Edging away from the current RX look, the 2010 RX 350 has a wider stance, with more pronounced front fenders and crisper lines overall. As in the previous generation, the grille is placed lower than the headlights, so the Lexus family resemblance carries on, but the headlights are more sharply defined and the roofline is flatter. In essence, the rounded egg-shaped body has been redefined at the corners to retain fluid RX cues in an updated format.
In the process, the new RX got slipperier, with a coefficient of drag of 0.33, down from 0.35.
The RX has a new keyless entry system that has a better-integrated sensor on the front doors. It looks sleeker, and the door handles themselves have been redesigned for a more comfortable grip. Fog lamps are integrated into the front bumper, and the outside mirrors are heated.
The RX 450h is distinguished by a different, more finely slotted grille and front bumper treatment, and by energy-saving LED headlights that are exclusive to the hybrid. Both the RX 350 and RX 450h have LED brake lights and turn signals, but the hybrid has auto-dimming outside mirrors. The 450h also has blue emblems and logos, and is available in an exclusive White Pearl color.
The RX comes with 18-inch, five-spoke aluminum wheels with 235/60R18 tires; 19-inch wheels are available as part of the Sport Package or as a stand-alone option.
It's strangely exciting to sit in the cockpit of the new Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h. There is a sensation of having so much to do, just like configuring a new computer. There are seating adjustments to lock in, preferences for the Remote Touch controller, operating modes to select and dashboard combinations to try out. We have a feeling an RX owner would be surprised to discover new features after months of ownership.
The RX comes to life with the push of a button. The instruments are bright and engaging, and shaded from outside light. The seats now have slightly higher side bolsters for support during cornering, but they're still easy to get into. They feel firm at first, but medium-soft once you settle in, and are easily adjusted to a variety of positions. Mood lighting in the footwells and cabin supports a sense of quality and well-being.
The new cockpit provides a step up in sophistication, conveyed in part by a gifted design scheme that includes no straight lines or sharp corners. Every element of the interior is curved, arched or rounded in some way, so lines blend with subtle grace and harmony. California Walnut wood trim accents are mixed with three different interior color combinations, complementing black, light gray, and parchment tones.
The cockpit is divided into two separate zones. The first is for information functions, located higher up where they are easy to see. The second is for control functions, located lower and within easy reach of both front seat occupants. This division is made possible by Remote Touch.
The Remote Touch system is essentially a computer mouse. It's located exactly where your hand would fall if your elbow were resting on the center console. This mouse will be immediately familiar to anyone who has used a computer. It replaces the need to reach out and touch the screen to use the Navigation system, or adjust audio or climate settings. We found it was simple to use while driving. It allowed us to avoid focusing on the navi screen to tune the climate control or turn down the volume. Plus, no more fingerprints on the screen.
The center console is bridge-like with open storage under the center. The shifter is immediately above the Remote Touch mouse.
There are a number of redundant hard buttons on the steering wheel, and at various points on the dash, 52 in all, but the Remote Touch mouse really does reduce the need to use them. Like a computer mouse, Remote Touch can be adjusted for sensitivity to your preference.
The navigation system is a sixth-generation version, with casual speech voice recognition capability for hands-free operation of audio, climate, and Bluetooth. The system runs from a hard disc, not a DVD, so it's faster and allegedly smarter than the previous system. Among the improvements are easier phonebook transfer, voice command access to the phonebook, and smart auto-fill when selecting destinations.
XM satellite capability is built in, and the first three months are free when you buy the RX. Three services are available: real-time traffic, advance weather forecasts and XM Satellite Radio. It costs $23.99 a month to subscribe to all three services after the trial period.
The standard audio system has 9 speakers, a 6-disc CD changer and can play MP3 and WMA files from your iPod. A 12-speaker system comes with the navigation system, and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson Surround Sound system is available for those who require an audio system consistent with the very best home systems.
The front seats now have longer cushions, with higher backrests, and are fitted with active headrests as standard equipment. The headrests are designed to adjust upward in the event of a rear-end collision, reducing whiplash. Because of the active headrests, rear-seat entertainment screens are independently mounted in pods behind the headrests. The two seven-inch LCD screens can operate separately so one passenger can play a game while another passenger watches a DVD. The seats are covered in fabric in standard trim, with leather and semi-aniline leather offered as available options.
One of our test units had seats covered in the consistently flawless semi-aniline leather, and we were hard pressed to find a misplaced stitch or shadow of stain anywhere. In fact, the leather is so supple and uniformly perfect we first thought it must be synthetic material. Regardless of the covering, both front seats are 10-way adjustable, with memory, and heated/air conditioned seats are available.
The rear seat can accommodate five and has a 40/20/40 fold-down split. The new design makes it easier to release one or both seats from the back, without having to walk around to the side, when loading cargo.
The rear seats also have a fold-down center console with a covered wood grain cupholder and separate covered storage compartment. The rear seats are shorter, with less reclinability than the front seats, but with good legroom for average-size adults like ourselves, much better than a seat on a 757 these days. There are four grab handles, one for each door. There are two rear air conditioning vents to cool the rear compartment.
Cargo room behind the rear seats has been slightly increased to 40 cubic feet, enough for four average golf bags.
When it comes to the interior, the hybrid 450h is essentially the same as the 350, except that the 450h has an Eco driving indicator that displays fuel economy using a bar graph. A hybrid system indicator replaces the tachometer to provide driving feedback.