CHATHAM, Mass. – Mid-size sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are ubiquitous – no matter where you turn driving the roads of America, you will see them. Heavily sprinkled throughout the group will be the Lexus’s best-selling RX models, and after a week in the freshened 2020 RX 350 F Sport we can understand the popularity.
Lexus, as its luxury brand, brings Toyota’s reputation for quality and reliability to the RX’s pedigree. Despite the F Sport’s more aggressive suspension pieces, the SUV rode well without harshness, soaking up bumps and uneven pavement. Again, regardless of the road conditions, the cabin remained quiet and relaxing – except when pushing the F Sport to experience its dynamic capabilities – was quiet, a Lexus trait shared with the brand’s sedans.
Anyone inside that cabin will KNOW they are in the F Sport version thanks to distinctive, branded steering wheel (leather covered and heated), shift knob, aluminum pedals (including left-foot rest), RED NuLuxe-trimmed (heated and ventilated for front-seat passengers) seats and scored aluminum trim. The seats and steering wheel adjustments are power operated and can be stored for instant recall in the two-person memory.
A 12.3-inch color touch screen rising from the top of the dash can manage everything from the dual-climate-control system to the navigation system to your smartphone functions to the AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, all which play through the Mark Levinson 15-speaker surround-sound system. Thankfully, Lexus augmented the touch-screen controls with specific buttons for some functions (climate-system controls) and a computer-like touchpad to maneuver around the screen as well as a very responsive and intuitive voice-recognition system.
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The Lexus RX 350 AWD F Sport is a very comfortable place for both long highway drives and zipping around Cape Cod (yes, even the Cape has some hilly, curvy roads encouraging “zippy” driving). The F Sport dynamic elements include performance shock absorbers and 20-inch alloy wheels. Inside those rims are ventilated rotors (12.9 inches in the front, 13.3 inches in the rear) being grabbed by floating calipers (dual piston up front, single in the back) and controlled, of course, by a four-channel anti-lock system (ABS).
The adaptive-variable suspension (MacPherson type in the front, double-wishbone rear, coil springs all around) features vehicle-dynamics-integrated management and sport steering.
Advanced-driver assistance, safety and vehicle motivation
The RX, like all Lexus vehicles, comes standard with brake assist, 10 airbags, smart-stop technology, tire-pressure monitor and the Lexus Safety+ 2.0 which includes:
– Lane tracing assist
– Road sign assist
– Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection
– Dynamic radar cruise control
– Lane-departure alert with steering assist
– Intelligent high-beam headlamps
Our vehicle added blind-spot monitoring with intuitive parking assist, cross-traffic alert with automatic braking and panoramic-view monitor (beyond simple rear-camera monitoring).
Supplying the motive power is a 3.5-liter double-overhead-cam V6 engine pumping 295 horsepower and 267 pounds-feet of torque through an eight-speed transmission. This combination helps the SUV achieve a federal Environmental Protection Agency rating of 19 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined. We saw results closer to the mid-20s during our time behind the wheel, quite respectable for a vehicle in this segment.
All-wheel drive (AWD) puts the power to the pavement efficiently for smooth, comfortable and reassuring motoring. And the RX does it in an angular package with F Sport touches like black side mirrors and 20-inch split 10-spoke alloy wheels with dark graphite design and F Sport rear valance.
As usual, there are a lot of additional features that add to the pleasing RX experience (like heads-up display, foot-activated power liftgate, panoramic moonroof and keyless-ignition), but that is to be expected from a premium vehicle. All of this comes at a price, but one which fits into the luxury category comfortably. There are nine basic RX variants ranging in price from $4,150 for the front-wheel-drive RX 350 to $50,600 for the longer, three-row RX 450hL F Sport (the “h” means hybrid; “L” indicates some four inches longer than “standard” RXs to allow for the extra seating).
The one we drove totaled $61,130 including $1,025 for delivery, processing and handling – not an insignificant amount, but not excessive in today’s marketplace, which is reinforced by the model’s continued success.