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The Daily Drivers: 2016 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h

2016 Lexus RX 450h
2016 Lexus RX 450h
Published Jun. 9, 2016

We were fans of the midsize Lexus RX before the popular crossover received a makeover for 2016, which has displeased those who don't care for how Toyota's luxury brand has given it a body with more angles than a stealth aircraft. We like the redesign, and we still like the SUV, which we recently drove in its RX 350 (gasoline) and RX 450h (hybrid) models. Both models now come in F Sport trim variants.

Appearance: Our RX models came in two striking colors whose names seem lifted from a nail-polish palette: a sporty Matador Red (450h) and luxurious Autumn Shimmer (350). Overall, the SUV's most notable feature is the gaping "spindle grille," whose shape and horizontal slats Peter compared to the robotic Cylons in Battlestar Galactica. (We like the grille much better in its F Sport guise.) As for the RX body, it's a long-hood, high-beltline convergence of creases like an origami creation. Is Lexus trying too hard to be modern and appealing to younger buyers? Perhaps. The hybrid rolled on upgraded two-tone 20-inch wheels while the 350 had 18-inch alloys that seemed bland by comparison.

Performance: The RX 350 retains its workhorse 3.5-liter V-6 engine that's been tweaked to improve its output by 25 horsepower to 295. It's now paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission — an improvement over the previous 6-speed — which nudges the fuel-mileage numbers ever so slightly. Our RX 350 also had all-wheel drive. The RX 450h was a front-wheel-drive model. Its V-6 is paired with the Lexus Hybrid Drive system and comes only with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The horsepower is a combined 308. In the RX350, the acceleration is smooth but merely sufficient. The hybrid's torque provides better get-up-and-go. The ride is cushy. The steering is light but not overly engaging. We suspect the handling would be better in the F Sport models with their stiffer suspension, but none of the RX models are for the performance enthusiast.

Interior: The strength of the RX. No matter the model, it's top-notch and limousine quiet. The 450h had a dark but elegant cabin: The seats and surfaces were outfitted in sumptuous Noble Brown semi-aniline leather with Gray Sapele Wood aluminum trim, which was part of the Luxury Package ($3,125). The lux package also adds heated steering wheel, rear-door sunshades, upgraded wheels and more. The RX 350 had a lighter cabin: Parchment leather and matte bamboo trim seem perfect for our Florida climate. Both of our RXs had the upgraded Navigation package infotainment system, which features a 12.3-inch screen that can be set in various screen-split configurations, a Mark Levinson 15-speaker audio system and the Lexus Enform App Suite. The system controller, of course, is by the mouse-like Remote Touch, which we've grown accustomed to if not grown to love. The sliding and reclining rear seats have plenty of room for adults. Neither SUV has an abundance of cargo space, with the hybrid even losing a bit of room.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Trim: The matte bamboo is one of my favorites.

Interior: Comfortable, plush and quiet.

Design: Some think it a modern-art mishap, but I like it.

Lyra Solochek

Autumn Shimmer: Stunning.

Automatic rear hatch: With this option, hover your hand over the hatch and it will open automatically.

Versatility: The 12.3-inch display is like having three screens in one.

The bottom line: Reliable and plush SUV luxury gets even better. Want more attitude? Try the F Sport trim.

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