2021 Lexus RX 350 F Sport Black Line Special Edition - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Family Friendly, comfortably refined, and modestly priced
By David Colman Special
Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
The Lexus RX 350 is handling middle age with grace. The current model enters its fifth year of production essentially unchanged from the version Lexus introduced back in 2017. In fact, all dimensions are identical, with a wheelbase of 110 inches, an overall length of 193 inches, a width of 72 inches and a height of68 inches. Even curb weight remains the same at 4,435 pounds, as does horsepower output of the V6 at 295 hp. You have to wonder why, after all these years, the engineers at Lexus haven't managed to tweak another 5 hp out of their workhorse 2GR-FKS engine. After all, 295hp is like a price tag reading $29.95.
Mind you, this very sophisticated 3.5 liter powerplant is still well suited to the task of motivating the tank-like hulk of the RX with reasonable dispatch. 0-60 mph comes up in 7.9 seconds, and the rig tops out at 124mph. Aiding in that performance is the 8- speed automatic transmission, which is capable of dialing up the appropriate cog for every eventuality. Paddles at the steering wheel facilitate the action should you endeavor to shift for yourself in manual mode. However, the gear swapping, even in fully automatic mode, is sometimes unexpectedly harsh.
Although variants of the RX 350 are available with all-wheel-drive, the F Sport we drove was a front-wheel-drive model equipped with significant handling improvements unique to the F Sport line. The most obvious addition is a set of 20x8J gloss black alloy rims shod with Michelin Premier LTX radials (235/55R20) with a durable treadwear rating of TW 680. Lexus improves the handling of the F Sport by replacing the stock dampers with higher performance (though not adaptive) shocks at all four corners. Additional F Sport improvements include a perforated leather steering wheel and matching shift lever, scored aluminum interior trim and foot pedals, side and rear F Sport logos, and more retentive front sport seats.
If all those refinements do not suffice, you can further personalize your RX 350 F Sport with a number-limited upgrade called Black Line Special Edition. Only 750 of these will be made, and the buy-in price is a decidedly modest $685. The improvements start at the front end, where a piano black front grill replaces the more conventional bright work of the standard RX. Two wide black appliqué swaths accentuate the indented flanks of the body sides. The NuLuxe black leather front sport seats receive a visual upgrade with white trim and blue stitching which complements the Special Edition's vibrant exterior blue called Grecian Water. The Black Line Special Edition is also available in Ultra White. As a further inducement to select this special version, Lexus will send the new owner, after purchase, a pair of Zero Halliburton luggage cases from the Edge Lightweight Collection - a 22 inch Carry-On and a 26 inch Medium Travel Case.
All the sporting trim in the world will not transform a substantial SUV like the RX 350 into a back road burner. Even with the tightened F Sport suspension and improved cockpit ergonomics, you will never eliminate the composed but still clumsy handling of a tall vehicle with a high center of gravity. That combination invariably produces a reluctance to change direction. Your seating position makes it impossible to see the front corners of the RX, so accurate placement in a turn or in a parking lot is a matter of estimation rather than certainty. This lack of sightline becomes problematic when a small animal or young child becomes hidden from view. But Lexus has partially overcome the problem by equipping the RX 350 with standard Smart Stop Technology as well as $1,365 optional Intuitive Parking Assist with Rear Cross Traffic Braking. To test this system we drove the RX 350 at about 2 mph into an empty plastic garbage can. Warning beepers started chiming as we approached the obstacle and at the instant the RX kissed the can, the SUV braked itself to a complete halt. A small child, hidden to the driver, would have survived without a scratch thanks to Lexus technology.
There is a compelling reason why the RX 350 has survived 5 years in production without a major revamp. That reason is the fundamental soundness of the design. This is a family friendly piece of equipment that will grant you endless miles of quiet, stress-free highway cruising, tackle any kind of paved road surface without hindrance, and do so while providing Lexus levels of cabin comfort and refinement for a modest outlay of $48,550. With a host of worthy extras, including a $3,365 Mark Levinson 15 speaker audio and navigation, our test RX 350 carried an all-in price of $59,605. That seems quite reasonable to own 1 of just 750 Black Line Special Editions.
2021 LEXUS RX 350 F SPORT BLACK LINE SPECIAL EDITION
ENGINE: 3.5 liter V6 DOHC 24 valve with VVT-iW
HORSEPOWER: 295hp@6300rpm TORQUE: 267lb.-ft.@4700rpm
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 20 MPG City/27MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $59,605
HYPES: Special Paint, Special Seats, Special Looks
GRIPES: Occluded Front Vision
STAR RATING: 8.5 Stats out of 10