In Wheel Time: Acura RDX and Lexus RX350

April 3rd, 2020

By Don Armstrong

No longer do we have to have deep pockets to enjoy the finer things in life, including personal transportation. Car makers have known for some time that “near” luxury can be “pure” luxury for most of us. Acura and Lexus are fierce competitors in this segment, so we compare two of the most popular models.

Acura RDX

Brand loyalty is big at Acura, a marque well known for building reliable, quality, machines. Its compact RDX model hits a sweet note with the Bay Area buyer and rightfully so.

The RDX’s body lines are unique in an otherwise one-look-fits-all mindset. Its upswept beltline, curved rear quarter haunches and rounded front wheel opening meld into a sporty look. An oversized Acura emblem embellishes the edgy grill.

The interior is different than its competitors. A touch pad on the center console controls most display screen functions. We found the infotainment system logic a little confusing at times. The transmission controls are in a standalone pod that joins the center stack and center console.

A turbocharged, 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine delivering 272-horsepower to the front wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission should be a nice match for most.

We’re sure the 2020 Acura RDX is capable of some lite off-roading, but we prefer it’s more sophisticated on-road manners and handling.

Pricing starts at $37,600.

2020 Acura RDX A-Spec

Lexus RX350

Considered one of the first luxury crossovers in the U.S., the Lexus RX remains a top seller. Since making its debut in 1998, the small do-all has grown into the mid-size category but remains as popular as ever.

The exterior has an edgy design starting with the signature Lexus “spindle” grille. Headlamps, front splitter, air ducts, lower rocker panels; all have hard lines than slash their way into a modern fighter jet silhouette.

The interior isn’t quite as cohesive. The infotainment system received a major overhaul this year after lots of complaints. In place of a joystick, a touch pad and a new, larger display control functionality.

Leather seating quality and color choices are high on the satisfaction scale. Rear seat legroom and storage are more than adequate.

The Lexus RX 350 is equipped with the 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the base and F Sport trim levels. Producing 295-horsepower, it powers the front wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission.   

MSRP begins at $44,150.

Not Grampa’s Station Wagon

September 1st, 2018

By Don Armstrong

Toyota RAV4

The 2018 RAV4 has become America’s go-to SUV. Dependable, maneuverable and sized for a growing family, the RAV4 makes driving in rush hour traffic a little more bearable.

The RAV4’s 2.5-liter I-4 engine may lack the zippiness of some of its competitors but who’s complaining about fuel efficiency? Getting 34 MPG-city and 30-highway, the little engine that could, does. It’s matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Front wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is optional.

The shape of the RAV4 is familiar to most and is not one that says, “Hey, look at me!” Conservative, sellable styling have contributed to making it a fast mover at Bay Area dealerships.

Like most models that have been around awhile, the interior looks a little dated, as is the technology. It has more of a utilitarian feel to it and that make work well for you, but if you are the “tech” type person, you may want to opt for the 2019 model. A completely redesigned RAV4 will be arriving in showrooms this winter. The 2018 will be priced to move and may be snapped up before you get a chance to get one of your own.

Current pricing starts at $24,660.

Lexus RX350
The 4th generation of the RX continues a tradition that started in 1999, a luxury SUV that strikes a chord with many fans of the Lexus brand.

Chances are that you or someone you know has owned an RX. This writer bought one of the first generation RXs and I still have fond memories of it. A small, luxurious runabout that fits our family of four perfectly.

Like most manufacturers, Lexus grew the RX in size to what you see today, a mid-size SUV, but owners still love it.

The polarizing spindle grille may be off-putting to some, but the overall design seems cutting edge. Coupled with the high-zoot lighting, this RX makes a statement.

A 3.5-liter V-6 delivers its 295-horsepower to the front wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available.

The interior has plenty of luxury that you must check out, but a joy stick controller for the infotainment system may be a deal-breaker for you. Quality is a hallmark of the Lexus brand and if you a willing to pay a little more for your ride, chances are, you won’t regret it.

Starts at $43,470.