“The latest incarnation of the original luxury SUV boasts a brand new and radical design, along with improved driving dynamics and extensive family-friendly features.”
2016 Lexus RX350 F Sport – A Luxe Family Ride
Last November we had the opportunity to learn about the new generation Lexus RX in Charleston, South Carolina, and it was clear from the get go that Lexus wanted and needed to renew their statement in the luxury SUV market. Such segment once ruled by them, is now inundated with vehicles of all sizes, prizes and capabilities, but if someone knows how to lead and not follow—is Lexus.
Our previous drive took place in 90 degree coastal weather, which allowed us to enjoy the many comfort features like cooled/ventilated seats, sunroof, and dual-zone climate control system, but our most recent drive was much, much different.
A Warm Welcome
Missi and I boarded the Lexus RX350 in Chicago following the conclusion of the Chicago Auto Show, which like the Detroit Auto Show, is a test of patience and resistance to nearly sub-zero temperatures. We quickly activated the three-stage heated seats, which also includes a convenient Auto setting that regulates the heat as the cabin temperatures increases, though our test vehicle didn’t feature the optional heated steering wheel ($150). Bummer!
Once settled in the toasty cabin, I input our home address into the navigation system via its massive 12.3 inch screen, and we promptly hit the road with the hopes of avoiding Chicago’s morning rush hour. What the following 200 miles home, and remaining 6 days had in store for us, would allow us to discover most of the RX’s delightful features (and some not so much), which we believe play a big role in day-to-day family life.
As part of the F Sport package, the cabin gets an exclusive leather interior trim which not only looks stunning, but it’s mighty comfortable as well. In fact, my Dad and others that had the chance ride in the RX, all praised the quality and comfort of the seats and leather finishes across the dash, steering wheel and door panels. The front seats are moderately bolstered to offer great support during short stints around town or long highway drives, while the back seat is spacious, comfortable and the prime location for a family road trip. Although our test vehicle didn’t feature the rear seat entertainment system ($2,095), or power-folding and heated rear seats ($1,480), they’re great options I’d consider on a personal purchase.
The driver’s seat memory system came in extra-handy as Missi and I swapped turns behind the wheel, as our seat positions are completely different. Score!
When the RX was introduced at last year’s New York Auto Show, Lexus flaunted that its new generation SUV would pack cutting edge entertainment and safety technology, at a lower price than the competition.
My second try at the mouse-like device to control infotainment system was a total fail again, and besides the lack of rear USB chargers, it was the only thing I was displeased with. Even though most owners will eventually like the ‘Remote Touch’ system, or at least come to terms with it, I simply prefer a knob style controller. That being said, the infotainment system itself—the way it works and looks is smooth and informative, and can be customized to split the foot long screen to display vital information.
Other tech-ish features we thoroughly enjoyed were; the easy entry and exit mode, where the steering wheel moves up and seat moves back to allow for easier movement, the double-tap to lock power lift gate button, which allows you to close the lift gate and lock the RX without using the fob (genius), and because Missi is a tad over 5ft tall, the height adjustable lift gate truly makes life easier.
It Drives Good
Long are the days when the Lexus driving experience signified a sterile and boring drive. The new 3.5 liter V6 engine in the RX350 delivers 295 horsepower, and with three adjustable driving modes ranging from Eco to Sport, it’s exciting on highways and back roads alike.
As expected, the cabin is extremely quiet, and the suspension does an excellent job at absorbing road imperfections and keeping occupants relaxed. The exhaust note can get a little meh during stop and go traffic, but under heavy acceleration the V6 comes alive and sounds powerful. In addition, the AWD system in our test car managed to get us around town in over 4 inches of fresh snow, safely and without drama.
The 2016 Lexus RX350 has yet to be tested and rated by the government, but when it comes to safety, the RX features 10 standard airbags, including dual front airbags, front and rear side airbags, knee and curtain side airbags.
The RX’s safety system package ($635) adds features like pre-collision system, pedestrian detection, all-speed radar cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure alert, and intelligent high beam headlights.
Check out these systems in action:
If one chooses to be extremely critical, there are things the RX doesn’t excel at, but so is the case with most vehicles. Instead, it’s important to look back and recognize the massive leap forward Lexus has taken with its best-selling SUV.
The 2016 Lexus RX350 AWD looks great, drives great, is safe, family-friendly, and costs many thousands less than its German competitors. So the real question is, what’s not to like?
- Starts at: $49,125
- Price as tested: $56,845