Clever Interior Keeps the RX on Top of the Segment
Our take on the 2016 Lexus RX 350 depends on the view. From the outside, there is no mistaking the new face of Lexus, with the imposing spindle grille and styling that continues in a somewhat chaotic manner you either love or hate.
But once you get inside, all debate ends. It is hard not to love the comfortable seats, clever packaging, and soft materials such as the cushy area on the underbelly of the steering wheel where your fingertips rest. We encourage you to pet the crazy-soft headliner, which shows an attention to detail not all affordable luxury models bother with.
The aggressive face on our RX 350 F Sport belies the fact that the changes for this fourth-generation category leader are mild under the hood. The RX 350 has not changed substantially from the 2013 F Sport we last tested. The engine is still a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 but power has increased by 20 horsepower to 295.
Our 2016 model accelerated from 0 to 60 in 6.8 seconds, slightly better than 6.9 seconds for the 2013 model. The quarter-mile time was 15.1 seconds (again 0.1 faster) at 92.7 mph (149 km/h) (0.6 mph faster), and the 2016 model completed the figure eight in 27.1 seconds at 0.63 g (average) compared with 27.9 seconds at 0.57 g (average) three years ago. Testing director Kim Reynolds found a bit of a delay as he thrashed the 2016 RX 350 F Sport around the figure eight but pronounced the power as fine with quick shifts from the eight-speed automatic. The 2016 model weighed in at 4,533 pounds (2,056 kg), which might account for a 60-to-0 braking distance of 123 feet when the 4,411-pound (2,001-kg) 2012 model stopped three feet shorter.
On a drive from our offices in El Segundo, California, down to the vineyards and hipster vibe of Temecula, the RX 350 proved quite capable on smooth and rough pavement alike, cruising highways effortlessly, with smooth starts and stops in L.A. traffic.
Lexus is known for creating a cockpit cocoon, but road noise in our RX 350 F Sport tester on concrete was louder than expected, and there was some wind noise around the A pillar. We suspect even the wind was confused by some of the vehicle’s lines including one over the front wheel well to nowhere.
On twisting canyon roads, the Lexus felt a bit lumbering at times, exhibiting a surprising amount of body roll. The eight-speed was smooth and held gears well up the hills, although associate editor Scott Evans noted its eagerness to get to the high gear and reluctance to kick down. While the engine never struggled, the engine sound infiltrated the Lexus cocoon.
The biggest disappointment is the F Sport’s stiff ride, which doesn’t deliver the fun a sportier suspension should. Steering is adequate but felt a bit numb. And the sensitive lane departure warning and mitigation system seemed to warn and correct if the vehicle even thought about crossing the line.
Where the RX 350 truly excels is inside. The crossover offers some of the most comfortable seats on the market and an abundance of headroom, legroom and shoulder room. The second row seats slide forward and recline but were not heated in our $59,985 USD vehicle.
The rear seats fold almost flat with the push of a button from the back, but from the second row, it requires a lever and some manual labor. It’s also difficult to return them to the upright position from the second row, and we would also like to see a 120-volt outlet and rear-seat USB ports.
Even so, the leather and padding on the door, where the hand goes every time you get in and out, is exceptionally soft and serves as a constant reminder that you have purchased a luxury vehicle. The doors have a nice solid feel, but don’t always close with a single push.
Lexus gets big points for packaging. There’s lots of clever storage with cubbies all over, including an adjustable-depth cupholder up front, a place for maps for the front passenger, and a hidden but easily accessible compartment perfect for a small phone, toll card, or card reader for work. Unfortunately the iPhone 6 does not fit.
We are not as enthusiastic about the navigation system, which can be frustrating with an imprecise joystick that feels like a Ouija board searching for the right answer from the spirits beyond. It took three of us to figure out how to restore the screen after it switched to a split-screen configuration—the change was not intuitive.
Spend time inside the 2016 RX, though, and it isn’t difficult to understand why this remains Lexus’ bestseller and the one to beat in the hot luxury crossover segment. And if you don’t like the new face of Lexus, remember the best view could be from behind the wheel.
|2016 Lexus RX 350 F Sport|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$59,985|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.5L/295-hp/267-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,533 lb (57/43%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||192.5 x 74.6 x 67.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.1 sec @ 92.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||123 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.79 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.1 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||19/26/22 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||177/130 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.90 lb/mile|