Toyota Has Us by the Balls

Two weeks ago, my family’s garage gained a new “L” branded crossover in possibly the least exciting car purchase ever. We now have two duplicates of the automotive enthusiast’s antichrist in grey and black. Introducing the Grocery Grabber 2.0, or the 350, as it will be more likely called.

As the name 350 hints, this car is the the newer version of our RX330. Exactly 4 years and 118,000 miles newer, in fact, since it’s a 2008 with 98,000 miles. The “new” car is even equipped exactly the same as the one we already had. The interior is the same color, and apart from the changes between model years, which I will discuss in a later post that I’m sure everyone can barely contain their excitement for, the only difference is the exterior is black instead of grey.

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This means it has rain sensing wipers, which hopefully work better than they do in the 330 where they either do nothing or operate at full monsoon speed, heated seats, headlight washers, a power back door, and all wheel drive, one of the most important factors. If my dad didn’t get the RX350, he was going to be driving the Mustang for another winter. My dad did that one winter already and enjoyed it so much that he bought a 2006 RAV4 with 195,000 miles on it just so he wouldn’t have to do it again.

We already unloaded the RAV4 in August when it broke semi-spectacularly after it was parked in an underground lot for a few months. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t actually that exciting. When we needed the car and finally turned the key to bring the mighty four cylinder back to life, we were met with a nice variety of warning lights. But that was a standard affair for the RAV4. What was new was the inability to get it to move in reverse. My dad gave it more and more gas until the RAV-inator lurched backwards, accompanied by the sound of snapping metal.

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Driving it resulted in the sound of the grinding of metal on metal continuously emanating from the back. So we decided to return the RAV4 to its parking spot, and eventually had to limp it 10 miles to the mechanic. I don’t remember exactly what went wrong, but I’m fairly certain that a rear caliper seized even though the parking brake wasn’t set when it was parked. After this incident, my dad ended up selling the car to someone our mechanic knew, after the brakes were fixed, of course.

Anyway, back to what everyone is absolutely dying to know about: the new RX350. I drove it very briefly, and when I got behind the wheel, I was most excited to test out the new engine and the extra 40 horsepower. But I was surprised when I smashed the gas pedal to the floor.

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It did not seem that much faster than the RX330. I think the difference lies in the gearing and engine tuning. First gear in the 330 is shorter, and the full 242 ft-lbs of torque comes on at 3,600 rpm. After first gear, the power drops off. The 350 definitely feels slower off the line since it has to work its way out of a longer gear.

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Additionally, even though the 3.5 V6 has 9 more ft-lbs of twist, it doesn’t fully appear until 4,700 RPM. In my one acceleration test, the cars almost feel even, but I’m sure the difference would be more stark when they’re moving. Especially since the RX350 has a grand total of 270 horsepower, which definitely beats the 230 hp the RX330 is stuck with.

But, when I backed off of the gas and drove normally, I was most surprised in the difference in engine noise. Under normal acceleration, the 350 had a slightly harsher sounding engine than the 330. Keep in mind, harsh is a relative term considering it’s still a Lexus. Otherwise, I could tell everything had over 100,000 less miles on it. The suspension bounced around less, the steering was tighter, and even the shifter felt tighter. Though, it was still remarkably similar to the RX330.

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Now, I know most of you are probably perplexed by this purchase since we already had essentially the same car. But that’s the reason we bought another one. The original Grocery Grabber is a few hundred miles away from 218,000, and they were almost entirely trouble free. Though, to be fair, we did buy it with 80,000 already on it.

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Also, I took the RX330 up to college this year, so my dad was stuck with the Mustang again, which I’m sure pushed this purchase along. The most exciting thing to me about this purchase, however, is that this new addition to the garage made the Grocery Grabber unofficially my car. My dad’s name is still on the title, but I get to call it my car now.

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As I have expressed in previous posts, the RX330 has done everything I have ever asked it to without complaint. And before the last three and a half years I have driven it, it served my dad perfectly as a replacement for his 2004 Acura TL. He wanted a car that was good in the snow, and had more space and cargo flexibility.

The Lexus RX is supremely good at what it is designed to do. It is fantastic in the snow, gets decent gas mileage, can carry people and cargo in absolute comfort, and is Toyota reliable. This is why we ended up with another Lexus in the garage, and it’s also why I wouldn’t be surprised if another Toyota product shows up in our garage in the future. Just as long as it’s not that green RAV4.

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