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Lexus RX350 SE-L satnav

Date: 21 June 2006

Category: Luxury 4x4 Price: £32,040-£45,215
Per month: £882 Key rival: BMW X5

Lacking Land Rover's muddy aspirations, BMW X5's cornering finesse, or even Volvo's family-orientated seven-seats, the Lexus RX350 fights back against talented opposition with unbeatable refinement.

Following a mid-life tweak, the Lexus offers the most relaxing and comfortable 4x4 on the school run.

Extra sound deadening and a windscreen coated with 'acoustic film' ensures little road, engine or suspension noise permeates through the cabin. Only wind noise at high speed disturbs what is a very quiet place.


Cementing the soothing abilities has been Lexus' decision to replace the overworked 3.0-litre powerplant with a more muscular 3.5. Producing 276PS, the RX350 now sprints to 62mph in just 7.8secs while using less fuel and averaging 25.2mpg on the combined run. The big Lexus is even less polluting than the old engine - not that businesses benefit, since it still falls in the priciest 35% BIK bracket.

Inside it's as luxurious as ever, with more kit as standard than the rest of the luxury 4x4 pack. Highlights on the range-topping SE-L include a revised touch-screen satnav that's 65% quicker to recalculate, and a new 11-speaker sound system.

The SE-L also gains height-adjustable air suspension that helps cure some of the fidgeting the standard model suffers. Body roll remains, but there seems to be marginally better body control with air suspension. However, as things quicken, the Lexus is still no match for rivals in the handling department, the biggest foible being lifeless steering.

The re-programmed five-speed auto frustrates, and is occasionally reluctant to downchange on kickdown. A better proposition is the RX400h's CVT box, and overall it might be worth considering the hybrid 4x4 instead of the RX350h - it's more refined, has more power and uses less fuel, although it carries a premium of almost £3000 over the RX350. But at least you'll feel less guilty about your 4x4 of choice.