2014 Lexus RX 350 Review
2014 RX 350 Review
It’s been 16 years since Lexus launched the RX series and the iconic luxury crossover still claims some tricks up it’s sleeves. My welcome assignment? Drive the RX 350 through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and into the glorious back country of Northern California and Nevada. I was joined by my lovely fiance for the second part of our mission, to find a venue suitable to be wed next September. The RX and all of it’s grown up sensibilities provided us an appropriate chariot for this symbolic drive towards family life. Discussing a modest wedding budget while driving a $53,000 car was a risk I was willing to take.
Upon delivery of the test car the first thing I notice is the addition of the spindle grill. Previous incarnations of the 3rd generation RX had a more muted look with their trapezoidal grill about half the size of the 2014’s. It gives the new model a bolder look in spite of many of the same lines and a very similar shape. Overall the car manages to appear refined and luxurious without being garish or stately. It’s a luxury SUV that hides it’s heft with an egg shaped profile and long lines from nose to peak.
Simply put, impressive. In my week of testing this vehicle I would estimate that I was behind the wheel for over 30 hours. Never once did I get tightness or cramps in my legs, my back remained well supported, my head fit the headrest suitably. Each time out of the car the seat would automatically move backwards to give me more room to exit. Once back in the car it finds your preset custom position again without prompting. We put a couple of adults in the back seat for a field trip to the casino and they spent half the ride exclaiming about how much room they had and how soft the seats were. A center console was discovered, side door cup holders used. The largest of our passengers reclined his seat and made me turn to look at how comfortable he was. Our loaner didn’t include the optional entertainment options for the back seat or I may have found myself alone up front on the long drive home.
The car is packed with features inside and out. We had a near fully loaded F Sport edition but a quick glance at the base model’s pricing tells me you’ll be well equipped even at their lowest price point. Premium audio systems, dual climate control, heated and cooling seats to name a few favorites. The 7” LCD screen remains your base for all information and entertainment needs. Most of your interactions with the system go through the standard Remote Touch Controller, a clunky but valiant effort to clean up some of the interface issues that plague every in dash computer system I’ve encountered. Most of the issues with the system come from the software end, the design lacks intuition and overall ease of use.
Thankfully though the feature keeps me from hunting and pecking on a touchscreen and for that I give it a pass. I beg the automaker gods to use google maps and be done with it. The new “Siri Eyes Free Mode” incorporates your iPhone into the infotainment system but that remains only as effective as the Siri software itself. The new Lexus Enform app for Android and iPhone devices is a nice touch but those with limited data plans may one day balk at using their own data stream. The ability to essentially tether to my device and use the in dash system to stream Pandora and search for a lunch spot on Yelp is undoubtably useful but until the user interface can be as easily manipulated as the one on our phones it remains a limited solution.
Safe as can be. This car’s list of safety features runs as long as it’s luxury ones. Intuitive airbags line the vehicle, crumple zones await the sudden and unexpected. Assistive brake technology can sense when a crash is imminent, blind spot monitor keeps watch where you can’t quite see. I might have been the dummy once or twice on our trip but thankfully our days with the RX were void of any real life crash testing. The optional Parking Assist came in handy when navigating tight parking lots in the medium size vehicle and the optional Heads Up Display quickly became my primary method of checking speed, gears and turns through the nav system.
Handling and Performance
Kind of a catch twenty two here. On one hand you have a car who’s strength and focus remains luxury and comfort. It’s hard to expect what is largely accepted as the most comfortable vehicle in it’s class to carve the roads like a sports car. On the other hand you have the promise of the F Sport badge and all the aggressive driving it represents. Ultimately for me the performance angle fell a little flat. The 270hp engine had enough get up and go to pass any of the countless semis I encountered on the highway, especially when using the 8 speed manual paddle shifters. Down shift from cruising gears with the throttle down and the car seamlessly accelerates to speed, covering 60 to 80 in a proper fashion. The soft handling and body roll associated with the comfort mostly showed on the downhills of the mountain roads as our weight distribution rolled through the wheel base. On long and winding uphill stretches the car showed off it’s strengths, gamely accelerating to speed, hugging the lines while finding the apex of the turn. Sorely missing is the “Drive Mode Select” found in the sedan versions of the F Series. That dial and all of the suspension tightening it controls would instantly firm the ride up and likely change all my minor quibbles about the handling. Maybe next year.
Our brief foray into the snow demonstrated a capable AWD system. The 7.3 inches of ground clearance were high enough to drive over the days old remains of an unplowed snow storm. The Active Torque Control system only had to kick in once and like all AWD cars the nose of the car led the way out of the slide. Our rain sensing windshield wipers stayed hidden in the dry mountain air and our Emergency Assistance button remained mercifully untouched.
The 2014 RX 350 manages to retain it’s broad based luxury appeal, hitting all of it’s notes without becoming vanilla or uninspired. It does not possess the raw handling that I’ve come to expect from an F Series but it certainly compensates for it with a comfortable and luxurious ride. It’s a good fit for a man looking towards the days when a little more space might be needed and safety becomes the priority concern.
Oh, the wedding? We found a spot. Look for more from Tahoe in the coming months.
2014 Lexus RX 350 F Series Specs
- 3.5 Liter 270hp Four Cam 24 Valve V6 Engine
- 18/26 mpg
- 8 speed automatic transmission
- 0-60 in 7.7 seconds
- $39,760 – $54,000
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