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_I HAVE _spent the past few months driving mainly SUVs of various sizes, so I suppose it was fitting when I was offered the opportunity to spend an extended period with the new Lexus RX 350 Luxury Sport.

The 2012 version is not a new-generation model but it is a significant update compared to its predecessor.

The premium Japanese car maker not only made a number of styling changes but also took the opportunity to improve the driving dynamics and broaden the range of engines available.

The most striking design change is the spindle-shaped grille that we are going to start to see right across the Lexus range.

It is a move that certainly gives the large SUV a road presence that it did not have previously.

Suddenly, the RX is a car with attitude, one that demands to be noticed on the road.

The car supplied for test is near the top end of the model range and comes with an array of technology that makes it safer, better to drive and more comfortable.

For those who find driving to be a passion and not just a necessity, the RX 350 is a well-cushioned cruiser not a corner-clipper.

But for the majority of luxury SUV consumers its combination of comfort and convenience will be hard to top. It is one of the most comfortable vehicles, in any category, I have driven. With a bit of right foot persuasion, the 3.5-litre V6 can get the 2-tonne SUV up and running pretty swiftly yet it remains composed with a plush ride.

Inside the comfortable cabin, a multifunction mouse-like controller enables you to navigate through features like the sat-nav, audio (which is a nice 15-speaker Mark Levison surround-sound system with digital radio that automatically finds the stations with the strongest signal) and a host of other options.

There is plenty of leg and knee room for rear-seat passengers and the cargo area is nice and big (my golf clubs comfortably sit across the back), plus it is easily accessible thanks to the electronic rear tailgate.

After living with the RX 350 for a few days I am looking forward to spending more time behind the wheel over the next few months.

  • LEXUS RX 350 AWD *

  • Model *3.5 Sports Luxury

  • Price *$93,900 plus on-road costs

  • Safety features *10 SRS airbags and Lexus' Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management active safety technology, which includes pre-collision safety, electronic stability control and traction control.

  • Safety rating *Five stars

  • Special features *Satellite navigation, electric tailgate, heated and cooled electric leather front seats, smart key and push-button start, rear-view camera and parking sensors, head-up display, active cruise control, adaptive headlights, blind-spot detection.

  • Owner benefits *Complimentary service loan car, Lexus Drive Care

  • Engine * 3.5-litre V6 petrol

  • Power/torque *204kW/346Nm

  • Transmission * Six-speed automatic with sequential shift

  • Fuel consumption (combined) *10.8L/100km

  • Fuel type *95 Octane Premium petrol

  • Fuel tank capacity *72 litres