2012 Lexus RX350: Introduction
It’s kind of hard to imagine it now, but just over a decade ago, Lexus invented the now overpopulated compact premium SUV sector with the most surprising thing currently being that it still is holding tight to its best-selling status, much like a Beverly Hills Housewife clutches to her youth. So does the Lexus RX350 keep ahead of the Audi Q5, Acura RDX, BMW X3, Volvo XC60, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti EX35 and Mercedes GLK? Is it the style, quality, utility or room that impresses or are Neiman Marcus bound Lexus buyers subjected to non-stop subliminal messages saying “buy a Lexus” as they are doing their shopping?
It could be any of those things but we were shocked during our week in the 2012 Lexus RX350 that, despite all of the competitors we had tested, we loved this buttery smooth SUV operator most of all. Was it the way every control moved with an oiled slickness that you only see in politicians with the “get out of any problem” smoothness of a Kennedy or Clinton, the expertly-oiled and expensive feeling leather, the styling which is classy but not with a K. That would be called New Jersey “Klassy.”
No, if anything the 2012 Lexus RX350 has persevered in an ever more crowded market segment by simply excelling at what it will be called to do most often—comfortably haul upper middle class people and cargo to and from plays, soccer practice and the Country Club. No one will ever question your purchase when you buy a 2012 Lexus RX350 and in this article we will even explain why we found ourselves preferring this hot selling Lexus to its very able competition after a week of tests.
2012 Lexus RX350: Exterior
Our test 2012 Lexus RX350 came in a truly gorgeous shade of deep red called “Matador Red Mica,” which really helped accentuate this futuristically angular SUV in all the right places. We highly recommend that you pick this color over something which will steal any visual personality from this vehicle, like the de-facto Lexus silver—you know who you are. Try something new for once!
Now, if you live somewhere like South Orange County or Carmel and claim to have never seen a Lexus RX SUV before then clearly you are putting your glass eyes in backwards each morning because they truly rule these upscale enclaves. These compact premium SUVs are everywhere, in every parking lot, at every PTA meeting, and it is in this omnipresence that the RX finds its biggest problem.
We may love the comfort, room, power, build, ease of use, utility and looks of the 2011 Lexus RX350 but we might think twice about buying one simply because of how many local real estate agents seem to own them. But, hey, those guys need something roomy and luxurious in which to drive their clients around town and that analogy may be completely off nowadays as most people working in real estate probably can no longer afford a Lexus RX or had theirs repossessed.
2012 Lexus RX350: Interior
In a nice change of pace for most luxury brands, Lexus has seen fit to not raise the sticker price of the 2012 Lexus RX350 since last year, so prices start at $40,475 for an all-wheel drive equipped tester like ours. But once you dive into the very tempting (and pricey) Lexus option packages, then you will probably find yourself crossing the $50,000 threshold for a new RX with all of the “must-have” features. At least, look at it this way: the 2012 Lexus RX350 now runs on regular unleaded so you’ll be saving money hand-over-fist in that regard.
EPA Fuel economy estimates are 18 city/24 highway and over a week of mainly suburban use, we averaged 19.2 miles per gallon — but then we blame our fuel numbers on the fact that it is far too easy to find yourself traveling at 95 miles an hour in the RX when you think it feels like you are only going seventy. Try that one with a cop next time you: get pulled over for a ticket and see how well that works for you. Take heart knowing that each RX 350 comes with a fuel tank that holds over 19 gallons of fuel, which we are pretty sure is more than you can hold between pit stops.
Not surprisingly, our test 2012 Lexus RX350 came loaded to the gills with every option and, as such, found itself teetering just a few clicks north of the unhappy side of $50,000. Do keep in mind that this includes in-dash navigation (with a delightfully simple to use console mounted mouse-like controller), heated/cooled front leather seats, power moonroof, a tow package, back-up camera, rear seat DVD entertainment, 19-inch alloys, 12-speaker Lexus premium audio and even some really bright headlamps that turn as you corner and essentially do the thinking (and head turning as you drive) for you.
Cargo hauling abilities for any generation RX model have never been meant to rival Escalades but for such a relatively small and easy to maneuver SUV, the 2012 model with the second row seats in place still offers 40.0 cubic feet of space. When that perch is folded the figure grows to 80.3 cubic feet — perfect for those unplanned overspending occasions at Costco or Home Depot. If you are ever so inclined, the 2012 Lexus RX350 also has a 3,500 pound towing capacity but only if you include all-wheel drive and the extra cost tow package.
2012 Lexus RX350: Driving Impressions and Safety
The 2012 Lexus RX350 is powered by a carryover but no less impressive 3.5 liter 270 horsepower/248 lb. feet of torque V6 motor mated to what is possibly the smoothest 6-speed automatic in the entire automotive universe. Sure, some competitors may have 8-gears and Hyundai may be working on a ten gear automatic for some reason but usually all that does is add weight and complexity to a car. Plus, it makes them really expensive to fix when they eventually go wrong.
Our test RX350 felt quick off the line and Lexus quotes 0-60 times of 7.8 seconds and a 112 mile per hour top speed. Due to the higher than average centers of gravity you find as a design drawback of every SUV, you don’t really want to take your RX much beyond that speed on any road at any time. We must admit, however, that from rest acceleration is strong all through the rev range and the well muted V6 managed to emit a bit of a snorty snarl when you really, really pushed it.
The one aspect of the 2012 Lexus RX350 that impresses (but won’t surprise you) is it’s smooth and absorptive ride even over pavement that has seen better days than Courtney Love. In fact, we were surprised by the lack of artificiality and numbness from the RX’s steering rack which was an improvement over the Q5’s which has an odd change-up in heaviness as you accelerate. Not so in the Lexus—this compact luxury suv is the picture of driver friendliness and thanks to a back-up camera/parking sonar no one needs to worry about the mall parking lot at Christmastime.
Now, the 2012 Lexus RX350 may lack the razor sharp steering precision of the BMW X5 but that German car has a dashboard only a NASA scientist could figure out, is priced to make the Lexus look cheap and they tend to fall apart a bit more quickly than their Japanese luxury rivals. Besides, the 2012 Lexus RX350 entertained us enough that we really looked forward to driving it and that very rarely happens with any SUV, premium branded or not.
2012 Lexus RX350: Conclusion
Having driven both the Acura RDX and Audi Q5 2.0T, we are sorry to say that you can’t beat the velvety and progressive thrust afforded by an ultra-smooth V6. Sure, the Acura and Audi are less pricey and more economical but they utterly lack the enveloping luxury afforded Lexus RX buyers with its lusciously high calorie, whip cream covered interior design deliciousness. If a compact luxury SUV could be a banana split sundae with three scoops of decadent ice cream, we would nominate the 2012 Lexus RX.
Before embarking upon this road test, we were absolutely sure that there was no possible way that we would wind up enjoying a week in this Lexus suv. Before driving it, we felt it was the SUV that women who wear too much gold jewelry and have big hair prefer to drive when entering and exiting their gated subdivision but it appears you can’t be as successful as the RX SUV without having a few aces up your sleeve.
So, if you are wondering why Lexus has sold so many RX 350 SUVs over the years, we have a simple explanation: like most successful products and cars, it does what it is supposed to do better than anyone else overall. Sure, a BMW X3 may be sportier to drive but only a 2012 Lexus RX could prove beneficial to your health by calming your nerves and lowering your blood pressure. Perhaps we are just getting old, but there is something oddly appealing about that.