2012 Lexus RX 350 SUV - FROM $39,075
The 2012 Lexus RX 350 leads when it comes to providing a plush ride, a luxurious cabin and everyday utility. For most buyers, those attributes should be enough to overcome its rather uninspiring driving dynamics.
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Lexus RX 350 sees only a few changes, including a new appearance package and the fuel recommendation dropping to 87-octane gasoline, though the latter also results in a minor drop in engine output.
Catering to the majority is good business practice. Sure, commercials showing SUVs attacking winding mountain roads or running through rugged trails makes for exciting video. In reality, though, most luxury-brand SUV consumers are just looking for plenty of room for people and things, pleasant driving dynamics, a welcoming interior and easy-to-use high-tech features. The 2012 Lexus RX 350 offers all of that in a well-built package. With such a broad appeal, it's no wonder the RX 350 is Lexus' best-selling model.
Fitted with fine leather, richly finished wood trim and top-notch materials, the RX 350's handsome cabin upholds Lexus tradition, as does the hushed and plush ride. The powertrain is also praise-worthy for its smooth performance and ability to furnish both brisk acceleration and respectable fuel economy. Although it doesn't offer a third-row seat option, the RX 350 provides plenty of space for five passengers. The cargo hold is likewise accommodating whether it's used for home improvement purchases or luggage for the annual family road trip.
The RX offers the latest high-tech features, and you can use them without feeling like you need to study the owner's manual. The navigation system, for example, features Lexus' Remote Touch interface that utilizes a mouselike controller with tactile feedback -- a more intuitive setup than what you'll find in competing vehicles. Also tempting buyers are rear-seat video screens and the superb Mark Levinson sound system. Options, however, tend to be grouped into costly packages that can quickly pump up the price.
As impressive as the 2012 Lexus RX 350 is, it faces worthy rivals. The Buick Enclave, Lincoln MKT and Mercedes-Benz R-Class are all larger and offer a third-row seat for those with bigger broods. And if you want a crossover SUV with spicier performance, then the Acura MDX, BMW X5 and Infiniti FX35 would all likely be better choices. But overall, we think most shoppers will find the RX 350's combination of luxury, comfort and utility to be very appealing indeed.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The five-seat 2012 Lexus RX 350 is a midsize luxury crossover SUV that's offered in one well-appointed trim level.
Standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, heated outside mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, eight-way power front seats, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, second-row seats that slide and recline, cloth upholstery, wood interior trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a nine-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB interface and satellite radio.
Most options are grouped into packages and can vary by region. The Appearance package includes 19-inch wheels and blacked-out headlight trim. The Sports package also includes 19-inch wheels as well as a sport-tuned suspension and Lexus' Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system. The Premium package adds a sunroof, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, leather upholstery, a power rear liftgate, driver-seat memory settings and a rear-seat armrest.
The Premium package is required for the addition of the Comfort, Luxury and Navigation packages. The Comfort package adds heated and ventilated front seats, bi-xenon adaptive headlights with automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers and an upgraded 12-speaker sound system. The Luxury package includes 19-inch wheels, power-retractable outside mirrors, upgraded leather seating, a right-hand sideview camera, a wood and leather steering wheel and extendable front seat cushions. The Navigation package features a hard-drive-based navigation system (with real-time traffic and voice control), Lexus' Remote Touch interface, a back-up camera, increased Bluetooth functionality and the Enform enhanced telematics features.
Individual options include front and rear parking sensors, a premium Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system, a dual-rear-screen DVD entertainment system, a head-up display and adaptive cruise control paired with the Pre-Collision System (which primes the brakes and tightens the seatbelts if a collision is imminent). Some of the various package features are also available à la carte.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Lexus RX 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission, but buyers can choose between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. In Edmunds testing, a FWD RX 350 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a quick 7.1 seconds.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined for the FWD model, with AWD models making 18/24/20 mpg. Equipped with the optional towing package, the RX 350 can pull up to 3,500 pounds.
Standard safety equipment for the 2012 Lexus RX 350 includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front- and rear-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, dual front knee bags and active front head restraints. Safety Connect, a traditional telematics service with automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator and an emergency assistance button is also included.
The Sports package's VDIM system adds additional traction capabilities. Optional is the Pre-Collision System that comes packaged with adaptive cruise control. It determines when an accident is unavoidable and pre-emptively stiffens the suspension, retracts the front seatbelts and initializes brake assist.
In Edmunds brake testing, a front-wheel-drive RX 350 came to a stop from 60 mph in 133 feet. This distance is about 10 feet longer than the Lexus' main competitors.
In government crash testing, the RX 350 received an overall score of four stars (out of five). It got four stars for overall frontal crash protection and five stars for overall side crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the RX 350 its top "Good" rating for its performance in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Upscale appointments, exceptional cabin materials and cutting-edge tech features make the 2012 Lexus RX 350 look and feel much more expensive than its price might suggest. Authentic wood trim and high-quality leather lend an air of opulence, and the optional Mark Levinson audio is one of the best sound systems on the market.
Another noteworthy option is the navigation system, as it comes with the Remote Touch interface that replaces the traditional touchscreen operation with a mouselike controller on the center console. The controller provides tactile feedback when rolling over on-screen controls, allowing the user to "feel" the buttons. We found this system to be immediately intuitive and easier to use than other competing interfaces.
Rear passengers will find the seating roomy and comfortable thanks to reclining and sliding adjustments. There's also ample luggage and cargo space, with up to 40 cubic feet behind the 40/20/40-split-folding rear seats and 80 cubes with them stowed.
When it comes to ride quality, the 2012 Lexus RX 350 doesn't disappoint; the SUV feels impeccably smooth on the road. The compliant suspension and plentiful sound insulation isolate passengers from the outside world in a silent bubble of luxury. The 3.5-liter V6 is notably quiet, but it's also powerful enough to swiftly accelerate this crossover with ease. The softly sprung suspension never feels floaty, though those with an appetite for sporty handling may want to consider ordering the Sport package with its more firmly tuned suspension.