Refined ride: Lexus RX350 shows why this luxury crossover is so popular

Remember when your mom used to get out the good silverware and fine china for holidays and special occasions? You were extra careful using it and it seemed too nice to use. You felt guilty making a mess with your mashed potatoes and gravy on those plates.

That’s sort of how I felt driving my tester for the week. The 2015 Lexus RX350 is not the nicest vehicle or even close to the most expensive vehicle I’ve ever driven, but it’s certainly well polished. And it has quite a sense of being a “special occasion” vehicle that I felt guilty just using it as a daily commuter.


But, make no mistake, that’s how this vehicle should be used and there should be no guilt in doing so. The RX350 is well built for serving this purpose as an all around daily driver, with ample room and just enough sport and ruggedness.

As pristine as the Lexus is in both appearance and performance, that almost works against it. It’s not garish or overly bold and the engine is sufficient yet not overly exhilarating. But being cultured and refined should not be a negative trait.

Just like that fine china and silver, the Lexus RX350 is pretty to look at and serves its purpose nicely.

On appearance the RX350 is most certainly a Lexus. It has the typical Lexus exterior, which includes clean lines, a simple grille and classic good looks. There’s nothing garish about this five-passenger crossover’s appearance, but that’s typical of the Lexus brand. It boasts a squatty frame with definite crossover looks (re: almost station wagon like).

The rear spoiler and bulbous back end help add distinction and improves the otherwise basic appearance of the RX350.

The engine is best described as ample. If that is a milk toast description, it’s meant to be that way. There is certainly nothing wrong with the 3.5-liter V6 engine. It produces 270 horsepower. But all the power and drive performance is so restrained it teeters on boring. But that’s what makes the RX350 so popular. With elegant conservative looks and a refined drive performance, it’s a crossover that is well suited for business executives and families alike. A hybrid version, the RX 450h, is also available.


A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard. There is a snow-mode performance that adds all-wheel drive torque control for better traction and all-wheel drive is an option for some models. There is an F-sport trim that comes with a more fuel-efficient eight-speed transmission.

Inside, passenger space is ample and comfortable. The RX350 only has five passenger capabilities, but that can’t be looked at as a flaw as the five passengers will enjoy everything about the interior.

The Lexus RX350 boasts one of the most refined, well-crafted interiors around. Touch points are excellent and even the smallest of details including authentic wood trim is classy.

Cargo space is above average too. With second-row seats pulled far forward, there is 40 cubic feet of cargo room. This is just another feather in the cap of the RX350.

The RX350 has average fuel economy. It has an EPA rating of 18 mpg/city and 24 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of mostly suburban and non-highway driving, I averaged 20 mpg. For a vehicle that doesn’t feel very powerful (due mostly to the smooth ride and quiet engine), the RX350 was surprisingly fast off the line and in the middle gears. I drove rather heavy footed to see what kind of power it had, so that accounts for the lower fuel economy average.

The RX350 comes with only two trims, the standard and the F-Sport. My tester was the standard. The starting MSRP of this trim is $42,195. However, loaded with extra packages my tester had a final sticker price of $50,149. Many of those “add-ons” brought safety and comfort to the RX350 including adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning system and blind spot monitoring. It’s sad that safety features like this have to come as added value, but regardless, they’re worth it. Other features like DVD entertainment package, Lexus Enform navigation system and high definition headlamps are niceties that add to the driving experience.

Feel free to enjoy the Lexus RX350, it’d be hard not to. Much like going back for seconds on Thanksgiving with the fine china, don’t be afraid to just enjoy yourself despite the refinement and culture. This five-passenger crossover makes for an overall enjoyable experience despite all that refinement.

2015 Lexus RX350
Price/As test price……………………..$42,195/$50,149
Mileage…………………………………… 18 mpg/city; 24 mpg/hwy
Engine…………………………………….. 3.5-LITER V6
Horsepower/Torque………………….. 270 hp/248 lbs./ft.
Transmission……………………………. Six-speed automatic
Drive Wheels……………………………. Front-wheel drive

Jimmy Dinsmore
For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - and follow him on Twitter @driversside.