The redesigned SUV from Lexus impresses me in almost every department.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
Pricing: 2016 Lexus RX 350
Base price: $53,950
Options: $7,600 Luxury Package
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $63,695
Although it remains recognizable as Lexus’ RX, the all-new one certainly gets bold styling and fresh, new lines that won’t be to everyone’s liking. I actually quite enjoyed it, and appreciated that Lexus continues on its path to create vehicles that do look a bit different. The more athletic RX that I reviewed looked great in one of its newly-available colours, Nightfall Mica, which is a stunningly deep paint colour with plenty of character under different lighting conditions. I also thought that, on first glance, the RX’s new styling makes it appear more compact than before.
The massive, gaping spindle grille continues unabated, whether you like it or not, flanked by LED head lights. One of my favorite features in the redesign are the floating C-pillars at the rear, which Lexus uses visual trickery to achieve, and the nice LED tail lights. Overall, it’s a pretty slick redo of what has become a classic SUV design over the last decade. The Luxury package that mine was optioned with sits on nice 20-inch wheels with 235/55-sized tires.
I absolutely loved the new two-tone interior which gets handsome details like a surprisingly-deep hand-stitched dash, a heated and power-adjustable woodgrain and leather-wrapped steering wheel and a sumptuous collection of soft-touch materials and curved wood trim with inlaid pinstripes on the centre console. It’s spacious, with plenty of head room. The premium leather seating surfaces on the heated and cooled and ridiculously-adjustable seats, which are extraordinarily comfortable by the way, are impressive.
Equally impressive (and quite frankly, jaw-dropping) is the massive 12.3(!)-inch screen that sits on the dash. It manages the vehicle’s sound system, phone functions and navigation – all of which is (sadly) still controlled by the horrible remote touch interface, which is like a computer mouse that’s on crack. It’s difficult to get it to rest where you want it to on the screen, and is one of the few sore spots in this otherwise bang-up interior.
My RX came with some basic driver assistance technology – a back-up camera with parking sensors, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
The heated back seats are quite comfortable as well, and slide forward and backward and recline. There’s ample head room and leg room for those in the back. My three kids were very happy with the space back there, as well as the manual sunshades for the side windows which they were asked to stop playing with about 23 times. Two sets of LATCH anchors allow for child seats if that’s a requirement for you.
Popping the power liftgate lets you into the 620 litre trunk, which is very nicely appointed. Get the flexible, 40/20/40 split rear seats out of the way and you get a 1329 litre cargo room with a nice, high load floor.
Under the Hood
I think it will be a day of shock and awe when we find something other than a 3.5-litre V6 powering the vast majority of Lexus’ offerings, so there is no surprise waiting for us at the front end of the new RX. The engine soldiers on, making 295 HP and 268 lb.ft of torque in this application. What is new, however, is the 8-speed transmission. The 4387 lb (1990 kg) all-wheel drive SUV is rated at a reasonable 12.2 L/100 km (19 US mpg) city and 8.9 L/100 km (26 US mpg) highway. We ended up with an average of 12.4 L/100 km (19 US mpg) after a typical week of city-heavy commuting, some freeway cruising and tiny bit of highway work. Not bad, not great.
The new RX lets you pick from three driving modes – eco, normal and sport. The Sport mode definitely picks up the pace in terms of responsiveness and the transmission’s willingness to hang on to gears longer. There’s a good amount of power off the line and around town, but once on the highway, I felt the engine was working pretty hard to pass. But it never feels underpowered.
The new 8-speed transmission is mostly great, and it ended up being in the correct gear most of the time. It can be shifted manually, if you want to bother – it’s not particularly fast nor slow, and its character is well-suited to this vehicle’s mission.
While the RX is more athletic than it ever has been, that’s not saying much. The handling remains on the squishy side, with plenty of body lean in corners, and a very numb steering feel. Is that a knock? Nope. It’s a big SUV and as I said, it’s better than it used to be. And of course, the ride remains very good over all surfaces. This isn’t a fun vehicle to drive, but it is really, really comfortable. Visibility out of the RX is very good and it is remarkably quiet at any speed.
The RX has always been a nice, luxurious SUV that offered a classy interior and plenty of comfort. The new one sticks to that formula, but throws in a fresh design, a new take on the cabin styling and a sweet new transmission. The luxury quotient remains solid, and gets taken up a notch with world-class materials and fit and finish. There’s very little that didn’t resonate with me here, and I found the new RX very easy to live with for the week.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) soared sky-high during this week. She really liked the new styling inside and out. She also hated the remote touch interface but otherwise had zero complaints, and plenty of great things to say about how it drove and how comfortable and luxurious it felt.
Lexus did a great job with the 2016 RX and I firmly believe the RX will continue to sell well. I highly recommend put it on your list if you’re shopping for luxury SUVs and don’t need a third row. Resale value is guaranteed to stay astronomically high on these, and the reliability is pretty much a given, considering the RX’s track record.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Lexus Canada.
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