Home » Driving My Girlfriend’s Lexus RX 350 Made Me Realize That The Most Boring Car On Earth Is Also Excellent

Driving My Girlfriend’s Lexus RX 350 Made Me Realize That The Most Boring Car On Earth Is Also Excellent

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I’m partaking in Santa Monica’s “One Car Challenge,” which requires my girlfriend and me to drive only a single car for our daily commuting/errands, and for whatever reason, we chose her 2017 Lexus RX 350 — the most boring car in the world. I don’t like driving it, but I also do like driving it. I find myself facing an internal struggle every time I get behind the wheel, but ultimately when I shut the car off I always conclude: This thing is legitimately excellent. It may be the ultimate no-bullshit luxury SUV. Here’s what I mean.

Driving a car that doesn’t represent you in at least some way is a miserable experience. I learned this when I bought a 1995 Honda Accord as a winter beater because 1. It was cheap and 2. It had a five-speed.

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The truth is, there’s not a single fiber of my being that feels even the slightest connection to a 1995 Honda Accord, and even when that pile of crap did run, driving the thing was never fun. I later bought a much junkier 1965 Plymouth Valiant, and though it was worse in every measure way, I loved piloting that machine. It felt like me.

My girlfriend’s 2017 Lexus RX3 50 feels more like the Honda than the Valiant in that I feel zero connection to it. The vehicle doesn’t represent me at all. It’s an appliance. And yet, unlike the with the Honda, part of me does enjoy driving the RX 350. Why? Because I respect how objectively good it is. Lexus absolutely nailed this car, and that’s an impossible fact to ignore.

It’s Hard Not To Respect The Lexus RX 350

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Motor Trend has a metric that it uses to evaluate its Car of the Year contenders: Performance of Intended Function. The publication defines this term as answering: “How well does a vehicle do the job its creators intended it to do?” With the Lexus RX 350, the answer is: “Incredibly.”

That’s the internal struggle I face when driving this machine. There’s DT the car-nut who loathes driving this luxury-ified Toyota, and there’s DT the car journalist who evaluates cars based on their performance of intended function. I don’t love the Lexus, but I respect it. It has exactly what customers like my girlfriend want in a car, to a point where it’s almost flawless.

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The engine is a 3.5-liter V6 making 295 horsepower and sending it all through an eight-speed automatic. Thanks partly to the engine’s decent low end torque and the transmission’s short 5.25:1 first gear ratio (the differential ratio is either 3.329 or 2.277; I get the feeling that my girlfriend’s is the former), the RX 350 is legitimately responsive. Whereas so many modern cars have dead-feeling pedals that have been set up for maximum fuel economy, the RX’s pedal calibration feels old-school in a way. You press it a bit, and the car goes, which is what everyone wants out of a no-bullshit car (which is what the Lexus is) — you want the car to do what you tell it to now.

This actually surprised me, because I expected the RX to have every sensation dulled just a bit so that the car fades into the background as something you barely even experience — just a way to get to work or home or wherever. But nope, the engine feels surprisingly quick, even if 0-60 only happens in 7.9 seconds, per Lexus.

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The responsive engine and beautifully tuned transmission — mated with an all-wheel drive system and a good traction control system give the car a feeling of competence and safety: It works exactly as you want it to. It’s responsive, it’s quick enough, everything happens as smoothly as you want it to: It’s what people like my girlfriend want out of a powertrain.

Most important about that powertrain is that it just works. That 3.5-liter V6 is part of an engine family known for living until well past 250,000 miles. Also powering the previous-generation Toyota Tacoma (which was unfortunately saddled with a pretty rough six-speed automatic), it’s a nicely engineered motor that’s smooth and really shouldn’t require much maintenance. And when it does, like many of the other bits on this car it can be mended with relatively inexpensive components shared with Toyotas.

