|The RX 350 is hardly a wallflower anymore, its edgy styling making it stand out as an SUV design leader. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
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 found 123,397 buyers worldwide during the first five months of 2017 (you can thank China for that), as well as Mercedes-Benz’ GLC runner up that sold 117,856 global units 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 review with a bang.
|Slightly more conservative from behind, the RX looks good from all angles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
It’s difficult to complain about spending a week with Lexus’ latest 2017 RX 350 either. The five-passenger SUV was redesigned for the 2016 model year and still looks
|This mesh grille insert and more aggressive frontal styling denote the F Sport upgrade. (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
|Triple-stacked LED headlamps are well worth the upgrade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The RX 350 F Sport’s cabin is almost as creased and creviced as its origami-folded exterior sheetmetal, but the majority of surfaces not covered in metallic trim or hardwood
|It’s hard to believe the sharply angled RX is optimized for pedestrian safety, but it is. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Lexus made a few changes to this 2017 model, 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
|These LED taillights are tastefully elegant. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Other standard safety features include slightly less advanced 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.
|The RX interior offers a lot of pampering for a reasonable price. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
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
|Luxurious RX cockpit is given a sporting edge in F Sport trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
A few minutes behind the wheel of the RX 350 F Sport immediately reminded me how much better this new generation drives than anything in Lexus’ RX history. It moves off the line with much more alacrity, its eight-speed automatic combining with the formidable V6 for a more instantaneous launch and quicker more assertive shifts. The engine even sounds good, as it should. What I mean is I’ve driven mid-engine Lotus’ sports cars with this
|These fully configurable primary gauges were inspired by Lexus’ LFA supercar. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I suppose the biggest change when compared to older RX models is the way this newer version takes to corners, the F Sport’s 235/55R20 Bridgestone Blizzaks doing their best impersonation of summer performance tires, at least visually from profile. At first glance they certainly look the part, as do the gorgeous multi-spoke grey-painted 20-inch alloys they encircle, but of course the all-seasons that come standard add significantly more grip at the limit, unless in snow. Still, my RX 350 F Sport tester handled everything thrown at it with aplomb, the new RX feeling more akin to a Mercedes or BMW than previous iterations.
|This long 12.3-inch infotainment display is optional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The $55,900 base RX 350 receives a pretty impressive list of standard features 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
|A standard analogue clock is always welcome, especially one this attractive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As with most vehicles in this class there’s no shortage of available options, the 2017 RX 350 making four packages available. 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
|Not a fan of Lexus’ joystick-like infotainment controller. (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, the aforementioned premium triple-beam LED headlights with dynamic auto-leveling and LED 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
|Roomy, comfortable driver’s seat provides great visibility all around. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
My tester was fitted with the F Sport Series 3 package, which means everything above was 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.
|Not providing a third row means rear seat roominess is excellent. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Lexus also limits exterior colour options, my F Sport tester only available in five shades
|Cargo capacity is good, despite the sloping rear glass. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
So, why should you join the throngs of RX owners instead of going with one of the less popular Europeans, Japanese or domestic-market crossover luxury SUVs? If its
|Standard 40/20/40-split seatbacks help optimize the RX’ passenger/cargo flexibility. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The 2017 RX 350 also represents good value for money, my near fully loaded tester ringing in at $65,350 plus freight and fees, which is where some of its German peers begin. No wonder it sells so well.
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