Friday, December 5, 2014

Lexus RX models rule roost in luxury SUV segment

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California – I hear expert fiscal analysis on a daily basis, but here’s how I know the economy is improving: Strong sales of Lexus RX sport-utility vehicles.

Yes, this is the best-selling line of luxury SUVs in the nation, and it’s no small accomplishment given the sticker prices involved.  You need to bring more than $40,000 to the table just to get in the game for 2015, but honestly, it’s worth the coin if you crave top-tier SUV excellence from bumper to bumper.

I recently had a week in a 2015 RX 350 (pictured) starting at $42,195, and it was loaded with the usual consumer-pleasing goodies: backup camera, 10-way power front seats, power back door and fancy wood interior trim to name just a few.

Mine was dressed up to superstar class ­– LED foglamps, a dual-screen rear seat entertainment system, a head-up display and a kickin’ Mark Levinson audio system were part of the deal – and rolled off the line wearing a sticker showing $54,340 on the bottom line.

I felt spoiled just backing the RX 350 out of the driveway.  And even though this model and its basic shape have been around for some time, I still get the usual nods of approval from passersby.  You get used to saying “thank you” to folks who volunteer “nice ride.”

Yes, it is nice.  It’s just as nice in motion.

The 3.5-liter, 270-horsepower V-6 hands out power with buttery smoothness, yet your RX is blazing past stragglers like a no-muffler Chevy hot rod of days past.  Handling for such a high-shouldered vehicle is silky smooth; it holds the line in sharp turns without creating a single ripple in your center console-seated coffee cup.

And you can have this RX another way.  I did.

I turned over the RX 350 for a 2015 RX 450h.  This hybrid luxury liner started at $48,845 and, like the RX 350, it was decked out with opulent extras, which pushed the bottom line to $58,315.

Yes, this was a Fantasy Island ride even more luxurious than what the RX 350 offered.  With the engine-assisting “Hybrid Drive” electrics doing their job, my RX 450h got 30 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

There was a very slight lag in the power surge when I mashed the accelerator, but once the big brute responded, it pushed itself forward impressively.

I should note that the range of vision from the cockpit in both vehicles was extraordinary, something I’m appreciating more and more in my old age and at a time when risk-taking on the open road seems to have become a competitive sport.  Along that line, the RX models have plentiful driving-enhancement and safety features.  Can’t be too careful these days, right?

Simply put, these RX vehicles are first-class luxury offerings.  For those who can afford the price, you’re actually getting quite a deal.

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