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The Lexus’s interior is nice. I think the three-spoke steering wheel is almost as perfect a steering wheel design as exists on this earth, all the important bits of material you touch are soft and well put together, and the user interface is fantastic. The infotainment and climate control switches have quite a few nice, physical buttons, the gauge cluster looks clean, and while the automatic shifter isn’t the most modern, it works — everyone knows how to use it; you shove the stick into P to park, you shove it into D to drive.

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The leather seats are comfortable and feel durable — they’re heated, cooled, and power-adjustable with memory function. They’re excellent seats in an excellent cabin in a car that floats quietly like a magic carpet

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There’s a ton of space, visibility out the front is good, and though the D-pillars definitely create a blind spot, the vehicle does have beeping blind spot monitoring, and it rarely seems like an issue.

It May Be The Ultimate No-Bullshit Luxury SUV

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My girlfriend sometimes gets upset when people call her car boring. It seems like an insult to a car that she thinks is so great. Are people saying she’s wrong?

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No. She’s absolutely right. It’s an excellent car, and Lexus should be commended for building something that perfectly aligns with what she and so many other consumers are looking for: The ultimate no-bullshit luxury SUV. That’s what the Lexus RX350 is. You buy it, you’re comfortable, you’re confident, you’re safe, you rarely have to worry about significant mechanical issues, the dealership will give you a great service experience (my girlfriend actually enjoys going to the Lexus dealer, which says a lot about what Lexus is doing right), and the car just demonstrates its competence every time you’re behind the wheel. It fades into the background, and lets you live a life where cars are not at the forefront.

We car enthusiasts can’t imagine why someone would even want to live such a life, but it’s possible we’re all ill.423221575 1649633498901527 5152253142706156690 N

To be sure, there are quite a few other cars out there that check the boxes I just mentioned — comfortable, safe, reliable, easy-to-maintain, relatively luxurious. But the reality is that the average person probably trust’s Toyota’s reputation for reliability more than they do any other brand, and if that person wants luxury, it only makes sense to buy a luxurious Toyota. Factor in the dealership experience, and it’s no wonder I spotted so many of these RX’s here in Santa Monica during a short five-minute drive:

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And it’s not just me preaching on about how this boring car is actually really good. Autoweek’s review of this generation Lexus RX is titled “2017 Lexus RX350 Review: Best-Seller For A Reason.” And Car and Driver wrote:

Assessed in terms of the goals laid down for this latest redesign, the fourth-generation RX sustains and augments the virtues that have made this vehicle a perennial strong seller: a posh interior, enduring comfort, quiet operation, contemporary safety features, the latest infotainment, and now a bolder exterior.

This beige Lexus SUV that I’m stuck driving for the next five weeks is boring as hell. It’s not amazing at handling, its acceleration won’t tear your face off, the styling is not incredible, and there’s really just not much soul. But at its job, it’s legitimately excellent. And I have to respect that.

 

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Theotherotter
Theotherotter
14 days ago

The best expression of this is, I think, the Prius. My partner drives a 2008 Prius that is the perfect expression of what a person like her wants in a car (it just cars along, almost perfectly and with no thought, forever and ever). For years I have loathed driving the things, as they’re deathly boring. But with hers, I finally came to respect it for being outstanding at what it does. And it’s a perfect size with a large hatch opening.

AceRimmer
AceRimmer
17 days ago

I’ve only driven one once, as a loaner while my vehicle was serviced. My god it is worst vehicle I’ve ever driven. The seats are wide and flat, steering is overboosted and inaccurate, body control was lousy. I really, REALLY couldn’t wait till my car was done. I’d rather drive a Rogue than RX350. There’s a reason Toyota calls it the Prescription350. Ugh…

D M
D M
18 days ago

The Lexus RX350: when you absolutely positively have to make it to the bingo parlor.

05LGT
05LGT
19 days ago

Try it on a road trip.

Ryan Donovan
Ryan Donovan
19 days ago

David, this is the car I want for you. Boring, but reliable, starts every time. Doesn’t leave you stranded. Doesn’t leak fluids on you. I’m sorry you do not love it. I am glad that you respect it. Perhaps there’s room for the car you love and the car you respect in all of our garages.

