But if you thought that Lexus was going to go easy on its best-selling car when time came to redesign the vehicle for 2016, you’d be wrong. Indeed, Lexus has doubled down in terms of risky styling.
Lexus says that “Seductive Strength” was the design mantra for the 2016 RX, which once again is available in both standard and hybrid forms. We’ll leave it up to you to decide if its strength is actually seductive. So you don’t miss anything, here’s a little tour.
The dominant feature of the new RX is the huge “spindle” grille flanked by squinty high-set headlamps that look particularly cool in optional, triple-beam, all LED form. Various bevels and creases and chrome bits lead back from there into the fenders and hood, though none continue without interruption all the way to the rear.
Further back, the fenders are defined by hexagonal wheel openings, a la Jeep Grand Cherokee, bracketing a jarring gash in the lower doors. The floating roof would be nifty, if not for the distracting kink in the lower window-line just aft of the doors. Out back, the tailgate takes on the spindle shape of the grille (arguably more successfully) and the tail-lamps contain LEDs in L-shapes. There’s much more we could bring up, but we only have so much space, so we’ll just let your eyes take in the rest.
For the first time, both standard and hybrid models can be ordered in even bolder F-Sport form, with the latter version fitted with lower body skirts, an even more aggressive, lattice-like grille, bigger wheels, and a slightly sportier interior, complete with a trick instrument cluster that’s evocative of the RC F-Sport coupe.
Behind the brazen styling is a vehicle that is somehow totally the same, yet completely different. Pretty much everything inside has been rearranged in a more elegant, contemporary way. Ergonomics have been drastically reconsidered, so much so that if you’re one of the many owners of an older RX, you may be completely lost at first.
If you’ve spent much time in newer Lexus cars, however, you’ll feel completely at home. Material quality—especially the gorgeous optional wood veneers—have taken a big step up, though an occasional hard plastic bit can still found, especially in the back seat area. Inexplicably, Lexus still feels compelled to use cheap, tinted metallic plastic to dress the dash and steering wheel. Why Lexus, why?!?
Most of Lexus’ latest technology is present and accounted for, including the optional Remote Touch interface with a huge, foot-wide info screen sitting atop the dash. There’s a learning curve, to be sure, but it works reasonably well once you get used to it; if it doesn’t, you can always dial up Lexus via the available EnForm system and let them try and explain things. Incidentally those same friendly folks are also able to beam navigation directions to the vehicle, OnStar-style.
As with previous RX models, the seats in the new model are heavenly, with particularly excellent support in the F-Sport model. The rear seats offer serious spread-out room, thanks to 1.2 inches more legroom and nearly a half inch more headroom. Large side glass gives everyone a stellar view out. And as always with the RX, road noise is accurately described as “road mute.”
On that note, driving the RX can be as mind-numbing as ever, which to many buyers, is probably just fine. This is particularly true of the hybrid model, which does much of its low-speed driving in eerie silence.
The RX350’s V-6 is a generally smooth but gets a bit gruff at full throttle. With 295-horsepower and 267 lb.-ft. of torque, however, it is able to accelerate forcefully. Lexus claims that 60 mph comes up in 7.7, which feels conservative by our seats of the pants. Ditto the hybrid model, which is up to an impressive 308 total system horsepower between its 3.5-liter V-6 and electric motors.
Better news is that, for a vehicle this size, the RX is very fuel-efficient. The RX350 is EPA-rated at 20/28 city/highway fuel economy for the front-wheel-drive model; 19/26 for the all-wheel driver. Upgrade to the RX450h hybrid and those figures jump to 31/30 and 30/28, respectively.
In non-F-Sport trim, the RX rides just as creamily as ever, yet feels more stable at high speeds, thanks to its more rigid body structure and well-damped suspension. Anyone seeking a more engaging driving experience would be wise to spring for the F-Sport model, which brings a tighter suspension and modicum of steering feel without ruining the ride.
The latter model comes with a Sport+ setting for the Drive Mode Select system, which keeps the powertrain on notice in the event you get a little frisky on the way to work, or more likely, are running late to pick up the kids.
To that end, it’s a good thing that Lexus has really done its homework with the RX’s brakes, which are highly responsive and have a wonderfully progressive feel. In the event of a collision, some 10 airbags, including driver knee and front passenger anti-submarine airbags, are standard. The RX also now includes a driver alertness monitor, lane-keeping and pre-collision systems, as well as radar cruise control on its list of available driving and safety aids.