2015 Lexus RX 350: predictable quality

The Lexus RX 350 is predictable – but in a good way. Befitting its nameplate, it’s uncompromisingly luxurious, smooth-riding and quiet. Its reliability is legendary. Its power and handling, while not eliciting screams of ecstasy, are reassuringly competent. And it’s also a highly functional midsize SUV, with available all-wheel drive and up to 80 cubic feet of cargo room with the back seat lowered.

We got to know our 2015 RX 350 fairly well, taking it on a 600-mile round trip to upstate New York via the Thruway. Its most impressive quality was its ride. Most SUVs, especially the European models that are competitive with the Lexus line, ride firmly. Not the RX 350. The ride is positively restful. This is an SUV you can drive all day without feeling fatigued. The sound track, from the engine to the drive train to the tires and suspension, is measured in whispers.

The RX 350’s Remote Touch system, placed at the driver’s right hand, was different from the touchpad controller in the RC 350 we drove a few weeks earlier, and we liked it better because it was less jumpy and unpredictable. We still prefer the remote controls found in BMW and Mercedes-Benz products. But Lexus’ Enform connected-services system worked well.

Like the RC 350, the RX 350 – no longer Lexus’ smallest SUV, thanks to the addition this year of the compact NX 200t – placed a novel mix of conventional and high-tech controls in front of the driver. The driver can operate the climate-control system by means of the Remote Touch device or conventional buttons on the dash. What’s remarkable about this redundant system is that it does not necessitate a large, confusing array of knobs and buttons, as is found in some high-end European models.

The base RX 350, with front-wheel drive and no options, is priced at $40,970. All RX 350s are equipped with a 270-horsepower V6 engine with 8-speed automatic transmission. Our test car, with all-wheel drive, F Sport suspension tuning and 19-inch wheels, was priced at $48,535 before options. As equipped, its sticker price was $52,614.

Storage for small items in the front and back seats was ample and well-designed. Particularly useful were the deep map pockets and the ledge at the base of the console, as well as the multiple cup holders.

We came close to the government fuel-economy rating of 26 mpg on the highway, achieving 25 for long stretches on the Thruway. The hybrid RX 450 does only a little better on the highway – 28 mpg, with front-wheel drive – but is rated at 32 in the city. Its base price is more than $6,000 higher than that of the RX 350, however.

Crash-testing has not been completed for the RX 350, but the 2014 model earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Consumer Reports magazine reader surveys consistently rate the RX 350 as much more reliable than average.

Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

Price: $52,614

Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 270 horsepower, 248 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Suspension: MacPherson struts, front; double-wishbone rear

Curb weight: 4,510 lb.

Ground clearance: 7.3 in.

Wheels: 19×7.5-in. aluminum alloy

Tires: 235/55R19 V all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 40 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 80.3 cu. ft.

Towing capacity: 3,500 lb.

Fuel capacity: 19.2 gal.

Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 26 highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline

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