The 2018 Lexus RX 350 premium midsize SUV is powered by a 295-horsepower V6 engine in tandem with an eight-speed automatic transmission. (Manufacturer photo)

The 2018 Lexus RX 350 premium midsize SUV is powered by a 295-horsepower V6 engine in tandem with an eight-speed automatic transmission. (Manufacturer photo)

Updated Lexus RX 350 aces an arduous road trip

Four people, 106-degree temps and 1,500 miles? No sweat for this premium midsize SUV.

The Lexus RX premium midsize SUV spent 17 years selling well but going largely unnoticed on the road due to its conservative styling.

Two years ago, Lexus broke the RX mold and produced an entirely new version with styling so flamboyant it was like overcompensating for its past. In particular, the outrageous spindle grille of the transformed RX got everyone’s attention, and for every positive reaction to it there was an equal and opposite reaction. However, RX sales shot up after the redesign.

The Lexus RX receives several updates for 2018. Enform Safety Connect (enhanced roadside assistance using GPS) and Enform Service Connect (preventive vehicle and maintenance alerts to the Lexus owner and dealership) are now complimentary for the first 10 years of ownership. The previous arrangement was a one-year trial period for the two features.

A newly available Premium package for the RX 450h (hybrid) adds power-folding auto-dimming outside mirrors with memory, premium wood trim in the cabin, and driver seat and steering wheel memory. A new RX 450h base model with standalone options is also available.

Eighteen-inch RX wheels sport a new silver metallic finish for 2018.

My tester was an RX 350 with front-wheel drive. Had it been an all-wheel-drive version, base pricing would be bumped up by $1,400.

The test week for the 2018 Lexus RX 350 was more demanding than usual because it included a 1,500-mile road trip to Northern California and back, with three adult-sized people and one 9-year-old sized person on board, along with the immense amount of stuff considered crucial to a successful road trip.

As if all that weight weren’t enough for the RX 350 to deal with, outside temperatures reached 106 degrees. But there’s even more. The destination was a big family reunion and everyone on board the RX was excited about getting to see loved ones. So we weren’t poking along on I-5, if you know what I mean.

Manual operation rear side window sunshades are a would-be minor item in the tester’s extravagant Luxury package ($4,180), but on our trip they were a godsend.

The RX 350’s 295-horsepower V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission are a match made in powertrain heaven. The climb to 4,310-feet Siskiyou Summit in southern Oregon (the highest elevation anywhere on I-5) was so effortless for the RX 350, the only thing making it any different from a flat stretch of highway was all the struggling cars getting in our way.

EPA fuel economy ratings for the front-drive RX 350 are 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined.

I was afraid the multimedia system on my RX 350 tester with its tetchy computer mouse-like remote touch operation would get on my nerves, but I coped OK. Still, if they ever ask me, I plan to tell engineers at Lexus to get a different control method for the system.

There is no more convincing way to report on a car’s supreme comfort than to tell you that after riding in the RX 350 for 9 hours, with just a couple of quick stops no longer than grabbing a Starbucks to-go order, four people with varying levels of physical fitness and emotional maturity emerged unsore and uncrabby.

2018 LEXUS RX 350 FWD

Base price, including destination charge: $44,265

Price as driven: $55,200

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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