In my first brief drive in the all-new 2016 Lexus RX 350, I discovered that Lexus is getting quite practiced at evolving their brand of luxury into new areas while at the same time polishing up what already works well.
Lexus most popular vehicle, the 2016 RX 350 got a complete redesign from the ground up, though I have to confess at first blush I thought this might be a mild evolutionary restyling. Assumptions are often wrong, and so was mine.
The new design of course has the latest severity of the brands now widespread Spindle grill front-end with aggressive angles and creases. While it might be a bit brash for some, I like its bold willingness to stop being boring.
At the rear, the first-ever floating roof design in the C-Pillars certainly isn’t boring either, the latest design theme from Japanese automakers now also seen on Nissan sedans and crossovers alike. Wheels this year grow larger to 18-inches and 20-inches as seen here on the F Sport.
The RX 350 grew longer by about 4-inches and gained 2-inches in wheelbase, which is why those large wheels don’t out of proportion. The body itself is higher, with nearly an inch more ground clearance, though its overall height is near the same as before. This is why it looks sleeker.
All these changes in proportion translate to a completely different feel from behind the wheel. There’s more space front and rear, but more importantly a noticeably different seating position, with a less upright feel.
This is combined with a completely new design to the dash, center console, and doors far richer in its look that helps the RX 350 feel much more its price. Higher quality materials are self evident with a new level of finish and detail I was quite impressed with.
As it was a short test drive, I didn’t get to sample all the latest greatest with the infotainment offerings. The Readers Digest version is that it’s all here, easier to read and use on the go, and still has the best console mounted controller in the business.
Comfort and quiet are the trade lines for Lexus, and the new RX 350 is more of both. On my short drive I found most notably a much quieter ride in terms of road noise, even with the larger tires and wheels. The chassis seems much sharper and buttoned down, less harsh over rough pavement.
Sinking your foot into its power is also more rewarding with two more gears in its transmission, now with 8-speeds. Power up is up too with 295 horsepower by way of a next-generation direct-injected 3.5-liter V6.
What the powertrain offers now is more power, better drivability from its extra gear ranges and we’re told better fuel efficiency. And if fuel economy is your play, the RX450h Hybrid is also available with even more power and yes, mpg.
Worth noting before I finish is my biggest takeaway from the drive. And that is how different this new RX 350 feels from the last one. Gone is that mini-van like driving character the old one had, replaced by a sharper and more rewarding feel that I can’t wait to get more of.