Lexus has traded on a number of things. Quiet luxury is one of them, now a buzz term Lincoln uses to sell their latest entries. Toyota’s luxury brand however has always been there, offering a level of solitude behind the wheel, high quality and the reliability many brands have envied.
Their most popular model has been the RX mid-size crossover from the day it was introduced nearly twenty years ago. In redesigning it for the now fourth generation they chose the conservative route on some things, yet pushed the envelope on others.
Starting with the envelope, it’s now creased and shaped much like an origami piece of art with the Lexus brand’s latest Spindle Grille, sharply angled headlamps and boldly fashioned details. It’s a bolder look that echoes the rest of the Lexus models in the showroom.
Our RX350 F Sport adds an exclamation point to that theme with a deeper front fascia with mesh grille, LED triple beam headlamps, LED fog lights and larger 20-inch wheels. At the rear a more pronounced rear fascia with dual exhaust outputs gives a sportier look as well.
It’s longer by some five inches with a stretched wheelbase in between. Contributing to the longer look is the new flying roof treatment created with glass panels at the rear pillars – a look popular with a number of Japanese vehicles in the last year.
Inside, the extra space provided by its longer length is felt both up front and at the rear. From the driver seat the cabin is clearly longer in the distance from you to the windshield, giving a more sedan like feel than the previous generation.
The dash bolsters this feel with lots of horizontal design ovations. Higher quality materials from genuine aluminum to woods, sumptuous leathers and even high-end plastics make it all come together as good as the best in the business.
Ours had the optional Mark Levinson audio system which sounds phenomenal and worth every penny they charge for it. Don’t look at the price and contemplate, just do it. The infotainment screen this year is also larger, now a theatric 12.3-inches wide.
This affords more space for both navigation maps and other information sets side-by-side. With its crisp graphics and colorful menus it’s a joy to look at and use with the console mounted puck. The latter has tactile clicks that correspond with menu buttons, making it intuitive to use while driving.
Rear seat passengers will enjoy more leg room with that longer wheel base too. They can adjust the rear seat back rake and slide the lower cushion forward or back. Vents are also provided for heating and air-conditioning.
Staying the course but getting a bolster of refinement is the powertrain and chassis. Under the hood is a now more powerful 3.5 liter V6 with direct fuel-injection. It produces 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque and is now standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
In our all-wheel drive tester it’s rated by the EPA at 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. We achieved 24 mpg in our week with it in spite of enjoying its fluid smooth power often. And there we can report a noticed increase of push in the back.
On the road and freeway it still drives much like the old RX350 with a vault like quiet and a high level of refinement. The longer wheelbase does contribute to less pitching forward and back when accelerating or braking.
The F Sport has the variable adaptive suspension which tightens up when needed, particularly when you select Sport + on the console drive mode knob. It’s a noticeable bump in stiffness and steering effort that allows a more aggressive feel when you want it.
Priced at $58,525 our was heavily optioned with nearly $10,000 on top of its $49,125 base price. While it has Toyota build quality and reliability, Lexus still behaves much in the cash register ways of the German brands.
That said, even at its price it’s hard to get the same sense of value for the dollar in those German brands with their competitive set. Thus in the end, Lexus holds true to its traditions with the new RX350 with top notch quality and a slight pricing edge.