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2014 Lexus RX 350: Luxury midsize SUV segment leader rolls on

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2014 Lexus RX 350 FWD

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The Lexus RX 350 two-row Luxury Crossover SUV for 2014 comes off of a major refresh in 2013 and accordingly, with just a couple of small additions to features, is essentially the same vehicle for both years.

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Since its introduction to the U.S. back in 1998 as the first midsize premium crossover offered, it has set the bar for performance, premium content and value for the segment – and, in 2014, it delivers again for Lexus.

In recognition of that leadership, U.S. News & World Report named it the Best Luxury 2-Row Midsize SUV for the Money in 2013 and, in 2014, honored the RX 350 naming it as one of the Best Cars for Families in recognition of its features, safety and comfort that makes life on the road better for the family.

The Lexus RX 350 comes in two models (RX 350 FWD and AWD) and the performance version F Sport AWD plus a hybrid (RX 450h).

We have tested the Lexus RX 350 in AWD and the F Sport in recent months, but had not been able to get a good drive in on the RX 350 FWD until just recently when we were provided a 2014 Lexus RX 350 FWD for a week-long test drive.

Our 2014 Lexus RX 350 FWD came in a handsome Nebula Gray Pearl exterior color complimented with a stunning Saddle Tan Leather Espresso Bird's-Eye Maple interior.

We would add here that this is one of the best exterior plus interior material and color combinations we have driven in a long time – especially on a midsize luxury SUV.

The base price of our test 2014 Lexus RX 350 FWD was $39,780 for, what is arguably, one of the better standard equipped premium level midsize SUV’s in the market.

The power train (standard across the 350 line in 2014 ) was the proven 3.5L V6 SFI engine delivering 270 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm with 248 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,700 rpm - mated to Lexus 6-speed Electronically Controlled with Intelligence (ECTi) Multi-Mode, with Snow Mode, Automatic Transmission.

Running on regular gas, the Lexus RX 350 is fuel economy rated at 18/25 mpg City/Highway with an expected average of 21 mpg. Our week long drive confirmed the range of those numbers.

Overall, we found this power train to be measurably more than adequate for good city and highway performance with only one slight caveat - we did experience some minor torque steer when we accelerated aggressively from a near stop to highway speeds on freeway entrance ramps.

One of the features we particularly like about the RX 350 is it’s, what we call, command seating cabin, that provides the driver exceptional road visibility in a luxurious environment.

The RX 350 rides very comfortable and quietly with its unitized steel cabin and enhanced body sound insulation engineering balanced nicely for ride and comfort on the tuned MacPherson Strut and coil spring front end and double wishbone type coil spring rear end – all riding on 18.75-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels with 235/60R18 series tires.

A rack and pinion Electronic Power Steering (EPS) is well integrated to the chassis suspension and, with its Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC), the driver always feels solidly in control. We would note here that the AWD version gives even better ride control, but were pretty pleased at how well this FWD performed compared to others we have driven.

Some notable standard features included fog lights integrated into the front bumper, LED brake lights, and heated side mirrors with integrated turn-signal lamps, LED Daytime Running Lamps (DRL), acoustic glass with water repellency on front doors plus a power tailgate, variable intermittent windshield wipers and auto on/off headlamps.

The Lexus RX 350 cabin amenities included the command bucket front seating we have mentioned, leather-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel (with controls) and shift knob, 10-way power driver and front passenger seating, automatic dual zone filtered climate control with rear venting on center console, reclining fold-down (one-touch) 40/20/40 split rear seating, cargo area tonneau cover with storage beneath the cargo deck, six 12-volt power outlets, door mounted courtesy lighting and floor area lighting.

A 12-speaker Lexus Premium Audio System with 7-inch color display screen delivered the infotainment functionality for the Lexus RX 350.

There are several optional packages and accessories available in the 2014 RX 350.

Our test vehicle was equipped with a select choice of them which added to the value of our test RX 350. They included:

Premium Package ($2,760) – Had a very nice one-touch open/close tilt and slide moon roof, added power exterior folding mirrors, leather trim for the seating, three-setting driver seat memory, rear seat armrest with covered storage and roof rails.

Navigation Package ($2,775) - Added HDD Navigation with Remote Touch Navigation controller and Lexus Enform 2.0 with Safety Connect that included Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Emergency Assist (SOS), enhanced Roadside Assist, eDestination and Enform App Suite plus the rear camera back-up monitor. Also included was Advanced Voice Command, Bluetooth Hands-free, HD radio and SiriusXM with NAVTraffic and NAVWeather.

Heated and Ventilated Front Seating ($640) and a Cargo Net ($59) completed our test 2014 RX 350 FWD.

The final cost of our test RX 350, with delivery, was $46,904.

You can get other packages or options like all-wheel drive (AWD), 19-inch triple-split five spoke wheels, Xenon Headlights, Heads-Up Display, Dual Screen Rear Seat Entertainment system or the Mark Levinson 15-speaker Audio System - any or most of which would take the delivered price of the Lexus RX 350 above $50,000.

Considering the extra consumer drive value that each or all presents to the already exceptional value Lexus RX 350 we tested, we think they might well be worth considering.

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