First Drive: 2016 Lexus RX350
There is a fine line between premium and luxury. For the longest time, Lexus has always been that premium product that offered a presence of a higher anarchy at the golf resorts and valet stands. However, the tables have turned lately – when you have brands like Kia, Honda, and even Toyota developing vehicles that are just as good as their premium offspring, and now these premium brands have to start upping the ante closer to the luxury territory. Thus meet the new Lexus RX350.
As our mothers always told us, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. That moto is true here when it comes to the styling of the new RX. If you’re not an interested buyer, then keep your judgments to yourself. Our opinion on styling is irrelevant, we’re here to judge the car, not its looks. But since we are here, we don’t see what the fuss is all about – sure there are a few things like the odd long nose that makes the RX seem wider then it really is from inside the cabin, and the grille that eats cute little rodents is perhaps over the top – but it has a sharp profile – lots of angles and creases. They colored outside the lines and dared what other car makers are afraid of doing.
Now our sampler arrived as an entry level RX350 that starts out at $41,900 – it showed up at our office in this rather gorgeous Autumn Shimmer paint that if caught the sun just right, sparkled like a brand new penny – and who doesn’t love the look of new money. While our RX arrived as an entry level, it was outfitted with some rather special options that brought in these striking Triple Beam Headlights and oddly proportionate 20-inch wheels.
Lexus has always pride themselves on their interior refinements and with the new RX, it is definitely one to be proud of. The cabin has a cocooned cockpit feel with the dash concord towards the driver. It’s all very contemporary in its design with soft touch materials everywhere your eyes can reach. And with the use of some unique dark wood trim and a soft glow of ambient lighting, the cabin made us feel at home.
Off course though this is a Lexus product, and there will always be a familiarity to the Lexus name. Its comfort is what is desire most, these Semi-Aniline Leather seats that just coddle your body are supremely comfortable. But the Semi-Aniline leather does come at a premium cost of $4610 under the Luxury Package which also adds a heated wood wrapped steering wheel, LED Ambient lighting and an assortment of other goodies. The cabin space is much more open and airy then before. Three adult passengers can comfortably sit in the back with plentiful leg and headroom.
12.3-inches may seem like a lot of screen area and it is. For $2180, the Navigation replaces the standard smaller 8-inch screen with this enormous, dash fitting display that’s been upgraded with high definition resolution and quicker software – the use of the mouse puck is seamless and quick. When it comes to user functionality, it is one of the simpler systems on the market – everything is easy to find and navigate and at the push of the voice command button, there’s no miscommunication between the driver and the operating system.
Safety is becoming a big deal as autonomous features start to creep their way into nearly every car on the road. The $2250 Lexus Safety System (which also added those amazing Triple Beam LED headlights) carries an assortment of lane departure warning, steering assist, forward collision alert, and adaptive cruise control. Some seem speculative of these autonomous features and they have every right to be – the adaptive cruise control however works fantastically well at maintaining speed and adjusting speed accordingly without being too barbaric in its adjustments. However the steering assist was a completely different scenario – it’s very intrusive – there is an option to assist in keeping the RX in the center of the lane and/or assist when accidentally swaying from your lane. The Center Lane function is constantly adjusting and became a serious distraction, and even though the lane keep assist did its job, we found ourselves fighting with the wheel until we disengaged the system entirely.
Underneath this new RX, we’ll find a lot of the same underpinnings as the previous generation. Such as the 3.5-liter V-6. It’s been tuned from its previous 270-horsepower up to 295-horsepower and 267lb-ft of torque. With our tester coming in around 4300lbs, the power band is on the sufficient side of that line. It takes 7.7 seconds to get to highway speeds and with eight-forward gears it has a quick response time. The downside to eight speeds is that it spends most of its time shuffling through the gears trying to find the right one in general city traffic. And even though eights speeds is there to also improve efficiency, we merely managed to average 20 mpg combined for the week.
Without opting for the F SPORT package, what we have is your generic soccer mom crossover. From behind the wheel things are relaxed, uneventful – and that’s fine for someone who can’t be bothered with driving. The same goes for the suspension, which can be indecisive at times. On the road its very civilized in its manners, the ride is quiet, things are refined and dignified – everything you’d expect from a luxury crossover; however, the moment a pot hole is crossed the whole thing becomes jittery and uncomfortable as if it didn’t know what to do – afraid it might break a nail I guess.
We appreciate the direction Lexus is going – daring and different. Who doesn’t want to be unique? The new RX350 is definitely different from its competitors that offers a level of comfort and luxury that its buyers are looking for. However, if driving performance is what you’re after, best you check out the F SPORT instead.
|Price (As Tested):|
|2016 Lexus RX 350:||$41,900|
|3.5-liter V-6 – 295-horsepower/267lb-ft of torque – 0-60 MPH: ±7.7 seconds|
|EPA MPG: 20/28/23 (city/highway/combined) – SSB Average: 20 MPG’s | Fuel Range: 350 miles|
|Blind Spot Monitoring:||$500|
|Intuitive Parking Assist:||$500|
|Heated and Ventilated Front Seats:||$640|
|Navigation System with 12.3″ Multimedia Display:||$2,180|
|Lexus Safety System + with Triple Beam LED Headlights:||$2,250|