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The Lexus RX is a four-door, five passenger luxury crossover sport-utility vehicle. In the late 1990’s, Lexus was looking to join the crossover SUV frenzy that had gripped much of the North American market. Their weapon of choice was the RX, a modern-looking design based on a front-wheel drive platform. Intended to provide the driving experience of a car with the utility of a larger truck, the RX immediately found a market and became the crossover of choice for affluent families across the United States. The RX was overhauled in 2004 in order to not only re-style the exterior but also make significant changes to the drivetrain and suspension.

The 2008 RX 350 uses a 3.5 liter V6 which generates 270 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque. These healthy numbers are sent to either the front or optionally all four wheels via a 5-speed automatic transmission. A limited-slip center differential on the all-wheel drive model helps to generate excellent traction that is useful in wet and slippery conditions, but which isn’t intended to serve as a platform for off-road adventures. The V6 engine is a fuel sipper, seeing 17 miles per gallon in city driving and 22 miles per gallon out on the highway – excellent numbers for a vehicle that tips the scales at just over 4,000 lbs.

For those interested in even better fuel economy, a hybrid version of the RX, the 400h is also available. Using a smaller 3.3 liter V6 in combination with an electric motor, the all-wheel drive RX 400h produces 268 horsepower and improves mileage to 26 in the city and 24 on the highway. The hybrid also replaces the 5-speed automatic with a continuously-variable transmission.

Both the RX 350 and 400h are a pleasure to drive. The primary difference between the two models is not defined so much by the gap in horsepower but rather the difference in sound and feel when operating at low speeds. Since the 400h can rely on battery power for a significant portion of around-town driving, it is eerily silent as it accelerates from stoplight to stoplight. The vehicles are fairly evenly matched when it comes to acceleration, and the RX’s suspension system is a good balance between comfort and road holding. Despite the price difference, the hybrid is a sensible solution for anyone who spends most of their time behind the wheel in stop and go traffic, as fuel efficiency in that type of situation has been improved by 50 percent over the standard RX 350.

Inside, the RX does not attempt to squeeze in seven passengers. Instead, good seating for five is complimented by fine leather and wood trim, with seats that make for easy entry and excellent storage scattered throughout the interior. An optional backup camera and navigation system share the same screen on the center of the dash, and dual climate controls are standard. The rear hatch features a powered closing function, very useful for average-sized drivers, and a power moon roof is optional.

There is a lot to recommend the RX as a great people mover for those who want to enjoy luxury and excellent Lexus build quality along with their utility.

The 2009 Lexus RX has a new special edition model available as well as new exterior paint colors available in this model year. The new paint colors are Smoky Granite Mica, Golden Almond Metallic, Classic Silver Metallic, Obsidian and Matador Red Mica. These new colors are available on the Lexus RX 350 and the Lexus RX 400h. The new special edition RX, the RX 350 Pebble Beach Edition has three colors available, including Truffle Mica, which is exclusive to this edition.

The Pebble Beach Edition is limited to just 6,000 vehicles. It comes standard with 18-inch wheels, an interior trim unique to the edition, a rear spoiler, and chrome trim. It is available with a choice if either all-heel drive or front-wheel drive.

The Lexus RX 350 has a 3.5 liter, V6 engine with 270 horsepower. It is the base model of the RX line and comes standard with 17-inch wheels made from alloy, a stereo with eight speakers, a power lift gate in the rear, power front seats with 10-way adjustment, automatic climate control with dual zones, wood trim on the interior, auto-dimming on all the mirrors, sliding and reclining second-row seats, a CD changer and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel.

Most RX models come with the Premium Package of options, including leather upholstery, a power steering wheel that tilts and telescopes, seat memory, a roof rack and a sunroof. The Premium Plus package of options also ads HID headlights that are adaptive and bi-xenon. The Performance Package of options adds all of these features and also includes 18-inch wheels and an adaptive air suspension system. Other optional features include a Mark Levinson sound system, an entertainment system for the rear that includes a rear DVD player, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and a navigation system.