Driving on the Beach - 2010 Lexus RX 350 AWD

Hi! We take our Mercury Mountaineer to Outerbanks beaches and drive down to the shore by letting air out (from 35 to 20 PSI) and putting it into 4W-high. We need to replace this car and are thinking of buying a 2010 Lexus RX350 AWD. Can we safely drive this car on the beach? How does the 2010’s new AWD Lock mode really work? We are of the impression that when engaged, the rear driveline is locked to the front and that this state is maintained until you either put on the brakes, exceed 25mph or disengage it. In other words, that it acts pretty much like a true SUV’s 4WD-high. Have we got this wrong?

The last thing ANY beach needs is a Lexus…The BEST thing that could happen is you get stuck near the water with the tide coming in…

Well that’s just mean…

But to answer your question in terms of traction, an AWD with a center diff lock should act more or less like a part-time 4x4 in 4hi. But the traction isn’t the whole picture-- if the ground clearance isn’t very good or if your tires aren’t in the best shape you can have problems. The low range can also be very handy, although perhaps less of an issue in an automatic.

Also, I’m not sure what effect airing down the tires would have on a modern car with tire pressure monitoring, ABS, traction control, stability control, etc.

Does you manual say anything about this? I’d be reluctant to do it, the Lexus has lots of systems that might not like it, like GJ says. Beach driving is one place a vehicle like your Mountaineer has an advantage over the RX.

Caddyman: There’s an edit button on the lower right of your post. Can you give it a try. Thanks.

Thanks GJ and Texases … excellent point about the other systems and how they might react to lowering tire pressure. This has been on the back of my mind as I have tried to grapple with and understand the AWD Lock mode. The manual says very little about it; perhaps because the feature is so new, we get conflicting answers when we call the dealerships. Many thanks for the advise!

Thanks, JM. No offense taken to Caddyman’s statement (sniffle, sniffle). I was born and raised on the beaches of S. California and seeing a car on the beach would have sounded like a nightmare to me too. However, this area is a whole other deal - - guess you have to experience it to understand. Point is, we see lots of SUV’s driving there but are unsure about this particular model and were hoping someone had tried it and could comment.

Some Toyotas like the surf!
Fun start about 3 minutes in…

Have you considered keeping the Mountaineer for the beach and getting the Lexus for everything else you do? If the Mountaineer is in otherwise good shape, why not have it as an extra vehicle?
I’ve also heard that Jeep Wranglers(the ones with the removable roof) are popular for beach driving

The Toyota/Lexus AWD is FWD biased with rear kick of wheels and traction control. It fails in tough conditions like a beach, deep snow, ice as computer cannot figure it out. So they have a manual override that basically more or less locks front/rear drive. It really works at least in deep snow. I think you’ll be fine on the beach with it.

Beach driving sucks. The only reason it exists at all is that towns that have beaches have discovered a few people are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a “Off-road Beach Driving Permit” the proceeds of which are used to hire more cops to regulate and control the beach drivers.

I predict troubles for the Lexus. It is primarily designed for roads and the tire profile looks wrong for any kind of sand. AWD is nowhere near as durable or as useful as 4WD. But, with your kind of money… Rich joke coming from the golf course. This brakes on this cart don’t work very well. The friend replies, “Just throw your wallet in front of it. You could stop a train with that thing”.

I can’t imagine anything worse for a car than saltwater and sand in combination. That said, it’s your car and what you do with it is your business. I just hope I don’t wind up buying one of your cars. As far as 4 wheel vs all wheel you will be fine with either unless you are clawing your way up dunes,