The Lexus RX is the vehicle to beat in the luxury SUV game. In 2008 it was the best-selling luxury SUV in the United States, and was also the best selling vehicle in Lexus’ lineup. On the outside, the RX hasn’t changed too much for the 2010 model year, but once you get inside, or look under the hood, you’ll realize that a great car just got even better.
As before, the 2010 RX has two trim options: the gasoline powered RX 350 and they hybrid RX 450h, both of which are available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive setups. The 2010 RX 350 uses an upgraded version of the previous model’s 3.5-liter V6 engine, tuned to produce 275 horsepower and 257 lb-ft of torque. This represents a small increase of of power over the previous model (5 and 6, respectively), but a new six-speed automatic transmission design bumps the fuel economy by 1 mpg. Again, not groundbreaking, but good to see.
The hybrid 2010 RX 450h abandons the 3.3-liter V6 from the previous RX 400h in favor of the same 3.5-liter V6 as the RX 350. On the 450h, however, the engine is run on an Atkinson cycle (which uses a shorter compression stroke to minimize fuel usage) and is mated to a 167-horsepower electric motor in the front-wheel drive models, while the AWD models get that same electric motor, plus another one mounted on the rear axle. Both setups have a combined power rating of 295 horsepower over the last year’s 268. This hybrid drivetrain adds extra power to the 450h versus last years 400h, and also increases fuel economy a combined 25 mpg to 27 mpg in the FWD models and 28 mpg in the AWD models.
Both models feel responsive and suitably powerful for normal driving. While the suspension is well-tuned, the Lexus engineers manage to still make it smooth, delivering the perfect combination of nimble driving and ride comfort, a feat not easily accomplished and one that certainly helps the RX’s sales figures.
The interior maintains the quality and comfort of previous RX models but adds in a bunch of new gadgets and safety features. The first thing you’ll notice is the large OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) display in the dash which uses a new interface system in the center console. The interface is easy to use and eliminates all the greasy fingerprints from the old touch-screen design. Also, the screen itself is thinner and easier to produce. And, for those who have a tough time parking, there is an optional passenger side mirror-mounted camera that projects an image onto the screen to help in tight parking spots and in parallel parking situations.
Also, while the exterior dimensions have only received slight expansions (about an inch in length, height, and width), the new cabin feels much more spacious than such minimal extensions would normally provide. The secret to this is actually found in the rear suspension. The older models had large strut towers which took up some interior space, but the new model has a control arm rear suspension design that removes those towers. The overall cubic space has only increased by 0.1 cubic feet, but the Lexus engineers added where they needed to and took away where necessary so that the new RX is even more comfortable and roomy than the old model.
The 2010 Lexus RX series once again proves why it’s at the top of the luxury SUV hill. They took a great car and made it even greater. There were no revolutionary changes, but there didn’t need to be. Gradual refinements are all this car needs. The RX 350 starts at $36,800 for FWD and $38,200 for AWD. The RX 450h hybrid hasn’t gone on sale yet at the time of this writing, but expect pricing for the FWD version to be around $43,000 with an extra $1,500 for the AWD version. For the quality of vehicle you’re receiving, there aren’t many cars out there tha offer better bang for your buck.