Love my ’08 RX350. It’s an excellent machine and still humming like a sewing machine.

Red865
Red865
19 days ago

My sister has had a long run of leased Mercedes vehicles. She decided this time to buy her next car instead….she went with an RX350 after testing everything on market. She spends a lot of time on the road for her businesses.

Myk El
Myk El
19 days ago

I think it’s easier to be an enthusiast if you have a dull, reliable ride to handle the day to day activity. However, it does mean having less money for being an enthusiast. Even if you get a good deal used, pay cash or whatever, you’ve still got insurance and regular maintenance as ongoing costs. What’s a good pseudo-enthusiast car? One that’s efficient (as in carries people, can manage a Costco run, decent fuel economy, etc.) but can be fun to push a little and lasts forever if taken care of?

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
19 days ago
Reply to  Myk El

GTI.

Myk El
Myk El
19 days ago

I have a lot of testimonials that indicate the “lasts forever if taken care of” does not apply to anything GTI.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
19 days ago
Reply to  Myk El

Fair, but ‘taken care of’ means a lot of different things. As an enthusiast I think it means more than maintenance like regular fluid changes and replacing wear items. And with VAG you get weird wear items; I had to replace a failed ignition cylinder and it was easy enough thanks to the plethora of youtube videos showing me how to do it. I am at 165k miles and my mk5 is my primary car. With the current price of anything almost similar I intend to make this last a long long time.

NotFlyingIsNotTrying
NotFlyingIsNotTrying
19 days ago

Last summer my dad was dying of cancer. It was obviously no fun and part of his treatment was driving to the hospital 30 minutes away for infusions. He was pretty nauseous and sensitive to movement and the highways in NY are not really known for their smooth surface. Their outback was just not cutting it in the comfort department as every road seam caused pain and discomfort. In their 80’s my parents need a higher ride height to get in and out, reliability, and AWD. THIS, THIS was the car I was suggesting they trade the outback for if they were going to continue to drive for immune therapy infusions for all the reasons stated. It’s comfortable and floaty, easy for older people to get in and out of, decent visibility and dead nuts reliable. Unfortunately my father’s illness progressed too fast for him to continue treatment so my mom still has the outback, but if she ever needs another car this will likely be it.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
19 days ago

Sorry for you and Dad, and family.
Cancer is a bitch. We were lucky though in a way. My wife had lung cancer. Due to misdiagnosis and a rotten medical system, she passed on before they could put her through the hell they call “treatment.”
I really will never know how strong she was though. She never once complained, but would mention her back was hurting at times. When I was finally able to get her admitted to the hospital, she passed in less than a week there.
I do really feel for your family though. Good luck to you all.

Last edited 19 days ago by Col Lingus
J Schmidt
J Schmidt
19 days ago

Only broken cars feel like “him” to David.

David, is that because you are broken? [Hannibal Lecter voice] And is that why you have had acres full of broken cars? Because if you thought you could fix one broken thing, you could make the screaming stop?

Mike B
Mike B
19 days ago

Cars like this are great. Its comfy, reliable, and you just jump in it in GO, in comfort, while getting decent economy. It’s handy for errands around town, or a multi-day road trip.

Yeah, “enthusiast” cars are fun and interesting, but for a daily driven A-B vehicle, there’s no beating vehicles like this.

Especially being a Toyota/Lexus product, just change the oil once in a while and you’re golden. I’ve considered the ’07-’11 model as a possible daily beater/commuter, though the economy is only about 20% better than my 4Runner.

Oh, and I think it’s probably the gearing that makes it feel quick, the 3.5’s TQ peak is over 5,000RPM, it does not make good low end. I don’t think Toyota ever figured that out for their n/a V6’S, the 4.0 has lousy low end too.

