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2016 Lexus RX 350 and 450h Review and Road Test By Larry Nutson


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2016 Lexus RX
Refinement with more style

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Lexus’ RX is the vehicle that launched the segment of luxury crossover back in 1998. Since then Lexus has sold 2.1 million of the popular SUV thanks to its smooth ride, roomy interior, comfort and convenience.

Lexus has a loyal RX customer base that buys over 100,000 a year. And, with this new 2016 model they hope to sell even more.

On the invite of Lexus we spent a day at their global dynamic launch situated in the countryside around Raleigh, North Carolina trying out the four new Lexus RX models. For 2016 the Lexus RX will be offered in the RX 350, RX 350 F-sport, RX 450h… the hybrid, and one new trim, the RX 450h F-sport.


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The new RX rides on a 1.9 inch longer wheelbase, with 4.7 inches more overall length and a bit more width. All making for improved appearance and more interior room for both passengers and cargo.

The exterior is extensively revised with a more angular, aggressive and emotional design. It can be said to have sophistication with style. The Lexus signature spindle grille is sharper and more angular as seen on other Lexus cars already. The roof has a new floating design…a trend we are seeing elsewhere. Front and rear has new design LED lights, including LED cornering lights, and the spindle shape is even carried out on the rear hatch. Wheels are offered in twenty-inch size.

On the inside there’s lots of change too. Trims are new and luxurious. Center console and instrument cluster have been redesigned. Craftsmanship is evident in materials and finishes. The depth of the forward front cup holder can be adjusted to accommodate a variety of containers. There’s a standard 8-inch VGS center multi-display screen. The navigation package has a huge new 12.3-inch display.


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New for this model year is the available Touch-Free Power Rear Door, a Lexus first, which allows users to open the rear hatch by placing a hand near the Lexus emblem.


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The RX 350 is powered by a 295HP 3.5-liter direct-injected V6 gasoline engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. That’s 25 horsepower more than the outgoing model. The RX 450h hybrid has a 259 HP 3.5-liter direct-injected V6 gasoline engine and revised hybrid powertrain componentry for a total system output of 308HP.

The RX 350 is offered with Dynamic Torque Control AWD which processes information from a number of sensors, including wheel-speed sensors and steering angle sensors, and instantaneously routes engine power to the rear wheels to help maximize tractability on varying surfaces and road conditions.

For 450h models the transmission includes a hybrid front transaxle with new features including a transmission oil cooler for motor cooling, a pre-loaded differential for performance and enhanced control. The rear transaxle for AWD hybrid models combines an electric motor with a reduction drive, features a new three-shaft configuration and aluminum case and cover to reduce weight.

The best EPA test fuel economy ratings are with hybrid models, as you would expect. And as we know, hybrids excel in lower speed fuel consumption reductions. EPA test ratings are 30 mpg combined, with 31 city mpg and 30 highway mpg for the front drive RX 450h. The AWD RX 450h is rated 1 mpg less in the city and 2 mpg less on the highway.

The RX 350 front-drive model has EPA test ratings of 23 mpg combined, with 20 city mpg and 28 highway mpg. Perhaps coincidentally, just like the hybrid the AWD is EPA test rated 1 mpg less in the city and 2 mpg less on the highway.

A number of optional advanced driving aids and safety technologies are available on the new Lexus RX including: Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Vehicle Sway Warning, Intuitive Parking Assist, Panoramic View Monitor, Intelligent High-beam System, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Adaptive Variable Suspension.

The RX F-Sport has a more sporty image and is offered in AWD models only. The exterior features an exclusive black-out mesh grille, lower spoiler section and satin-finish chrome-plated lower protector with black side mirrors to match the grille. Exclusive 20-inch 10-spoke aluminum alloy wheels and F-Sport badging round out the exterior.


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On the inside is an exclusive instrumentation cluster that consists of an eight-inch Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) that’s characterized by a large, circular gauge that combines a tachometer and a digital speed indicator. Supportive quilted sport seats are exclusive to the F-Sport that can be had in an exclusive interior color, Rioja Red. The unique perforated leather-wrapped shift lever and three-spoke sport steering wheel with F-Sport badge, aluminum interior trim accents, and drilled non-slip lightweight aluminum accelerator and brake pedals and foot rest add extra character.

All RX F-Sport models feature Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system that controls the damping force of the shock absorbers at each individual wheel in response to road surface conditions and driver inputs. A sound generator uses air intake pulsations to tune the sound of the engine to produce frequencies that are more likeable and sporty during acceleration in the mid- to high-rpm range.

The RX 350 is priced starting at $41,900 and the RX 450h at $52,235. AWD adds $1400 to these models. The RX 350 F-Sport is $49,125 and the RX 450H F-Sport is $57,045.

More information and specifications on the 2016 Lexus RX is available at www.lexus.com. You can compare the RX models to other luxury crossovers right here at www.theautochannel.com.

After a day of driving all four of the new models I came away with a very clear positive impression. The new RX is very comfortable. It’s very quiet. The work Lexus did to improve NVH, stiffen chassis structure and improve aero have made for a very quiet ride. Weight hasn’t changed due the use of aluminum here and there. The seating position is a bit lower and ingress and egress won’t be too challenging for the ladies wearing a pencil-skirt. Acceleration in all models is not bad, with acceleration from stop to 60 mph in the mid to upper 7 second range. Some competitors can do better, but it all depends on what you need, or think you need. We did highway merging, passing, country road driving and came away with no dissatisfactions.


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I liked the F-Sport upgrades and items of differentiation. If I were buying it probably would be the RX 350 F-Sport model for its AWD and more responsive steering and suspension. My co-driver had a bit larger frame than me and he didn’t find the F-Sport’s more supportive sport seats confining. I do have a question in my mind as to how many F-Sport RX 450h hybrid models will be bought, in spite of the 308 total system horsepower. But hey, I can’t blame Lexus for trying.

There’s adequate room for five passengers and the rear compartment opens up from its 18.4 cuft to 56.3 cuft. And by the way, the hybrid’s battery is under the rear seat, so it doesn’t reduce cargo room. I’m seeing the all-new RX very much at home either in a suburban or urban family’s fleet.

The 2016 Lexus RX is on sale now at your local dealer.

© 2015 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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