2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
Lexus’s RX 350 looks great with its F Sport upgrades, appearing more like a “sport” utility with every passing generation. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I was about to start this story by saying there has never been a more successful luxury SUV created than the Lexus RX, but after some in-depth research I’m finding out that’s an old, outdated statistic.

The RX, which was the first car-based luxury crossover SUV ever produced, has been amazingly successful here in North America where it remains number one by a long shot, but within Canada alone it’s currently second behind Audi’s smaller albeit almost as accommodating Q5, while globally they both get beaten badly by Buick’s number-one selling Envision that sold 123,397 units worldwide during the first five months of 2017 (you can thank China for that), as well as Mercedes-Benz’ GLC runner up that found 117,856 global buyers over the same period. I don’t have exact numbers for the RX in all the countries it’s sold in because it didn’t make the top 100 vehicles list. So much for starting out this garage overview with a bang.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
Tiny rear quarter glass and a gently sloping rear window hardly make the RX the most practical SUV in its mid-size class, but its styling and stellar reputation make it number one in North America. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, with 109,435 total U.S. sales last year and 8,147 here in Canada, and 46,737 in the States over the first half of 2017 and 4,501 north of the 49th, Lexus and its RX have nothing to be ashamed of. Toyota’s luxury division is really only getting its feet wet in China after breaking through the six-figure threshold for the first time last year with 109,151 total sales brand-wide, while Lexus International reported 677,615 global deliveries in 2016, which is a four-percent improvement over 2015 and its fourth consecutive record year of sales growth. Yup, it’s tough to complain with numbers like that.

It’s difficult to complain after picking up Lexus’ latest 2017 RX 350 either. The five-passenger SUV was redesigned for the 2016 model year and still looks very sharp, literally. There isn’t an edgier sport utility available, now that Lexus’ ultra-wide spindle grille is front and centre, made even bigger and bolder in our tester’s F Sport trim. It flows into a deeply sculpted hood up top, while yet more jagged edges outline each of its triple-stacked LED light cluster elements to each side, these finished off with checkmark LED DRLs at bottom. Even more radically shaped fog lamp bezels are immediately surrounded in chrome before getting finished off with apostrophe-style vertical vents at each corner, all sitting atop razor-thin lower valance detailing.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
The RX is nearly as angular inside as it is outside, while premium features abound. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The RX 350 F Sport’s flanks are almost as chiselled, each fender shaved flat ahead of gloss black, chrome and LED-infused side mirror housings on the beltline and deeply gorged, upward sweeping rocker panel sculpting across the lower doors, former foreshadowing a glossy black D-pillar depicting a floating roof while the latter visually melds into a chunky rear bumper encasing a sporty rear diffuser and two angularly shaped exhaust ports. By comparison the LED taillights are almost conservative, although a nice fit just the same, while plenty of satin-finish metal brightwork combine with fabulous looking 20-inch dark graphite multi-spoke alloys on 235/55R20 rolling stock. Lexus is hardly a boring brand anymore, and its once conservative RX is now one of the more avant-garde in its class.

The RX 350 F Sport’s cabin is almost as creased and creviced as its origami-folded exterior sheetmetal, but I leave any comments about style, materials quality, refinement, switchgear, electronic interfaces, and feature usability to my upcoming road test review, due out soon so to beat the arrival of the 2018 model.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
These configurable colour TFT gauges are plenty nice and feature filled. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Other than rumour about a longer extended-wheelbase three-row seven-passenger version expected early next year I don’t have any info about that the new model year, but the five-occupant version arriving this fall is expected to be mostly carryover so you shouldn’t feel any hesitation about buying a 2017. Lexus made a few changes to this year’s model too, including the addition of a new Safety Sense+ suite of advanced driver-assistance systems, now standard. On the list is millimeter-wave radar sensing pre-collision warning, lane departure alert, dynamic cruise control, and auto high beams, all items that were previously bundled in with expensive option groups yet are now standard across the entire model range.

Other standard safety features include auto on/off full LED headlamps, LED DRLs, LED fog lamps, LED brake lights, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors (the latter power-folding with heat and integrated turn signals), a backup camera with dynamic guidelines that’s projected onto a large 8.0-inch infotainment display, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, active front headrests with whiplash protection, front and rear outboard seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters, plus more.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
Now that’s how a premium grade infotainment display should look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On the options list is new Intelligent Clearance Sonar, which is collision mitigation for low-speed situations such as parking, while additional active safety options include Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), a wide-view front, rear and side parking monitor, and a 12.3-inch Electro Multi Vision (EMV) display that most companies would call a head-up display, but as slick as some of these systems are Lexus has yet to adapt much in the way of autonomous mitigation systems to the RX 350, such as automatic corrective steering, but its aforementioned pre-collision system is designed to apply emergency auto braking after an initial warning.

