It's more folded than styled, really.

2016 Lexus RX 350 Review

Risky design bolstered by supreme comfort

By: Amos Kwon

Web2Carz Editor-In-Chief

Published: January 6th, 2016

Lexus' beloved RX hasn't changed all that much over the past sixteen years, and there's a reason for it. They sell like hotcakes. Soccer moms love them. Suburban dads love them -- hell, in the nicer suburbs, they're like belly buttons. Everybody has one. In fact, the Lexus RX is the best-selling luxury model in America. That's saying something. So for the fourth generation car, Lexus couldn't exactly completely depart from their proven formula. But at the same time, Lexus is trying to change their image to communicate something edgier, racier, more dramatic.

In their quest to do so, they pushed the envelope of styling and took their new design language to its ultimate interpretation. Taking cues from their NX and RC, the new RX is about as bold as a CUV/SUV can get, giving even BMW a run for their money. We drove it for a week to find out how it held up in the suburbs and city of Chicago.

  • Exterior: the only round things are the wheels

    Lexus saves its most dramatic design for its bread-and-butter vehicle. That's a risky move, but it pays off because the new RX gets attention with its big spindle grille, triangular cutouts for the foglamps and a prominent floating roof. You could say it's the better-looking version of the new Nissan Murano. There are angles galore, and the front is easily the busiest angle. No one will call it handsome, but it also can't be ignored.

    • More cut lines than an Origami
    • Busy but very slick profile that cleanly departs from the old RX
    • A hard-to-ignore grille that mimics an '80s Battlestar Galactica Cylon Warrior's helmet

  • Interior: Echelons better than its predecessor

    We're even more thankful that Lexus reworked the RX's interior. Gone is the old, bizarre asymmetric center console and most of the bad plastics. The new dash layout is clean and very attractive -- and the bigger 12" panoramic monitor is fantastic to look at. The best news are the superb front seats which look as good as they feel, and the visibility out the front window is much improved thanks to slimmer A-pillars.

    • More comfortable than any current CUV we've driven
    • Strange center console mounted shift knob is gone and replaced by a more conventional, more user-friendly version
    • Ergonomics are much improved, as is the overall interior aesthetic
    • Materials upgrades in the plastics and leather are obvious and excellent
    • Parking brake button and heated seat controls oddly located behind the shift knob

  • Driving Impressions: It imparts that famous Lexus feel

    Even though Lexus wants their RX to seem more masculine, it doesn't depart much from the driving experience of the previous RX. It's cushy, comfy and a bit soft. The RX still has steering that lacks feedback and road feel, staying more on the side of numb than anything else. Sure, the RX absorbs bumps and undulations like a champ, but it also leans hard in turns.

    • Enough grunt from the nearly 300 hp V6 but nothing truly spirited
    • Steering is Lexus soft, lacking the ability to point and shoot where desired
    • It masters highway cruising but leaves something to be desired in the curves, even in Sport mode
    • Have to upgrade to F Sport Trim in order to extract anything resembling driving excitement

  • Final Impressions: Not perfect but still seriously good

    Lexus isn't stupid. Though they might've taken big risks in the design department, the formula for edginess has been proven in the rest of their model line. What they did smartly was to infused the RX350 with the same DNA and feel as previous models, so as not to lose customers who keep coming back for more.

    Shy of driving enthusiasts or die hard body-on-frame SUV types, the RX350 will not disappoint. In fact, it should make owners feel cossetted with its stellar cabin while looking truly contemporary dressed in seemingly folded and sliced sheetmetal. We don't doubt that the new RX will continue to sell incredibly well, lining the pockets of Lexus salesmen everywhere and securing its spot on the pantheon of great luxury SUVs.

  • Specifications & Price

    Engine: 3.5-liter V6

    Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, All-wheel drive

    Power Output: 295 horsepower / 267 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 19 city / 26 highway

    Base Price (AWD): $43,300

    As Tested: $55,690 (incl. $940 destination)

    Options on our test vehicle:

    Blind Spot Monitor w/ Rear-Cross Traffic Alert & Panoramic Rear View Monitor, Lexus Safety System + Adaptive Front Lighting System Headlamps, Heated and Ventilated Front Seats, Luxury Package: Semi-Aniline Leather-trim Seats, Power-folding Electrochromic Heated Outside Mirrors, Wood & Leather Heated Steering Wheel & Shift Knob, 20" Alloy Wheels w/ Color INserts, Rear Door Sunshades, Aluminum Roof Rails, Driver's Seat/Steering Wheel/Mirror Memory, Illuminated Scuff Plates, Sapele Wood w/ Aluminum Trim, LED Ambient Illumination, Rain-sensing Wipers, Panorama Moon Roof, Navigation System with 8" Multimedia Display, Lexus Enform Destinations (1-year trial subscription included), Lexus Enform App Suite, Intuitive Parking Assist.

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