Smooth cross over

Lexus RX350 is ideal for on-road adventures

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The story goes something like this. In 1983, Eiji Toyoda, then the chairman of Toyota, called a secret meeting with his company executives.

The agenda - could they build a car to compete with the world's best luxury cars? The answer drove into the US market six years later in the form of the first Lexus, the LS 400. Now it's no secret that the brand produces some of the finest luxury cars that top their class.

So much so that the phrase the Lexus of..." is commonly used to describe a high-end product. Dell announced a pre-mium lineup of computers in 2006 calling it "the Lexus of our lineup".

Among the numerous class of cars Lexus produces is the crossover SUV RX350, the third generation of which is now available in the sultanate. Sensibly sized for a car in its class, you won't struggle to park it in Muscat's ever-shrinking parking space. The 2009 model is even more angular than its earlier generation. It doesn't have the mean look that some SUVs sport, but it's no pansy either.

Once inside, the ambience is almost like home - in a nice fit, everything within reach. And there are loads of things in there to play around with. The Super Special edition of the RX350 lent to us by Saud Bahwan Automotive to test drive was feature packed, most of which will lie unused in ordinary city driving situations. But one interesting toy Lexus put in for gizmo addicts is on the driver's right. In addition to a multi-operational switch on the steering wheel that allows access to a number of functions without taking your hands off the wheel, the RX350 has a remote touch device that replaces touch-screen technology for the navigation system with a palm joystick to move a cursor around the screen. Options on the screen are selected by clicking a thumb button on the side of the remote touch console which is not very unlike a PC mouse.

Another feature to pamper the driver is the head up display - a Lexus first. It provides the driver information on speed and various warnings, without the need for much eye movement, beamed on the windscreen. There's also a camera mounted on the right side door mirror to assist side parking. This is in addition to a rear view camera display on the navigation system that comes on the moment you put the car in reverse gear.

Among the safety features in the RX350 are the advanced braking & stability control systems comprising the brake assist system (BAS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), vehicle stability control (VSC), traction control (TRC) and anti-lock braking system (ABS). Hill start assist control (HAC), which prevents a vehicle from rolling back when starting uphill, is a standard on all the RX models.

With a 3.5lt V6 that generates 275hp at 6,200rpm and 348Nm at 4,700rpm, the RX350 has more than enough horses for easy city driving. Joining the main road from Al Sarooj in the free flowing traffic was accomplished without any unnecessary antics. Its AWD with active torque control 4WD system keeps the car in front-wheel drive mode except when all-wheel drive is needed for added traction or vehicle stability.

Our demanding photographer's requirements for the perfect setting and background had us take the RX350 off the road a bit near the Darsait fishing village when it delighted us with easy handling. But it is essentially built for on-road adventures and handles rush hour with light and responsive controls.

Its music system makes this car an audiophile's haven. The super special edition RX350 is fitted with a 15-speaker Mark Levinson - Premium Surround System with AM/FM/SW radio and DVD. It also plays MP3 and WMA formats through an auto sound leveliser (ASL) and digital sound processor (DSP). The in-dash player has a six CD/DVD changer. Add to all this the fact that Lexus takes special care of cabin noise and you'll know the quality of sound inside the RX350.

A one-and-a-half hour drive around town left us asking for more - it's easy to get used to the smooth drive it offers. But if a comparison must be done with others in its class, this SUV has had a rather successful cross over. The RX350 may not be as sporty as some of its competitors, some of which also offer third-row seating, but for a cushy, feature-packed five-passenger crossover, you're unlikely to come by anything to better the RX350.

DIMENSIONS  
Height 1,720mm
Width 1,885mm
Length 4,770mm
Wheelbase 2,740mm
Base Curb Weight 1,970kg
Gross Vehicle Weight 2,560kg
Ground Clearance 185mm
Turning Circle 11.8m
ENGINE  
Type 3.5 lt, 24-Valve, DOHC-6 cylinder
Max Power 275hp at 6,200rpm
Torque 348Nm at 4,700rpm
Fuel tank capacity 72lt
Towing capacity 1,587kg
Fuel Consumption City/Highway/Combined lt/100km 11.6/8.2/10.1
BRAKES  
Ventilated front and rear disk brakes  
Brake Assist System  
Electronic Brake-Force Distribution  
Anti-Lock Braking System  
SUSPENSION  
Independent Front
Macpherson Gas Struts Front
Coil Springs Front
Stabiliser Bar Front
Independent Rear
Double WishBone type Rear
Coil Springs Rear
Stabiliser Bar Rear
HOW MUCH?  
RO25,000 sticker price for the Super Special Edition  
Available At Saud Bahwan Automobile
24579000

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Smooth cross over
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