Jay Maynard
Jay Maynard
19 days ago

I’ve had two RXs, a 2001 RX300 and a 2007 RX350. Loved both. My roommate has a 2012 IS250 AWD he loves.

The note about the dealer experience is spot on. In many ways, it’s like my roommate put it: “what you’re paying for is a whole lot of making the car not my problem.” They’re all like that, easy to deal with and fair.

I bought a GLC300 a couple of years ago. I’d have seriously cross-shopped the NX if it wasn’t so damned ooooogley in the front. If I’m going to have an extravagance in my garage, I want it to be something that puts a smile on my face when I look at it.

No Kids, Just Bikes
No Kids, Just Bikes
19 days ago
Reply to  Jay Maynard

I get that, but is the GLC300 something to look at with heart eyes? I don’t see it, but maybe I need new goggles.

Jay Maynard
Jay Maynard
16 days ago

To me, a luxury car is all about refinement and elegance. The GLC has both. The NX’s front end has neither.

Cryptoenologist
Cryptoenologist
19 days ago

The funny thing about this one car challenge is that for people like David who own a small or short range EV, in many ways it’s counterproductive. Instead of choosing the most efficient car that would be adequate for a given outing, they are just using the gas car all the time, because it is the most versatile vehicle they have and they had to pick one.

Ben
Ben
19 days ago

This is why I ultimately decided against an old Leaf, even though I could have picked one up for almost peanuts. Most of my miles per year are driven on longer highway trips, which means a short-range EV would only replace maybe 10% of the miles I drive. At that point it’s probably not justifying the environmental impact of building it.

VanGuy
VanGuy
19 days ago

Not like I could afford a new Lexus, but what would anyone here say is the closest thing they have/had to the Prius v in terms of fuel efficiency and spaciousness?

Cryptoenologist
Cryptoenologist
19 days ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Lexus NX PHEV. More efficient, less space than Prius V with the rear seats up but more space with them down than the Prius V with them down.

Donald Anthony Waters
Donald Anthony Waters
19 days ago

Rx350 is nothing but headaches. Radiator has to come out to change the alternator. These don’t have a transmission dipstick so you have to take it to the dealer to fill. The engine has to come out for anything else. Timing chain=engine removal. Spark plug change=removing intake manifold. Just a miserable car to do basic maintenance on. Changing the headlights requires a special bulb that has a unique process that you have to blindly do in a cavity where you need hands the size of a 3 year old baby. Good luck finding this bulb at local stores.

Alan Bradley
Alan Bradley
19 days ago

I totally get this.
In the UK, I drive a 1-of-400 Toyota Yaris GRMN – a 3-door Yaris hatch fitted with the supercharged 1.8-litre engine from a Lotus Elise/Exige. It’s a great little thing but heavily flawed in many ways. I adore it.
Anyhow, I’m in the US for work for a while, and the GRMN isn’t allowed to come with me (Thanks, MBUSA!), so after a brief dalliance with a stick Scion tC that wasn’t fun, wasn’t fast and wasn’t relaxing, I bought a Lexus GX460.
It couldn’t be further from the concept of the GRMN, but it’s just So Damned Easy and good at what it does. Also, it has a V8 and it would be wrong to live here without having owned one.

Cryptoenologist
Cryptoenologist
19 days ago
Reply to  Alan Bradley

The equivalent vehicle here, while slightly larger, is the Matrix XRS or the Pontiac Vibe GT. Also, if you’ve never driven a 2zz swapped MR2 Spyder, look for one in your area.

Alan Bradley
Alan Bradley
17 days ago

Yes, the engine actually came from a Corolla T-Sport. I couldn’t remember the name of the Matrix, to be honest.
I’ve heard the 2ZZ into MR-S is an absolute hoot.

Cryptoenologist
Cryptoenologist
17 days ago
Reply to  Alan Bradley

Oh I forgot the Celica GTS. I’ve got a stock MR2 Spyder and it’s plenty of fun, but I wouldn’t say not to more power!

