When it debuted more than 15 years ago, the Lexus RX practically defined the luxury crossover category. A consistent best-seller among luxury SUVs, it’s still a refined premium, midsize vehicle for five passengers. Lexus has tried to emphasize the “sport” element in the RX 350, including adding an F Sport edition, but it's mainly a vehicle for families who enjoy a strong taste of luxury in their travels. Lexus redesigned and enlarged the RX 350 and its RX 450h hybrid counterpart for 2016, giving them a bold—even radical—new look, highlighted by a massive grille.
What's New for 2017
An F Sport front-drive model has joined the lineup. The Lexus Safety System+ is now standard, including a pre-collision system, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure alert with steering assist. Blind-spot monitoring, now standard, includes rear cross-traffic alert. Lexus Display Audio has added a Scout GPS link. F Sport models and Premium packages now include a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Choosing Your Lexus RX 350
Beneath the RX 350 hood, in either base or F Sport trim, the 3.5-liter V6 engine develops 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, mating with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive and 18-inch wheels are standard; all-wheel drive is optional. Fuel-economy is EPA-estimated at 20 mpg in city driving and 27 mpg on the highway (23 mpg combined) with front-drive. All-wheel drive drops the estimate to 19/26 mpg (city/highway). Towing capacity is rated at 3,500 pounds.
Standard RX 350 equipment includes NuLuxe-trimmed seats, 10-way power front seats, reclining/sliding rear seats, a power tilt/telescopic steering column, power tailgate, heated power mirrors, SmartAccess key, rearview camera, 8-inch screen, and 9-speaker audio. Smart Stop technology can reduce engine power under certain conditions, when both the gas and brake pedals are pressed. An electronic parking brake also is standard, along with LED headlights, daytime running lights, foglamps, and brake lights.
Pricing starts at $43,995 (destination included) with front-drive, or $1,400 more with all-wheel drive. Lexus has a massive options list for the RX. Available features include a navigation system with 8-inch or 12.3-inch screens, Lexus Enform telematics, a panoramic moonroof, and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. Optional active-safety features include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, Intuitive Park Assist, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, and a panoramic-view backup monitor.
The available Luxury Package includes semi-aniline leather-trimmed seating, 20-inch chromed wheels, a heated steering wheel, rear-door sunshades, heated/ventilated front seats or power-folding/heated rear seats, and wood/aluminum interior trim. A Premium Package adds aluminum roof rails, driver’s memory, leather-trimmed front seats, and rain-sensing wipers.
Starting at $49,895 with front-drive, the F Sport edition gets a sportier look and revised suspension tuning, with performance dampers. F Sport standard equipment includes paddle shifters, F Sport instruments, heated/ventilated leather-trimmed front seats with unique stitching, and a perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel. The adaptive variable suspension includes Sport+ drive mode. Active sound generation gives the F Sport a distinctive tone.
Picking an F Sport doesn't transform the RX 350 into a sporty crossover, despite its adaptive suspension. After all, both versions use the same powertrain. Fuel economy isn’t a strong point, but it’s acceptable for this class. When consulting the huge option list, it pays to focus on those that promise a more satisfying road experience, such as Mark Levinson audio and Lexus’ impressive navigation system.