WASHINGTON — We looked at the popular Lexus RX 350 at the U.S. relaunch a few years ago and came away impressed by the redesign for 2017. But controlled drives over the course of a few days can only give you part of the picture. So I spent a week with the RX 350 to see if it works well in everyday family use.
The RX redesign is a huge change both inside and outside the car. The exterior styling is the biggest difference. This Lexus has style and aggression with a modern look, putting to bed the old, conservative Lexus reputation.
I drove the sporty version of the RX 350 with the F SPORT package. With that package, you get an even more in-your-face look. Adding to it is a large egg crate grill, rather than the ordinary grill. The RX 350 F SPORT comes with unique 20-inch alloy wheels that look really good, but may be difficult to clean.
The body doesn’t have many straight lines — there are stylish curves and cheat lines that make this Lexus look racy from all angles. You also notice a lot of glass when looking at the car from the side. It is continuous with even the rear hatch glass meeting the side. The rear styling stands out with bold taillights and dual exhaust.
While the outside is aggressive, the inside is high quality and luxurious. The cockpit is modern with digital and virtual gauges. All of the materials look and feel nice. The heated and ventilated seats up front are comfortable. The leather on the heated steering wheel feels expensive and fits just right in your hands.
There is ample space for two adults in the back seat. You can fit a third back there for shorter trips.
It seems like there’s a little less cargo space than the competition, but loading the car is easy with a wide opening.
The RX 350 F SPORT starts around $50,000 and the interior is well outfitted. If you spend more, you can add some niceties like a panoramic sunroof. A couple grand more will get you NAV and a large 12.3 inch screen.
The display has good graphics and is easy to see but using it with the joy stick can be frustrating and touchy at times. One of the knocks is the RX is a five seater but Lexus will add a 7-seat version this year.
The ride is more like riding in a car than in an SUV. The F SPORT package adds adaptive suspension, so you can dial the ride how you like. It does better at luxury with competent handling; it’s not a Porsche, but offers daily comfort with less lean and roll than before.
You will enjoy a hushed ride on all surfaces and bumps usually don’t upset the ride. A 3.5L V6 is good for 295hp but it’s not very fast. You really have to push the pedal down to get this car moving when all the seats are filled. The automatic is one smooth customer with nearly invisible shifting between the eight gears.
Vision out the back isn’t the best but the camera is standard and helps for backing out of spaces and parallel parking.
Fuel economy falls short of impressive. I managed just 20.5 mpg during my 589 miles of driving with a nice dose of highway driving. There is a hybrid version of the RX.
The RX 350 is a solid luxury crossover and with a seven seat version on the way, it’s about to become a more popular ride. With a top-of-the-line interior and standout exterior styling, the RX from Lexus is worth your time. Look for the F SPORT version for improved driving dynamics and style for your buying dollar.