Tom Crosby: Lexus RX350 adds beauty and size

Tom Crosby

Tom Crosby

The Lexus RX350 luxury sport utility vehicle has undergone a complete makeover for 2016, and the fourth-generation is a road worthy beauty.

Outside, the sheet metal is full of creases and angles for a sharp, futuristic look that will compete for the best-looking cross-over luxury mid-size SUV. The RX350 is now bigger, yet weighs less, more powerful, yet gets improved fuel economy and will no doubt continue to be the Japanese automaker’s bestseller.

Launched in 1998, RX 350 models now accrue more than 100,000 sales annually. When outfitted with desirable and improved pricey options, the 2016 luxurious interior includes all the best techno-touches and avant-garde safety features to complement improved on-road performance.

Our options totaled $13,850 and if the wallet can absorb it, any owner will get them. The big-ticket items were for navigation/audio, the Luxury Package and safety system. Our front-wheel drive RX350 (all-wheel drive is available) mated a new 8-speed automatic transmission – helping gain extra miles per gallon – with a V6 engine that can be goosed using steering-wheel-mounted manual paddles.

The ride on 20-inch tires was smooth and plush. A precise steering response contributed to excellent handling. Driving modes include Eco, Normal and Sport. Siblings include sport and hybrid models. Outside, the front fascia includes a sweptback iconic Lexus pinched spindle grille arrow-sharp shaped head and fog lights with chrome surrounds. Roof rails and moonroof are atop a sloping roof that ends with a rear overhang similar to a Toyota Prius. The creased character lines and angles, along with tires pushed out under flared fenders, contribute to an aggressive look, although interior sound is well muted.

Inside, soft materials and tasteful piping augment the 12.3-inch raised dashboard screen that boasts sharp graphics. Like a pilot’s cabin, there are buttons, switches and knobs everywhere – more than 70. Lexus Enform with App Suite offers myriad search options on-screen using a center console toggle switch that is jittery and sensitive, often luring eyes off the road to make sure selections are what the driver wants. Seating is comfortable and roomy. The rear liftgate rises with a wave of the hand, cargo space is expanded above the spare tire and extendable visors block the side sun on long trips.

Top safety features – and the RX350 gets top crash protection ratings – include pedestrian detection, emergency collision braking, blind spot detection and expanded rear camera views.

Likes: Power, handling, looks, luxury, space, comfort, safety, quiet.

Dislikes: Jittery toggle switch, price for desirable options.

Bottom line: Expensive, but you get what you pay for plus status.

Fact file
2016 Lexus RX350 FWD

Base price w/destination fee: $44,240 ($58,090 as tested).
Curb weight: 4,222 pounds.
Wheelbase: 109.8 inches.
Length: 192.5 inches.
Width: 74.6 inches.
Engine specs: 3.5 liter, 24-valve, V-6, VVT-i.
Horsepower: 295 hp at 6,300 rpm.
Torque 267 feet-pounds at 4,700 rpm.
Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/manual paddles.
EPA rating: 20 city mpg, 28 highway.
Range: 19.2 gallons, regular unleaded.
Performance: 0-60 in 7.7 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.

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