Redesigned for the 2016 model year, the Lexus RX crossover adopts a more focused, fashion-conscious appearance. More curvaceous than before, this all-new fourth-generation RX is comfortable and refined, yet presents a more edgy tone.
The all-new 2016 Lexus RX delivers greater interior space, as well as a bolder, more lavish look than its jellybean-profiled predecessor. More driver-focused than before, the 2016 RX provides the quietness and comfort expected by owners of luxury crossovers.
The 2016 Lexus RX is the brand’s most adventurous design for a crossover model. Nearly five inches longer overall, the 2016 RX rides a wheelbase that’s gained almost two inches. Height and width have changed little. Long the brand’s most popular model, the midsize premium crossover is a five-passenger SUV with just two rows of seats.
Two versions are available: The 2016 RX 350 is powered by a 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6; the 2016 RX 450h has a hybrid gas-electric powertrain making 308 horsepower. Performance-oriented F Sport variants with all-wheel drive are offered for both models. All RX models use an 8-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is available.
Up front is a particularly dramatic version of Lexus’s spindle grille, flanked by triple-L headlights and LED foglamps, accompanied by LED daytime running lights. The floating roof design tapers near the back, above swooping, flared back fenders. More than most recent designs, this one fiddles with sheetmetal surfaces. Many observers herald the bold approach; others restrain their applause.
Suspensions are tuned to provide better responsiveness, without loss of ride comfort. The newly available Adaptive Variable Suspension (standard on F Sport) adapts both damper firmness and steering behavior. F Sport models get a Sport S+ mode with more aggressive settings.
Inside, the front compartment has been rearranged for an airier feel. The shifter has moved away from the instrument panel, which features a streamlined sequence of controls. An available 12.3-inch infotainment screen with full-size map may sit above the center stack. A new, bigger, more colorful head-up display is optional. Power folding is available for the 40/20/40 split rear seat.
A new rear-seat entertainment system is available, with 11.6-inch screens. The optional panoramic moonroof sits above front and rear passengers.
Gas-engine RX 350 and gasoline/electric RX 450h models are offered, with front-drive or all-wheel drive. F Sport variants have all-wheel drive.
Lexus RX 350 ($41,900) comes with leather upholstery, rearview camera, nine-speaker audio, eight-inch screen, HD radio, satellite radio, CD player, Bluetooth, 18-inch aluminum wheels. All-wheel drive adds $1,400.
RX 350 F Sport ($49,125) has all-wheel drive and features an Adaptive Variable Suspension, dark-mesh grille, more aggressive lower spoiler, heated/ventilated leather-trimmed F Sport seats, perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel, paddle shifters, aluminum pedals, F Sport gauges, and dark-metallic 20-inch alloy wheels.
Lexus RX 450h ($52,235) is equipped similarly to RX 350, adding a moonroof, navigation, blind-spot monitor, and 12-speaker audio. RX 450h F Sport ($57,045) is equipped similarly to the RX 350 F Sport.
Ten airbags are standard, including driver’s knee airbag and anti-submarining airbag for front passenger. Active-safety features are optional.
The 2016 Lexus RX tosses out the previous predictably elliptical shape for a more daring attitude, especially noticeable in the roofline, shunning sedateness while maintaining its comfort/utility orientation.
Likely a merger of separate design inspirations, the end result comes together well, resulting in an expressive appearance. Up front, various angles mix to create a geometric theme that might even be deemed menacing. C-pillars are blacked-out, impeding the visual continuity of the bodysides. Flared wheelwells possess dark matte-trimmed lips. Blacked-out lower body trim helps impart a more rugged note.
Complementing the new body, the interior is markedly sportier. Materials are welcoming, warmer-looking than in most German-brand rivals. The cockpit exudes calmness and precision.
Door trim and dashboard resemble those in Lexus sports sedans. Cabins feel neat and uncluttered. Subtle colors dominate, with matte trims.
Getting in and out is easy, and front-seat comfort excels. Back seats can accommodate passengers of nearly any size. RX 450h riders sit about an inch higher, as the nickel-metal hydride battery goes under the back seat.
Lexus lowered the driver’s seat height by 0.75 inch, seeking a sportier, more carlike posture. F Sport seats are more deeply bolstered.
Standard seat upholstery is vinyl-like NuLuxe. Natural leather is available in the Premium Package; semi-aniline leather in the Luxury Package.
As expected, an RX is quiet-riding. F Sport versions send some engine noise inside, but it’s barely noticeable. Visibility is helped by thinner pillars and a wider rear quarter window.
Reaching beyond daring good looks, the 2016 Lexus RX amps up the driving experience. Especially in F Sport form, it provides greater communication with the road. Still, there’s no doubt that RX aims primarily at comfort, utility, and practical virtues.
With its V6 developing 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, a front-drive RX 350 can reach 60 mph in a brisk 7.7 seconds, delivering a smooth, nicely-controlled ride. A pre-loaded front differential on all-wheel-drive models helps stability and start-off performance.
Lexus softened the front suspension somewhat, seeking enhanced steering feedback about the road surface. New look aside, the RX 350 is still a pleasant-driving midsize crossover SUV.
The RX 450h hybrid uses a different version of the V6, making 259 horsepower. With its planetary drive system, the RX 450h is able to start off on battery power alone at low speed. All-wheel drive versions get a separate electric-motor drive unit for the back wheels.
Both the RX 350 and RX 450h get Normal, Eco, and Sport modes, which affect powertrain response, steering effort, and air conditioning operation. F Sport versions get additional driving modes. An EV Mode lets the RX 450h fall into quieter all-electric operation.
Fuel economy is about average for the RX 350, EPA-rated at 20/28 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive, or 19/26 mpg with all-wheel drive. The RX 450h is EPA-rated at 31/30 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive, 30/28 mpg with all-wheel drive.
In its transition toward boldness, the RX lost none of its space-efficiency and versatility. More comfortable than ever, it carries on Lexus’s well-deserved reputation for ride quality and passenger pleasure. Owning a luxury RX isn’t mere self-indulgence. This is a practical vehicle for daily drives.
Driving impressions by Bengt Halvorson, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.