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2011 Lexus RX 350 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Lexus RX 350 was new.


Performance: 8.3

The 2011 Lexus RX 350 stands out for its smooth performance and especially good fuel economy. Test drivers particularly like the combination of its V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, which give the RX fairly strong acceleration. However, a few test drivers say the RX 350 just isn't sporty enough. For a sportier drive, consider the Acura MDX or BMW X5.

  • "Agile handling is not the RX's forte, but both RX 350 and 450h are competent enough on twisty roads. They exhibit moderate cornering lean but secure grip. The Sports Package provides slightly sharper moves. Brakes are strong, with a smooth, progressive pedal feel." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The RX 350 is not a sportscar, nor should it handle like one. That said, it is a very good driving machine either in-town on the highway or a freeway." -- The Auto Channel
  • "Our time behind the wheel primarily consisted of suburban jaunts and the occasional Northern California back-road, where both the RX350 and RX450h proved to be competent, compliant day-to-day cruisers. Power delivery is a staid affair on both the standard and hybrid model, with few peaks and fewer valleys." -- Autoblog
  • "The result, unfortunately, is still a very aseptic and detached experience for anyone who enjoys driving in the least. The steering and front end offer very little feel, even on the twistiest parts of the Napa Valley roads where we tested the vehicle. And when we gathered the slightest bit of momentum in some tight corners, the VDIM (stability control, traction control, brake assist and more) system kicked in and dulled the excitement." -- MSN

Acceleration and Power

The 2011 RX 350 comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 275 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. Most reviewers find the powertrain has plenty of power. Still, RX 350's horsepower figures can't quite match the Acura MDX's 300 horsepower.

On the other hand, the RX has a fuel economy advantage over the MDX. The RX 350 achieves excellent ratings for its class, second only to its hybrid RX 450h counterpart. According to the EPA, the AWD RX 350 nets 18/24 mpg city/highway, while the FWD nets 18/25. 

  • "Out on the highway, the engine and transmission were quick to respond to the demand for more power and the consensus among drivers was that the V-6 had plenty of oomph for the average RX driver." -- MarketWatch
  • "It truly seems happier on flat ground and in mild driving, busy at coddling its occupants more than thrilling the driver." -- MSN
  • "The new 6-speed transmission is smooth, quiet and responsive." -- The Auto Channel
  • "While the engine can feel slightly raspy when pushing it hard, the V-6 does the trick around town and will surprise with its ability to deftly climb hills as well. The new six-speed automatic transmission - the only gearbox available - improves greatly upon the previous generation's and shifts through gears more fluidly." -- DriverSide

Handling and Braking

The Lexus RX 350's smooth ride receives plenty of praise. A few reviewers, however, say the RX 350 isn't sporty enough and complain about body roll. Regardless, it performs well for how most buyers will probably use it - in parking lots on and around town or on highways.

  • "On both RX 350 and 450h, the ride is absorbent yet composed and controlled--nearly on par with a premium sedan. The available Sports Package's sport suspension and 19-inch tires make for a stiffer ride over rough pavement." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The driving route during my test included a number of winding roads through California's Napa Valley, which provided a good opportunity to experience the RX's cornering abilities. It's planted when hustled through sweeping corners and switchbacks, but the RX 350 with the Sport suspension seemed more composed and flat through the corners than the RX 450h with the base suspension." -- Cars.com
  • "It's quiet and comfortable on the road, as expected. But when the road gets challenging or there is a need to change direction quickly, the new RX just follows orders, with no excessive roll or resistance to directional change." -- CNET
  • "When things turned twisty, the RX did little more than hold it's own, but with a suspension tuned for effortless wafting, we weren't expecting our neurons to be set ablaze. Braking and bends are dealt with ease, but the added mass and Lexus' tradition of creating a reasonable facsimile of steering feel is obvious the moment you turn the wheel." -- Autoblog

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