The West

Lexus a quiet and comfortable winner
A lack of wind and road noise immediately puts you at ease and makes driving the Lexus RX 350 very enjoyable.

_AFTER _spending the past few months living with the Lexus RX 350, it is easy to understand why so many West Australians are choosing SUVs as their family car.

While the Lexus may be towards the higher end of the price range for this style of vehicle, a quick look at last year's sales figures reveal many buyers are prepared to pay six figures for their daily transporter.

And with the RX 350, you get plenty of extras for your money.

While these add to the driving enjoyment, it was its quietness and comfort - attributes you will also find in the cheaper RX models - that won me over.

Cruising around the suburbs you could barely hear the big V6 engine, while wind and road noise were non-existent. This creates a very relaxed atmosphere that immediately puts you at ease and makes the drive enjoyable.

It was the same on a weekend down south; we arrived at our destination as refreshed as we had left.

But the Lexus SUV is not one of the more dynamic vehicles in its class, far from it. It is competent and sure-footed, but it is more about relaxed cruising than sporty performance.

Everything from the 16-speaker Levinson audio system with digital radio to the heated and cooled leather seats and dual-zone climate control is about creating a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere.

Even the heads-up display that shows both your speed and sat-nav directions is designed to make life easier - and in this case, safer - for the driver.

The electric tailgate is another of those features that seems excessive, but after a while you wonder how you lived without it - a bit like electric garage doors.

The RX is not a car without its deficiencies, but most of them have to do with the electronics rather than performance, ride or handling.

On our trip down south the sat-nav system was determined to turn a 3.5-hour trip home into about five hours by taking every tourist drive. And even when we ignored it, the system tried to get us to turn back virtually to our destination.

I am an advocate of cruise control as a safety feature (and it's a great way to protect your driver's licence and wallet), but on the same country trip I decided I could live without active cruise control - technology designed to ensure you travel at the same pace as the car you are following if it is travelling slower than your pre-set speed.

While it is a device that is likely to be a feature on all cars in the not-too-distant-future, at the moment it is too slow to react both when slowing down and accelerating.

Also, the fuel consumption was certainly not class leading, however, the Lexus is a car that comfortably carries five adults, has plenty of storage nooks and a cargo area capable of swallowing a fair swag of gear.

It is also one of the more comfortable vehicles I have driven in the past year, passenger or SUV, and I am a fan of Lexus' new look, particularly the more aggressive face with its big, bold grille.

  • LEXUS RX 350 AWD *

  • Model *3.5 Sports Luxury

  • Price * $93,900 (plus on-road costs)

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

  • Crash rating *Five-star ANCAP score

  • Special features *Satellite navigation, electric tailgate, heated and cooled electrically adjusted 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 DriveCare breakdown assistance

  • Engine * 3.5-litre V6 petrol

  • Power/torque *204kW/346Nm

  • Transmission *Six-speed automatic with sequential shift

  • Claimed fuel consumption (combined) *10.8L/100km

  • Fuel type *95 Octane premium petrol

  • Fuel tank capacity *72 litres

  • Kilometres travelled at delivery *3742km

  • Kilometres travelled since *1887km

  • Fuel used *234.33 litres

  • Fuel consumption *12.42L/100km
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