The RX 350’s numeric designation actually refers to its 3.5-litre V6 engine, unlike so many other models that have deviated from this sensible practice (the RX 450h hybrid being one), its output a commendable 295 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque thanks in part to D4-S fuel injection that combines direct injection with conventional port injection in order to best balance performance and efficiency. Aiding both objectives is an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while standard all-wheel drive is par for the course in Canada’s premium SUV sector. Lastly, Lexus’ standard Drive Mode Select adds Sport, Eco and Normal modes to either enhance the driving experience or minimize fuel usage and emissions.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
Hmmm… I’ll comment about this later. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Once again I’ll leave any experiential comments to my upcoming review, and instead give you a rundown of some additional standard and optional features not yet mentioned, the $55,900 base RX 350 receiving a pretty impressive list of items including 18-inch alloys, a heated windshield, roof rails, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a heatable multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone auto climate control with a dust, pollen and deodorizing air filter, 12-speaker audio, satellite radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, eight-way powered front seats with two-way powered lumbar support, perforated leather upholstery, driver-side memory, heated and ventilated front seats, heatable rear outboard seats, a garage door opener, a powered moonroof, and more.

As with most vehicles in this class there’s no shortage of available options with the 2017 RX 350 thanks to four packages. Rather than organize them by price, with the least expensive being the $7,600 Luxury package, followed by the $8,700 F Sport Series 2 package, and either the $13,450 F Sport Series 3 or identically priced Executive package, I thought it best to go over the two F Sport packages and then the two other option groups.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
Upgraded F Sport seats look fabulous, but how do they feel? Come back for the full review to find out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While all RX 350s are plenty sporty, adding the F Sport Series 2 package makes a difference visually thanks to a unique black mesh grille insert, premium LED headlights with cornering lamps, sportier lower fascia detailing, 20-inch dark-grey painted F Sport multi-sport alloys, upgraded LED combination taillights, and F Sport exterior badging, while that F Sport branding also enhances a unique set of treadplates, an upgraded gauge cluster, a three-spoke leather-wrapped sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, a special leather-wrapped shift knob, and a different set of sport seats. Additional F Sport Series 2 improvements include aluminum foot pedals with rubber inserts, that 12.3-inch EMV head-up display mentioned earlier, an automatic air recirculation control system, voice-activated HDD navigation with Lexus’ joystick-style console-mounted Remote Touch Interface, front and rear parking sensors, an adaptive variable air suspension, and VDIM.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
Five-seat SUVs have some very real benefits. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My tester is fitted with the F Sport Series 3 package, which means everything above is included plus Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging, the previously noted wide-view parking monitor, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound audio upgrade, a panoramic glass sunroof, power-reclining and power-folding rear seats, and a touch-free gesture-controlled powered rear liftgate.

Alternatively the Luxury package forgoes the F Sport styling and performance upgrades yet adds its own 20-inch alloys along with the aforementioned premium LED headlamps and taillights, parking sensors, 12.3-inch EMV, auto air recirculation, and navigation, plus includes LED illuminated aluminum treadplates, a leather-wrapped and wood-trimmed steering wheel rim, 10-way powered front seats with four-way powered lumbar support, premium leather upholstery, and rear side sunshades. Move up to the Executive package and everything just noted in the Luxury package is included, plus all F Sport Series 3 package upgrades. The only negative to the way Lexus Canada has packaged up its top-line RX 350 is an inability to get an F Sport with “the works,” or rather all available options.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
How does cargo space measure up? See you soon for the review. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Lexus also limits exterior colour options, my F Sport tester only available in five shades and hues including its chosen Nebula Grey, the remaining four being Atomic Silver, Obsidian black, Ultra White, and Matador Red Mica, although the ability to add a stunning Rioja Red interior to default F Sport Black is certainly notable. If you choose base, Luxury or Executive trim the exterior paint palette grows to include Eminent White Pearl, black metallic Caviar, and dark blue Nightfall Mica, yet excludes Obsidian and Ultra White, whereas a golden beige Satin Cashmere Metallic is exclusive to Luxury and Executive trims. The more luxury-oriented RX 350 gets more interior colour choices too, eliminating Rioja Red but adding Parchment beige and Noble Brown to the usual Black.

That’s probably enough detail for now. Stay tuned for a full road test that will include all of my dictated notes organized into slightly more readable commentary. Until then you can check out my review of the 2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport…