The Lexus RX midsize crossover, launched in 1998, has been redesigned inside and out for 2016, retaining the flexibility of a sport-utility vehicle and the driving comfort of a luxury sedan in an attractive package with sharp creases and curves.
With the re-do, the RX is nearly five inches longer, as well as more driver-focused, and it has more interior space.
New convenience and technology features, along with previous driver aids and safety features, make the RX one of Lexus’ best luxury utility vehicles so far.
Three gasoline models are available, with the RX350 designation: the base front-drive, base all-wheel drive and the F Sport all-wheel drive, priced from $41,900 to $49,125.
There are also three RX450 hybrid models available, priced from $52,235 to $57,045.
Gasoline models have a 3.5-liter 295-horsepower V-6 engine paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. There is a Drive Mode Select feature, with three modes: Normal for a balance between engine performance and fuel economy, Eco for increased fuel efficiency, and Sport for performance.
Among safety and security technology are the Vehicle Theft Deterrent System with Engine Immobilizer; Antilock Braking System with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist; Hill-start Assist Control; and Smart Stop Technology (reduces engine power when brakes are applied simultaneously with the accelerator) are standard.
A massive new signature spindle grille with chrome-plated border, charcoal-color wave blades, and standard compact Bi-LED headlights are among the key exterior features.
Striking triple L-shaped LED headlights surrounded by 18 individual LEDs, which act as turn signals, are included in a Lexus Safety System-plus package along with Intelligent High Beams for $2,250.
LED L-shaped combination taillights wrap around the rear fender to the chrome finisher across the mid liftgate, giving the rear a powerful, wide stance. Blacked-out C-pillars give a floating-roof effect, a first for a Lexus vehicle.
Other exterior features include three new colors, Caviar, Autumn Shimmer and Nightfall Mica; flush-mounted headlight wipers; optional panoramic moon roof ($1,600); solid roof rails; and redesigned SmartAccess door handles with illumination.
The paint features a scratch-resistant self-restoring coat to help minimized surface scratches and retain a high level of gloss over a long period of time. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard, with three 20-inch choices available.
The new RX’s interior, designed with comfortable space for five, features a lowered rear floor section for more legroom and comfort.
At the back, the cargo area is also enhanced with plenty of room for four large suitcases, multiple golf bags, large strollers, even a small bike or two. Space is 18.4 cubic feet behind the rear seat or 56.3 cubic feet with the 40/20/40 split-folding seatbacks lowered. The rear seats also slide and recline 60/40.
This model year brings an available Touch-Free Power Rear Door ($200), a Lexus first, which allows the user to open the liftgate by placing a hand near the Lexus emblem.
Interior enhancements include more user-friendly switches and controls on the redesigned center console, more accessible cupholders and storage areas, an optional integrated color Heads-Up Display ($600, navigation directions, audio information and vehicle speed included), and a redesigned instrument cluster with instantaneous information in large, easy-to-read gauge faces.
Luxurious interior trims include Matte Bamboo, Espresso Walnut, Matte Linear Dark Mocha Wood, Striated Black (made with a special layering technique), and Gray Sapele Wood with Aluminum, all of which emphasize the new design theme.
For this review, I drove a Nightfall Mica (dark blue) RX 350 with Stratus Gray Leather seating, door, dash, and center console trim. Door panels were also trimmed with Espresso Walnut Wood ($400) and pewter-colored aluminum. Aluminum also trimmed the dash, center stack, center console, and steering wheel.
My tester had several options including a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Panoramic View Monitor ($1,300); Intuitive Parking Assist ($500); Towing Prep with transmission cooler and heavy duty alternator/radiator ($265); the Heads-Up Display, moon roof, and touch-free liftgate.
The Lexus Safety System-plus helps mitigate collisions using Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Auto Brake using audio and visual alerts and automatic application of the brakes when needed. The system included Intelligent High Beams, All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and the L-shaped LED headlights.
A 12.3-inch Navigation System/Mark Levinson 15-speaker Premium Audio Package with DVD/CD ($3,260) brought casual-language voice recognition; backup monitor; Bluetooth hands-free phone and phonebook download; Lexus Enform App Suite: Destination Search, Yelp, iHeart Radio, FaceBook Places, Movietickets.com, OpenTable, Pandora, Slacker, Stocks, Fuel Prices, Sports, Lexus Enform Destinations/Destination Assistant/e-Destination, Lexus Insider, Remote Touch Navigation controller (on the center console), HD radio with iTunes tagging, and SiriusXM NavTraffic, NavWeather, Sports, Stocks, and Fuel Prices.
Lexus Enform Safety Connect is standard and brings Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Button (SOS), Roadside Assistance, Lexus Enform Service Connect, and Lexus Enform Remote.
The leather seats (upgraded from NuLuxe) were included in a Premium Package ($1,085) along with memory for the driver’s seat, steering wheel and mirrors; driver’s seat Easy Exit (auto away/return); rain-sensing windshield wipers; power-folding outside mirrors; aluminum roof rails; and rear armrest storage compartment.
Safety features included driver’s knee air bags, front and rear side air bags, and full-length side-curtain air bags.
My RX 350 was attractive, comfortable, and powerful looking, with surprising punch out of the gate and lots of passing power, while preserving excellent fuel economy. It’s EPA rated at 20 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. During my test, I averaged 25.5 mpg with about equal city/highway driving.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.