One of the most popular luxury SUVs on the market, the Lexus RX 350, is now available in the carmaker's F Sport trim, which brings cosmetic changes, as well as eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and a sport-tuned suspension.
Appearance: The F Sport trim adds a chrome-trimmed black-mesh grille to the now-familiar hourglass shape. The grille is complemented by LED eyeliners beneath the headlights. Our tester came in Claret Mica, a rich burgundy color that was set off by 19-inch twisted-spoke alloy wheels with a dark graphite finish. Overall, the F Sport trim brings some attitude to a family SUV.
Performance: The F Sport isn't about power. The same 270-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 — an adequate performer — comes in all RX trims. The F Sport's 8-speed automatic transmission does slightly improve the estimated highway mpg (18/26) over the other RX models and their 6-speed gearboxes (18/24 for AWD). We split on the SUV's ride, with Lyra finding the suspension's tuning harsh and stiff. She also didn't like the steering feel, thinking it lacking in feedback. Overall, she thought the RX felt heavy. Peter, while agreeing that you'll feel the bumps a little more, drove the RX back from Tallahassee in light rain and heavy fog. He felt confident in the vehicle's AWD handling and was glad for its sturdiness (and heads-up display).
Interior: Like the other Lexuses we've driven, the interior is superb, with excellent materials and fit and finish. Our tester's comfortable black leather seats were attractive, with white contrast stitching that also shows up on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. The front seats are heated and cooled, of course, but the controls are placed just in front of the armrest bin — too far back for a shorter driver like Lyra, who, with the seat moved forward, had to contort her arm to reach it. The 10-way seat adjustment is helpful for a shorter driver, however. In the rear, the seats are roomy and sit high. We both loved the stylish interior design, with its asymmetrical center console and the deeply inset LCD screen that protects against glare. The RX 350 has the available Enform infotainment system and standard Bluetooth phone and audio streaming. Like other Lexus vehicles, the RX 350 has a mouse instead of a touchscreen. Lyra isn't a fan of it, but Peter thinks it's an easier way to change audio or other settings while driving. The rear seat backs fold flat for excellent storage space (up to 80.3 cubic feet). Peter was able to load all of his daughter's belongings on the trip back from Florida State University.
Our 3 favorites
Color: I like the rich hue, and it looked at home on the FSU campus.
Intangibles: Peter isn't a big SUV fan, but the RX F Sport is one he could envision owning.
Lift gate: It made loading and unloading easier.
Heads-up display: See your speed and turn directions without taking your eyes off the road.
Audio: 7.1-channel 330-watt sound system with 15 speakers.
F Sport wheels: Beautiful graphite finish on the twisted-spoke wheels.
The bottom line: Is the stylish F Sport package really worth the $6,000-plus over the standard 350 AWD model?