A luxury SUV in every sense of the word

It’s difficult to imagine taking an all wheel drive Lexus RX350 to Fraser Island. In fact it’s difficult to image

It’s difficult to imagine taking an all wheel drive Lexus RX350 to Fraser Island.

In fact it’s difficult to image taking it anywhere but on sealed roads lest those thick carpets became defiled with sand or the white and chocolate brown leather upholstery was scratched or damaged in any way.

It’s a luxury SUV in every sense of the word.

Lexus takes the fight to the likes of BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz by cramming its vehicles with features and creating cabins that are as quite as a church at midnight and the RX350 is the essence of this philosophy.

Let’s begin with the styling which is sleek, modern and with an aggressive front treatment at odds with its “soft roader’’ personality.

There are three variants, the front-wheel-drive 2.0 litre four cylinder turbo petrol RX200t, the 3.5-litre V6 petrol all wheel drive RX350 and the 3.5-litre V6 petrol and twin electric motor AWD hybrid known as the RX450h.

Lexus has sold around 30,000 RX series since it launched the model in Australia 12 years ago and it remains one of its most popular models here.

The company expects half of RX buyers will opt for the RX350. Its V6 produces 221kWof power and 370Nm of torque, is quiet and smooth and at ease hauling the 1980kg vehicle through a silky eight-speed automatic transmission.

The sleeper, however, could be the less expensive two wheel drive RX200t. I have sampled this engine in the Lexus NX200t, a smaller version of the RX and it has an impressively flexible power delivery.

It replaces the 2.7-litre four-cylinder engine from the discontinued RX270 and produces more power while using less fuel with output figures of 180kW and 350Nm.

It is mated with a six-speed automatic transmission rather than the RX350’s eight speed unit.

At $73,000, it’s considerable cheaper than the RX350 Luxury at $80,000 and the RX450h Luxury at 88,000.

There are Sports and Sports Luxury models sitting above the Luxury for more money but the “standard’’ Luxury models are so well equipped I don’t see why you would bother.

Lexus offers a four-year or 100,000km warranty with roadside assistance and the first service at 12 months or 15,000km is free.

Standard equipment includes 10-way adjustable seats for the driver and front passenger, an 8.0-inch infotainment display with satellite navigation and a reversing camera, 12-speaker stereo and wireless smartphone charging pad.

Safety aids abound with autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control, blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert systems fitted.

The dashboard has been restyled with the gear selector being moved down from its previous high mounted position and there’s a larger display screen operated by a mouse-like controller that is super sensitive, too much so in my view.

The digital clock is gone, replaced by an analogue version

and there’s a power operated tailgate.

At 453 litres, it’s smaller than BMW’s X5 by almost 200 litres and it suffers from a high loading lip.

Folding the seats forward, which are power operated and fold forward silently at the press of a button, creates 924 litres of space in total and there is a space-saver spare tyre.

The RX is quiet on the open road with negligible road noise and is composed at all times with minimal body roll.

It’s offers genuine luxury with high build quality and equipment levels and should be considered by those looking at Audi’s Q7, BMW’s X5 the Mercedes-Benz GLE, Range Rover Sport and Volvo XC90.

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This article was written by renowned journalist and author, Mike O’Connor. His most recent book Life on a Column is a wry, amusing and sometimes poignant look at life as seen through the eyes of a newspaper columnist and according to Mike, would make an excellent Christmas gift. Click here to purchase.