Experienced by Adrian McQueen
The Lexus RX class has come a long way since it debuted in the late 1990s as the RX300. Currently the Japanese crossover is the bestselling Lexus model and with the 2016s arriving with many newfangled features this could very well continue to be the case. I traveled from Washington D.C. with great anticipation to my southern destination for Lexus RX evaluations in Raleigh, North Carolina at the luxurious Umstead Hotel and Spa. Impressive is an understatement.
To start the day off the our media group was treated to a very informative presentation given by Maurice Durand, Lexus Product Communications Specialist, Yuval Steiman, Lexus National Marketing Manager and Doug Herbert from Lexus College. The 4th generation Lexus RX class is available in four unique models consisting of the RX 350, RX 350 F Sport, RX 450h (Lexus Hybrid Drive) and the RX 450h F Sport. Each model delivers the luxurious look and feel that Lexus is known for and definitely represents a heightened upgrade from the 2015 models.
Upon first glance I have to say the new RX seriously boasts a greater exterior definition, highlighting curvilinear angles and concaves throughout. The new spindle grille prodigiously stands out, encompassing the majority of the front fascia. This daring, sleek and sporty profile, along with L-shaped lighting elements presents a serious level of aggression which was lacking in prior years. This latest RX redesign also extends legroom since its length was increased by 4.7-inches.
From a performance perspective more boost is outputted as the RX 450h received a power increase from its 3.5-liter V6 hybrid engine which now generates 308-horsepower and 247 lb.-ft. of torque which is up from 295-horsepower and 234 lb.-ft. of torque. Lexus has estimated the RX 450h fuel economy at 30 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 30 combined for the all-wheel drive model. The FWD RX is expected to earn 31 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. A cool scenario to note is that the RX 450h AWD uses the Lexus E-Four proactive AWD system. For fuel savings this intuitive technology limits the use of four-wheel traction by switching over to FWD when braking which in-turn charges the nickel-metal hydride battery.
A few extra components to mention would be the availability of 20” wheels, LED rear combination lamps, a MacPherson Strut front suspension and the Michelin premier LTX tire line. The RX will be offered in a multitude of hues such as Nebula Gray Pearl, Silver Lining Metallic, Obsidian, Caviar, Matador Red Mica, Satin Cashmere Metallic, Autumn Shimmer and Nightfall Mica. Lexus is offering multiple sound packages for the RX including the standard 9-speaker system and the ultimate 15-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound Audio package. I absolutely loved the navigation with the 12.3” display but was not really impressed with the Remote Touch system. It takes too much time operating and requires a sensitive hand for adjustments.
Driving our pre-production 2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport was smooth and solid but not so quiet on the inside. The V6 engine accelerated from stoplights and out of corners expeditiously while the Michelin tires hugged the road well in corners and did not slip during wet conditions. I tested the vehicle in all of the “Drive Mode Select” settings which you can custom craft during specific moods or road conditions. These different options are defined as “ECO” mode to emphasize fuel efficiency by smoothing out throttle response and reducing demand of the HVAC, “SPORT S” increases the responsiveness of the throttle and Electric Power Steering and “SPORT S+” combines SPORT S mode with sharper power steering and stiffer suspension settings.
Additionally, the 2016 RX is being offered with the Lexus Safety System + that includes Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Lane Keeping Assist, Automatic High Beams and the Pre-collision System with pedestrian detection. There are also the 10 standard airbags on all RX models.
The Lexus RX surely stands up against its competition in the performance SUV market such as the BMW X5/X6, Mercedes-Benz ML, Acura MDX and even the Audi Q5/Q7. Priced competitively in the luxury market the RX 350 FWD starts at $41,900 and $43,30 for the AWD and ranges up to $55,645 for a RX 450h F Sport AWD.