The Lexus RX is the crossover journalists love to hate. And I’m not sure why, exactly. Perhaps it’s because it sells so well, and so many people love it, despite reviews that troll the RX 350. Reviewers are sarcastic about the ride. Horrified by the styling. Indifferent to the available room or interior comfort. Nothing changes.
It doesn’t even seem to matter that Lexus gave the RX 350 an origami folding card re-design in 2016. At the time, my friends shouted out, Yes! This is it! The RX has finally cooked its own goose in the juices of overwrought design! Bravo!
But no. People still love it. Indeed, over the years, what was once a confusing scatter of sheetmetal creases, mesh, and chrome has evolved into an edgy-yet but perfectly exciting style. It’s a phenomenon that illustrates the point: knock the Lexus RX 350 all you want, but no other luxury crossover offers the blend of style, luxury, value and comfort in quite the same way. What we do know is that the 2018 Lexus RX 350 F Sport didn’t at all disappoint – but also didn’t exactly sound the glory trumpets.
You will Probably Buy One Anyway. But Read This First.
Given that the 2018 Lexus RX 350 is the best-selling luxury vehicle in the U.S., it stands to reason that most people thinking about a test drive will buy the vehicle – or at least come clo
se. But if that’s you, take note of a few things I experienced over a week spent driving a dark blue Lexus RX 350 F Sport.
As equipped, the Lexus RX 350 F Sport test vehicle came equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 engine making 295 horsepower and 268 lb.-ft. of torque; that’s mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The vehicle also featured LED headlights, an array of safety tech, paddle shifters, a sport-tuned suspension and “sport” driving mode. Additional standard equipment includes heated and ventilated front sport seats and steering wheel. All at a sticker price of about $55,000.
Verdict: Test Drive it Like You Own it
Despite its sales, the RX 350 isn’t for everyone. Many people think the grille looks like a yawning chasm of horror; others don’t like the long snout/big nose dynamic to the design or the “floating roof” appearance.
That only proves how everyone’s a critic.
But it’s arguably valid, and so when you test drive the vehicle, make sure you put it through at least a few of its daily tasks, because there are practical shortcomings to this crossover that may make you think twice.
For example, fuel economy okay, but not great. So, if this is a commuter car, there are other vehicles that may offer better efficiency. Cargo room, while acceptable, falls short compared to some of the competition. And if spirited driving is your thing, then opt for the F Sport model, which combines the renown quiet ride of the RX is an adaptive suspension and sport driving mode. Or look for a nimble experience at another automaker. Keep in mind that the RX is generally a boring and dull driving experience – but one that never changes from the first day to the last.
Put together, the Lexus RX 350 F Sport is a compelling vehicle with a signature style – but one in need of a healthy cross-shop in order to make sure that you get what you need.
Lexus RX 350 F Sport Test Drive Notes
How Does it Drive? The F Sport trim incrementally improves the handling, but for the most part the RX 350 is a quiet and insulated ride designed to separate you from the road. As a result, expect some wallow and drift during hard driving. But who drives a Lexus RX hard, anyway? Batman? Power-wise, the 3.5-liter V6 engine is capable and spirited, and 8-speed automatic transmission controls shifts and responses nicely throughout the power band. If you’re looking for a sporty ride, try the BMW X6.
How Safe is It? For 2018, the Lexus RX 350 is rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), with “Good” scores across the board for crashworthiness. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2018 Lexus RX 350 an overall 5-star rating (out of five), but also gave a four-star frontal crash test rating.
What’s the cabin like? This is one of the most comfortable vehicles in the road, with ample bolsters, refined materials and an interior that made a name for being quiet and luxurious. I especially loved the over-sized steering wheel and ringlet dashboard controls; the brushed aluminum components also conveyed a sophisticated, sporty impression. I didn’t like the Toyota switch work on the inside, however, or how easy it was to scuff up the rubber cargo area mat.
Room-wise, there’s plenty of space to fit four adults, but the SUV will accommodate five people. Cargo room is slightly compromised, and less impressive than competitors like the Acura MDX.
How much tech, and how good? Pretty much anything you expect to find on a luxury vehicle is here, except for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Oops. Otherwise, expect Bluetooth, a head-up display, navigation and exterior cameras; you’re also able to opt for a brilliant 12.3-inch display with integrated navigation, and more.