While my RX330 is currently at the mechanic getting prepped for
the OppoRally, my “service loaner” is my dad’s RX350. Now that I’ve gotten a
fair amount of seat time in the 350, I’ve discovered that despite the cars
appearing to be identical, there are differences between them.
Disclaimer: In case
you haven’t seen any updates, the RX350 has 100,000 less miles than my RX330
that’s at almost 222,000 miles, so some differences may just be due to age and
There are 4 years in between the RX330 and RX350, and I am
still amazed with how little Toyota updated the RX in that time. 2008 brought a
“refresh,” which gave the RX350 a slightly pointer grille with a little more
chrome and less slats. It also added chrome door handles. On the inside, the rearview mirror is a slightly different shape and the
wood is a little lighter. That’s it. 2007 was the other big year of changes for
the RX. That was when they added the 3.5-liter V6, and they removed the cassette
tape player for the cars without navigation, much to my dismay as they did not
add an aux jack.
More differences become apparent the second you hop into the
drivers seat. Turning the key and cranking the 3.5-liter V6 to life results in
a remarkably smoother experience. At idle, I can’t even feel the engine where I
can feel the slightest vibration in my 330. Getting going, I noticed that the
shifter and the steering take less effort to operate. I’m not entirely thrilled
with the steering because I thought that it was already light in my RX330, but
the target demographic obviously does not care about steering feel so I
understand Toyota’s logic behind making it lighter. Interestingly, the turn
signal also makes a slightly different sound.
On the road, the RX350 had a few more rattles than the 330. One
new one briefly appeared and disappeared when I was driving it yesterday. Now,
this could be a result of how the previous owner treated it, but I have a
feeling it relates to the production of the cars. The 330 was built in Japan,
and the 350 was built in Canada. I get a slight feeling the 350 is not quite
built to the same standards. Even after almost 222,000 miles, my 330 has almost
no rattles as long as it’s above freezing outside. Also, the passenger side seatbelt in
the 350 is flipped so buckling it results in a twisted belt.
These admittedly small issues were forgotten the first time I really got into the gas. The most obvious difference between the RX330 and the RX350 is the engine. In my initial drive of the 350 way back in October, I thought the cars felt similar in the acceleration department. Boy, was I wrong.
Yes, the 3.3-liter V6 in the RX330 is slightly quieter and
initially feels quicker off the line because it hits peak torque 1,100 rpm
sooner, but once the cars are moving, the 350 is on another level. The 330 falls off a
cliff once it hits second at around 25 mph where the 350 just pulls and keeps
pulling. I end up driving the RX350 way harder than the 330 because it’s, dare I
say, fun to just walk away from other traffic. It effortlessly reaches speed,
and at speed, pushes you back into the seat in a way the 3.3-liter V6 in my car
dreams of doing. Amazingly, even driving it fairly hard, the RX350 seems to be
getting better gas mileage than my 330, too. I can see why Toyota puts the 3.5
in almost every one of their vehicles.
Now, after experiencing the extra 40 horsepower of the RX350, will it be hard to get back in my RX330? The short answer: no. The 3.3-liter really is good enough; it’s actually probably more than technically needed. I have never found myself wanting for more power merging on the freeway, and the torque really helps it feel quick off the line. The extra gusto of the 3.5 is almost more than the RX needs, but more power is never bad. The biggest thing I miss on my RX330 is, weirdly, the cassette player. I use a cassette adapter as my aux port and I really miss playing my own music in the car. I also have a weird thing for high mileage cars, so I can’t wait to get back to adding more miles to my 221,000+ mile RX.
If you ever find yourself in the terrifying position of luxury crossover shopping, I would highly recommend the RX. They’re in no way sporty, but both the RX330 and RX350 have served my family very well. I would recommend the RX350 for the added power, but just be sure to get one with AWD because it has a constant 50/50 torque split, meaning it can always put the power down. And don’t forget to get one with a cassette tape player or an aftermarket aux port.