Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
You'll Like The 2011 Lexus RX If...
If you’re looking for a luxury crossover that doesn’t require a degree in physics just to operate the radio, the simple yet elegant RX 350 makes a fine choice.
You May Not Like The 2011 Lexus RX If...
If you’re looking for a hard charging, corner-devouring driving machine in CUV form, the BMW X3 or Audi Q5 might make a better choice.
After a mild refresh last year, the only change of note for the 2011 Lexus RX 350 is the addition of Lexus’ Smart Stop technology. Smart Stop is an override system that cuts engine power if the throttle and brake are being depressed at the same time.
The RX’s interior is a blend of the old and the almost new. The design is clean and uncluttered, especially the upwardly-sweeping console and high-mounted shift lever. But there are bits and pieces that feel eerily Toyota-like, such as the steering column-mounted cruise-control stalk that is difficult to see and nearly impossible to find at night. Nitpicks aside, the RX interior is a fluid blend of soft-touch surfaces, warm wood inlays and supple leather seating surfaces. And, when equipped with the available navigation system, the RX also gains a nifty remote touch controller that operates very much like a mouse. The driver need only rest his or her hand on top of the device to control the screen menus for climate, navigation, audio and phone. Front-seat comfort is first-rate while, in back, the second row is roomy enough for three adults and, when folded down, allows for 80.3 cubic feet of cargo space.
The familiar RX silhouette is no accident. Lexus wants the RX to look similar to previous versions so that former and new customers alike can easily identify the vehicle. Sure, an up-close inspection shows more modern details, such as the striking halogen projector-beam (or optional HID) headlamp housings, the swept-back tail lamps and that faint hint of Lexus’ L-Finesse design language that appears around the grille and hood. But, for the most part, the RX’s shape breaks no new ground in the areas of styling. New colors and bright 18-inch alloy wheels are about the only improvements over last year’s model, which speaks volumes about the excellence of last year’s model (and the year before that, and the year before that, etc.)
The 2011 Lexus RX 350 may not be able to corner like a BMW X3, but it won’t punish your kidneys on bumpy surfaces, either. The RX delivers a soft, quiet and comfortable ride, with just enough feedback from the electric power steering unit to qualify as sporty (as opposed to numb, a trait we attributed to RX steering setups in the past.) The double-wishbone rear suspension not only helps the RX 350 to handle better, its compact design also allows for more interior cargo space. Power is provided by a 3.5-liter V6 engine and routed to the wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission with direct-downshift control, which allows the transmission to skip over gears, thus producing a more immediate response when needed. The powertrain is amazingly responsive, whisper-quiet and impressively fuel-frugal.
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2011 Lexus RX 350 with two-wheel drive is right around $39,000. Adding all-wheel drive adds about $1,500 to the bottom line, while a fully-loaded RX could tip the scales at over $58,000. The RX 350’s competitors are all similar in price, with the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class ranging from $36,000 to $55,000, the BMW X3 from $37,500 to $54,000, the Audi Q5 from $36,000 to $60,000 and the Cadillac SRX from $35,000 to $50,000. Our Fair Purchase Price shows what consumers in your area are paying for the RX, so be sure to give them a look before heading to the local dealership. As far as residuals go, the RX is at the top of its segment, outpacing the Q5, X3, GLK and SRX in the long run.
The 2011 Lexus RX 350 comes well-equipped with a selection of features to make driving a comfortable experience. These include heated side mirrors, 10-way power-adjustable front seats with lumbar support, reclining and sliding second row with 40/20/40 folding seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, a full complement of automatic up-and-down windows and a premium audio system with six-disc CD changer, Bluetooth streaming audio, XM Satellite Radio, a USB port and nine speakers. Standard safety features include 10 airbags, brake assist and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control.
If you’d like to up the sportiness of your RX, the Sport Package, with its sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch Superchrome wheels and electronic stability and traction control system with cutoff switch may be for you. If luxury is what you’re after, the aptly-named Luxury Package includes a semi-aniline leather-trimmed interior, LED-illuminated front-door sills, power liftgate, headlamp washers, 19-inch alloy wheels and a wide-view side monitor to facilitate parking. Stand-alone options for the RX include a head-up display, HDD navigation system, heated and ventilated front seats, a Mark Levinson 330-watt premium sound system, all-wheel drive, Lexus’ Enform telematics system, Intuitive Parking Assist and a Pre-Collision System with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
Remote "Haptic" TouchSomewhat like a keyboard mouse, this system, operated by a controller mounted next to the driver’s seat, allows for the movement of a cursor across the dash-mounted display, giving sensory feedback when the cursor hovers over a clickable "button." The feeling is somewhat like rolling a marble over an indentation.Easy-to-read Organic white Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) DisplayHoused in the Multi-Information Display between the dash gauges, the OLED display is comprised of a thin film of organic molecules that create light with the application of electricity. It operates on less power than a conventional light-emitting diode (LED) display, and offers vibrant white characters that are easy to read from any angle.
Under the Hood
The 2011 Lexus RX 350’s 3.5-liter V6 produces 275 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque. The engine is mated to an efficient six-speed automatic transmission that uses direct-downshift control to allow for quick shifting when needed (such as rapid acceleration) from sixth to third or fifth to second, skipping gears for a more immediate response. 3.5-liter V6275 horsepower @ 6200 rpm257 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4700 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25 (2WD), 18/24 (AWD)
Some cars change radically from model year to model year, while others simply evolve. Evolution seems the safer course of action, but it also helps to build brand image among consumers. The 2011 Lexus RX 350 is such an evolving vehicle, easily recognizable at any distance and sharing a strikingly similar profile with the original RX that debuted more than 10 years ago. Consumers must like the design because RX sales continue to grow, even in the face of newer and more sophisticated designs such as the Audi Q5, Cadillac SRX and Mercedes Benz GLK 350. That the RX 350 continues to attract repeat customers is every bit a testament to the car’s abilities as it is to Lexus’ pampered treatment of its customer base. From the comfortable purchasing experience to the solid long-term reliability to the excellent resale figures, in the automotive world, buying an RX 350 is about the closest thing you can get to a sure thing.