The all-new Lexus luxury RX 350 Crossover SUV for 2016 continues to evolve as a leading edgy, yet refined, luxury five-passenger hauler with lots of features, premium treatments and plenty of technology for discriminating drivers. When you add what we call, the pick of the litter F Sport version, this very capable, easy to drive, well-balanced luxury crossover jumps firmly to the head of the pack.
We were able to get some brief road time in all of the new 2016 RX 350 lineup (including the RX 450h Hybrid) at a First Drive event a couple months back in Raleigh, North Carolina and came away very impressed the 2016 versions across the board. However, as we have with the RX and other Lexus vehicles in the past, the F Sport got our attention and we went to work on getting one loaned to us for a week long test drive.
RX350 F SPORT
The 2016 RX F SPORT is available in the AWD only and includes several exclusive features that set it apart from the RX 350 lineup FWD and AWD lineup inside and out. The F Sport comes in eight colors including an exclusive Ultra White. Frankly, our choice, if not the Utra White, would be the Matador Red Mica or the very nice rich-toned Caviar.
The RX F Sport features an exclusive black-out mesh grille, lower spoiler section and satin-finish chrome-plated lower protector with black side mirrors to match the grille. A distinct front fascia design accentuates a low center of gravity matched by a new satin-finish chrome plated lower bumper section at the rear of the vehicle. Finishing the look are Black Outer Mirrors, F Sport exclusive 20-inch and 10-spoke aluminum alloy wheels and subtle but distinctive F Sport badging.
Getting inside the F Sport, you immediately notice look and feel the supportive comfort of unique quilted and leather trimmed 10-way power sport seating that comes in Black, Stratus Gray or exclusive Rioja Red color. Plus the F Sport front seating is both heated and ventilated. Settling in, you note the F Sport instrumentation cluster with its eight-inch Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and large, easy-to-read circular gauge that artfully combines a tachometer and a digital speed indicator.
Taking wider look at the interior, you note that F Sport features a black headliner, unique perforated leather-wrapped shift lever and three-spoke sport steering wheel with paddle shifters and F SPORT badge, scored aluminum interior trim accents, plus drilled non-slip lightweight aluminum accelerator and brake pedals and foot rest for that racing performance look.
Powered by an improved 3.5L V6 that produces 295 horsepower and mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission tuned to optimize the power plant, the RX F Sport boasts excellent driving characteristics enhanced by the Lexus Drive Mode Select system that allows the driver to choose between distinct drive settings to regulate the damping force of the suspension system, adjust engine output, re-map the throttle and modify other key parameters of the engine and chassis.
The Drive Select features the expected ECO, NORMAL and SPORT modes for the average driver. F Sport Drive Select goes a couple modes above that with a SPORT S setting in an F Sport equipped with the Adaptive Variable Suspension system that adjusts the damping force of shock absorbers at each individual wheel in response to road surface conditions and driver inputs to acceleration, braking and steering – combines that for a higher level of performance with more aggressive throttle mapping, quicker drivetrain response.
Not done yet, it goes another level up with an all-out SPORT S+ setting that builds on the SPORT S mode, sharpening the feel of the EPS system and providing a stiffer yet suspension setting for flatter cornering.
And if that is not enough, for the enthusiast, the 2016 F Sport, for the first time, now offers a “CUSTOMIZE” setting that allows driver input to the various performance settings to more closely suit their driving preferences. Our recommendation is to start with SPORT S+ until you have a good feel for F Sport handling response to your drive style before you start to play with the CUSTOMIZE setting.
Lastly, the performance sound of a luxury sports sedan is necessary (at least for us) to complete the drive experience. Lexus has equipped the RX 350 F Sport with a custom generator that uses air intake pulsations to tune the sound of the engine to produce frequencies that Lexus says are “perceived to be pleasant to the ear during acceleration in the mid- to high-rpm range”.
2016 RX 350 F Sport AWD as tested
Our test car for the week was the RX 350 F Sport with full time Active Torque Control All-wheel Drive (AWD) powered by the standard V6 with 295 horsepower and 267 lb.-ft. of torque. Mated to the 8-speed ECVT-I automatic transmission, its fuel economy is rated at 19/26 mpg city/highway and a combined 22 mpg.
Our F Sport came with all of the F Sport performance and convenience features already detailed at a MSRP of $49,125.
The exterior color was what they call Nebula Gray Pearl which we found to be a bit bland for the F Sport. The exclusive Ultra White would have been the better choice given the F Sport badging. But, of course, Lexus made up for it with the strictly F Sport leather trimmed Rioja Red seats and Aluminum Trim around the cabin. And, as an F Sport, it was running on 20-inch F Sport Aluminum Alloy Wheels mounted with 235/55R20 All-season tires.
Some of the standard RX 350 features on our very roomy F Sport were Electronic Parking Brake, Fog Lamps, LED Daytime Running Lamps, Bi-LED Headlamps with Auto On/Off, Rain Sensing Wipers, Backup Camera, Automatic Dual Zone Climate Control with rear vents, door mounted courtesy lighting, two USB ports in the Console and four 12-volt power outlets in the cabin, Power Tilt/Telescopic Steering Wheel, Reclining/Sliding 40/20/40 Rear Seat, Aluminum Roof Rails and Power Rear Hatch.
For multi-media and infotainment, the RX 350 F Sport comes standard with the Lexus 9-speaker Premium Display Audio System with 8-inch Color Display that can be configured into three zones to display multiple information detail. It features SiriusXM, HD Radio with tunes tagging, Dual USB iPod/MP3 control and AM/FM radio. It is also equipped with Lexus Enform Safety Connect, Collision Notification, SOS Button and Enhanced Roadside Assistance.
Optional features included on our test F Sport were:
- Touch-free Power Rear Hatch – $200
- Cold Weather Package – $315
- Intuitive Parking Assist Sensor System – $500
- F Sport Heated Steering Wheel -$200
- Power Panoramic Moonroof -$1,100
- Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert – $500
- Lexus Safety System+ which added Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with steering assist, Intelligent High Beam light control and All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control – $635
And, if you are going to drive a premium level performance luxury SUV crossoer you need sound and tunes to match. Accordingly ours was upgraded to the Mark Levinson 15-speaker Premium Surround Sound Audio System with Clari-Fi and Unity to enhance the sound. It also had DVD and Navigation that includes the full Lexus Enform App Suite of programs. With the Levinson, the display is upgraded from the 8-inch to an awesome 12.3-inch display that allows the three zones of displayed data with enhanced graphics and information managed by the new mouse-like Remote Touch Interface – $3,260.
As tested, our 2016 RX 350 F Sport AWD priced, with delivery, at $56,775.
There were a couple of optional features we noted during the RX 350 First Drive event in Raleigh earlier this year that we would add to this vehicle if we were buying it. They are:
- A Full Color Heads-up Display for $600 dramatically increases the visibility and clarity of the information displayed for easier reading and understanding by the driver.
- The Premium Triple-Beam LED Headlamp System with LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) replaces the Bi-LED headlamps and DRL system plus adds LED Side Turn Signal lighting – $1,615.
In any trim level, the all-new 2016 RX 350 – or the soon to be available hybrid RX 450h – are worth a look by the discriminating luxury SUV buyer. Lexus really stepped their game this year on what was, already, a segment leading luxury crossover SUV.