight-speed automatic transmission in the tester functioned with seamless excellence, and believe me, I pay attention to such things.  And yes, I did have fun playing with the paddle shifters when I wanted more control over the gearbox.

Exterior styling is simultaneously regal and sporty, with just the right amount of sharp angles on the front end.

The cabin is bank vault-quiet even at high freeway speeds, and the F SPORT suspension makes the ride smooth and even in all conditions.  Steering is pleasantly firm, radiating a safe-and-secure feel.

Wow, there oughta be a law: Every licensed motorist should have a free week in this vehicle.

The 3.5-liter V-6 is not necessarily a road burner at a max 270 horsepower, but it gets the job done in 90 percent of all essential driving conditions, with the unused 10 percent including things like beating a Corvette off the line and climbing a 45-degree solid rock wall.

The RX 350 is so sublime that I really can’t imagine spending $60,000, $70,000 or more for a more opulently loaded SUV.  Seems like it would be a needless expense for too little reward … no matter how much money you have.

Overall, this is a grade-A vehicle all the way, perfectly placed in the practical-size luxury SUV segment.  If money is not necessarily a concern, you can shorten your list of crossover SUV test drives to this venerable Lexus model.

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