RX – and in particular the RX 350 I just spent a week in – is the vehicle I’ll always think of as ‘the other Kluger’.
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I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – not at all. Quite the opposite. I’m seeing upmarket mum and dad and two big, strapping teenagers travelling anywhere (but let’s face it: mostly stuck in city traffic #reality) in comparative opulence, with legroom to burn…
This is a big five-seater, and nobody in row two needs to pay the price for ergonomic concessions built in to facilitate row three – because there’s no row 3 to facilitate.
This vehicle is unlikely to give you any trouble. Typically Toyota in the DNA, it’s dependable, comfortable, quiet, refined. Goes where you point it. Keeps up. But – just so you know I’m not about to kneel down and unzip Lexus in the manner of some aspiring fluffer – RX is just not that exciting. Not that dynamic.
The 350 has heaps of poke in a straight line – a modern 3.5 V6 will do that – and it’s smooth, thanks to an eight-speed conventional epicyclic auto. You’ve got to rev it, but when you do, it rewards. Highway-speed overtaking – no problem – big trucks, uphill – whatever – big tick.
And at least Toyota/Lexus has the good grace to use a proper 60-degree V6 and not one of those Frankenstein-inspired truncated 90-degree V8s. (You know: ‘we took the angle grinder to the 5.0 V8 and look what fell out.) I hate those truncated V8s. Looking at you, General Motors.
At its core, this is not the vehicle you buy for inherent driving excitement and engagement. And that’s fine – it just depends on you and your driving expectations. Most drivers are like that, I think – they wouldn’t understand the passion of tipping a car into a bend hard if it jumped up and bit them on the arse. In fact, doing that kind of thing secretly terrifies them. Especially in the wet.
There’s an entry-level RX 300 with a 2.0-litre turbo petrol four and six-speed auto – it’s the only front-drive RX you can buy. There’s also a hybrid version of the 3.5 V6 – it’s got slightly less grunt and a six-speed CVT instead of the internal combustion-only eight-speed auto.
Frankly I don’t know why you’d buy either the 300 or the 450h – you could get a Kluger Grande for much less than an RX300. And it’s going to be smoother and have more grip, thanks to AWD and better auto.
The Hybrid is difficult to justify because it’s $10,000 more than the 350. Therefore, the payback period is, like, 170,000km. And, anyway, nobody in their right mind spends $100,000 on a car to save money on fuel. If you’ve got $100k for a car, fuel is cheap. You don’t care what it costs. It’s a budgetary triviality.
If you want to be truly green you cannot drive a two-tonne vehicle without having breathtaking disrespect and/or ignorance of basic thermodynamics. If you want to be green, catch the friggin’ train to work. (So unpalatable for the rich.)
Sidelining the 300 and 450h variants, I absolutely can make a strong case for the RX 350.
Back to the differences: over in Klugerville, you can get front-drive versions of the atmo V6 as well as AWD – but with RX 350, they’re all AWD.
Biggest difference – apart from the more hatch-like converging roof on the RX and the outrageous snout and grille (which you will either embrace or not – it’s purely subjective) is that Shitsville Kluger is manufactured in Retardistan, whereas Shitsville RX emanates from the land of the rising sun itself. Home grown, in a sense.
Kluger is thus tuned to run on 91 RON unleaded. (That’s roughly equivalent to 87 in the US. They use a different rating system called ‘anti-knock index’). But Australian-spec RX demands 95 RON premium unleaded.
As a result RX has slightly higher peak power and torque figures than Kluger. But only slightly. You’re not going to feel it. You just need to know not to run it on 91 or (most) blends of e10.
A Kluger Grande AWD – the pimp’s Cadillac of Klugers – is going to knock you back about $75,000 in the traffic, notionally. And it’ll have seven seats.
RX 350 F Sport: About $100,000 on the road. Five seats. Five hundred kilos less tow capacity. More standard equipment, however.
One’s a prestige car, the other is the Camry of soft SUVs. And the obvious question is: Is it really worth paying 30 per cent more for the Lexus? Objectively, the Lexus is more polished. You’ve stepped up, but the law of diminishing returns is also in play. It’s certainly not 30 per cent better.
If you’ve never fantasised about starting from pole position, and if you’re in the market for a robust, reliable and extremely polished taxi for comfortable family conveyance, and if you’ve got the cash, and if you can see the value in elevating yourself above the mainstream, despite the law of diminishing returns, then RX 350 is a great option around the $100 grand mark.
If that’s you, you should put RX 350 on your shortlist.
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