Genewich
Genewich
19 days ago

We have a ’99 Lexus ES300, and I have a similar experience every time I drive it. Even at 25 years old it is just plain competent, and it is astonishing to me how well every part of it has aged.

86-GL
86-GL
19 days ago

~ All cars are appliances. ~

The ones we believe “aren’t” are just mirrors of our nostalgia, pride, insecurities, and mental illness.

: )

Last edited 19 days ago by 86-GL
Tristan Hixon
Tristan Hixon
19 days ago
Reply to  86-GL

Untrue. Above a certain price point, or beyond a certain featureset, cars stop being about the application of transport and become about the design, the image, and the experience. A supercar, a hypercar, a roadster – none of these are built as appliances, because none of them are anywhere near as good at being appliances as a normal SUV.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
19 days ago

So, the question is, do want to drive something with the reliable utility of a refrigerator, or do you want to drive something with the inherent highs and lows of dating an Italian twenty-something?

This is the reason Lexus owners say ‘Lexus is Best Car!’ while Ferrari owners will say ‘Ferrari is Best Car!’, and both will be equally passionate about their opinion.

Tristan Hixon
Tristan Hixon
19 days ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

Modern refrigerators are getting to be closer in reliability to the Ferrari than the Lexus.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
19 days ago
Reply to  Tristan Hixon

I frickin KNEW somebody was going to say that! You’re absolutely right, of course…

NC_Motorist
NC_Motorist
19 days ago

“…We car enthusiasts can’t imagine why someone would even want to live such a life, but it’s possible we’re all ill.” — I have something akin to this thought every time I undertake any amount of wrenching on my vehicles. But then I feel the sense of accomplishment and attunement to the car, and all is right in the world. That is until something else inevitably breaks.

With my current daily being a 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited, I totally get the feeling of a boring, yet comfortable and well designed cruiser which does it’s job well.

Last edited 19 days ago by NC_Motorist
Mike B
Mike B
19 days ago
Reply to  NC_Motorist

Not wanting all the wrenching is one of the main reasons I drive a ten-year-old 4Runner and not a Jeep. Jeeps are so much cooler, but the 4Runner just WORKS. Nearly 170K miles and I’ve only had to replace the normal consumables.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
19 days ago

When folks ask me for car shopping advice and they tell me they’re interested in a luxury crossover, I have them check out the RX, even if they have no intention of buying one. It’s the segment benchmark for a reason. It’s not the best or worst at anything (except perhaps styling) but it does so much right, it’s a good place to calibrate expectations.

Anecdotally, when my mom was car-shopping a few years ago to replace her Acura, I fully expected her to like the RX. She didn’t, but it was a good lesson for me, and also allowed us to knock a bunch of other candidates off her shopping list right away. FWIW the finalists were the Volvo XC60, Lincoln MKX (would be Nautilus if we were doing the process today, though seeing how she’s used the CX-5 the XC40 and Corsair would be more likely candidates), and Mazda CX-5 (Mazda really needs/needed an RX/Nautilus-sized 2-row crossover; the CX-70 is about 10″ too long for the class). The Mazda won, though my mom still pines for the luxury of the Lincoln and seats from the Volvo, but the Mazda was the preferred overall package. Plus she was able to buy brand new instead of used, which is the first new car she’s had since before I was born, IIRC.

Mike B
Mike B
19 days ago
Reply to  Box Rocket

My Mom has a 2010 Caddy SRX, I told her one of these needs to be on her short list when she finally gets around to replacing it. It’s funny, she was telling me how much she likes the “luxury” features of her Caddy, I told her that these days all those features are available on even economy cars. Other than leather and a pano sunroof (which is non-op on the Caddy), my GF;s mid-level 2021 Elantra has more features.

Jason Bentley
Jason Bentley
19 days ago

This is why buying a pre owned Lexus is recommended, you have owners that actively service their vehicle on time and at the dealer. The resale value is justified.

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