While Toyota's luxury brand is currently moving in a new, more driver-oriented direction, the RX 350 is protypical example of a "traditional" Lexus: there isn't much fun to be had behind the wheel, but the midsize crossover does offer an impeccably-trimmed interior, a very comfortable ride and a reputation for reliability.
Now in its third generation, the RX 350 and its hybrid counterpart, the RX 450h, received a mild refresh for the latest model year. Changes included stylistic revisions, several equipment additions and a new F Sport package.
Keeping in line with Lexus' latest design language, the latest RX arrives with a new front end inspired by the GS sedan. Lexus' signature hourglass-shaped grille is front and center, flanked by new headlights with a line of LEDs. A so-called "Aero Bumper" will also be on offer, giving the RX a decidedly aggressive look.
The RX 350 is essentially unchanged in profile, but the crossover does sport a revised rear-end. A slightly re-worked bumper is part of the new package, as is a license plate area shaped to mimic the car's front grille shape.
Inside, the flowing design theme of the interior remains, though the steering wheel and center console have been reworked for improved ergonomics. Material quality remains top-notch, and the seats are comfortable enough for cross-country trips.
When equipped with the optional Display Audio or navigation packages, the RX 350 now features Lexus' Remote Touch system. This mouselike device allows users to navigate through icons and menus on a dashboard-mounted display screen; some love it and find it easy to use, while others have criticized it as an unnecessary distraction that diverts attention from the road.
Those looking to put their luxury crossover to work as a pack mule will find much to like in the RX 350: a sizable 40 cubic inches of cargo space is available behind the rear seats, and 80.3 cubes can be had by folding the rear seats down. Thanks to a spacious rear passenger area, the story is similar if people hauling is a priority. However, unlike some rivals, no third-row seat is available.
Power continues to come from a 3.5-liter V6 offering 270 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 248 lb-feet of torque at 4700 rpm. Fuel economy is estimated at 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway for the front-wheel drive model, and drops to 24 highway for the all-wheel drive model. The all-wheel-drive version features an Active Torque Control AWD system that optimizes torque depending on driving conditions, resulting in improved efficiency and performance.
Standard towing capacity is 1,500 pounds, while the Towing Prep package increases that figure to 3,500 pounds.
Standard and Optional Features
The RX 350 is fitted as standard with genuine wood trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, a nine-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system with a six-disc CD changer, SiriusXM radio and an iPod/AUX input, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, a proximity key, push-button start, power-adjustable front seats, a power liftgate, heated exterior mirrors, LED running lights and taillights, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The Display Audio with Backup Camera Package adds a larger central display screen, the Remote Touch system, a rearview camera, heated front seats, wood and leather trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, and Intuitive Park Assist.
The Premium Package includes the previous package's features plus leather upholstery, memory functionality for the front seats, a sunroof, a rear-armrest storage compartment and auto-dimming exterior mirrors.
The Navigation System with Backup Camera Package brings (surprise!) a navigation with voice command functionality, NavTraffic, HID headlights, heated and ventilated front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, the Remote Touch system and Lexus' Enform Application Suite, which pairs with the owner's iPhone, Android or Blackberry to provide local searches through Bing and utilize voice-enabled apps to make restaurant reservations through OpenTable, get movie tickets via MovieTickets.com or tap into internet radio, including Pandora or iHeartRadio.
Finally, the Luxury Package combines all the extras from the Premium and Navigation packages.
A new F Sport model brings a number of performance, handling and aesthetic upgrades to the table.
An eight-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters adds another level of functionality to the powertrain, while a stiffened suspension brings a bit more responsiveness to the crossover's driving dynamics. The latter also exacts a price on ride quality, which goes from plush to quite firm.
Interior changes include perforated black leather-trimmed seats with white perforation holes and white contrast stitching on the seats, center console and door armrests. There is also a new Ebony Bird's Eye Maple trim, a black headliner, a perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel showcasing the "F" logo, and aluminum pedals.
For the exterior, styling revisions include a sportier front bumper with F Sport mesh with the upper edge of the grille set lower than the upper edge of the headlamp assembly in an attempt to deliver a more aggressive look. The standard LED daytime running lights and combination rear lamps reflect the "L" design motif.
The RX 350 comes standard with dual front, front knee, front and rear side, and full-length side-curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control system, electronic brake-force distribution and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
The main rivals to the RX 350 include the Cadillac SRX, the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. The Volvo XC60 and Mercedes-Benz GLK350 also merit consideration from prospective RX 350 owners.