Lexus’s RX350 F Sport is a family SUV with a dash of spice. Sports seats, big wheels and bespoke styling cues separate it from the standard model.
Our test car was the F Sport model, which costs roughly $13,000 more than the standard Luxury model. For the extra spend, the big-ticket extras are adaptive sports suspension, adaptive high beam, a 360-degree camera, colour head-up display, sports seats, excellent 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system and a partially digital instrument panel. It’s roughly $10,000 cheaper than the entry level, diesel-powered models from its German competitors and matches or betters them for equipment. The cabin is beautifully put together but lacks the hi-tech digital screens of the Germans. Lexus’s Encore aftersales program offers great value, including a complimentary loan car while your car is being serviced, as well as other benefits. The warranty period of four years/100,000km is below par, though, and the capped servicing program is short-term and expensive.
The RX350’s cabin is well executed, with some nice touches including sun blinds for the second row, six USB outlets and air vents for rear passengers. Despite the sportier suspension tune on the F Sport it remains serene and comfortable over pockmarked inner city streets. The front seats are heated and cooled and the airconditioning is quick to cool the cabin on a hot summer day. The swipe pad for navigating the screen menus is fiddly and distracting — it’s easier to use voice commands and the steering wheel buttons, or the centre touch screen. Overall, though, the RX is a great place to chew up the freeway miles.
An update late last year brought the Lexus up to speed with recent advances in driver assistance technology. Aside from ten airbags to protect occupants in a crash, the RX has auto emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert with braking. The LED headlights automatically shade oncoming vehicles from the car’s high beams on the highway. It all works well without intruding too much on the driver. For example, the steering wheel simply vibrates in your hands if you’re wandering from the lane, rather than setting off beeps and alarms.
ON THE ROAD
Lexus has never been at the pointy end of the field when it comes to driver enjoyment but the RX is one of the more capable SUVs on the road. It strikes a good balance between a little sportiness through the corners and a comfortable, relaxed ride on the freeway. The combination of punchy V6 and silky smooth eight-speed transmission delivers quiet, unfussed progress, with enough grunt for overtaking. The only unpleasantness is at the petrol bowser — it can be a little thirsty around town, especially compared to rival’s diesel offerings. It’s a pity the hybrid RX450h is roughly $10,000 more expensive on the road.
Audi Q7 45 TDI, from about $114,700 drive-away. Less power from 3.0-litre diesel but considerably more torque and lower fuel consumption. Well presented cabin looks more modern with digital readout in front of driver.
BMW X5 25d, from about $112,300 drive-away. The petrol version is more than $130,000 so the entry diesel is a closer rival. Reasonable performance and fuel efficient with more modern looking cabin.
Mercedes Benz GLE 300d, from about $114,500 drive-away. Expensive but makes up for it with a classy cabin and punchy, frugal diesel engine. Doesn’t feel as refined as Lexus over bumps.
Three and a half stars
The RX350 feels a little old school, but it delivers the comfort and quality expected of a luxury SUV, at a comparatively sharp price.