The RS is Lexus' entry into the midsize crossover segment. This five-passenger wagon comes with front- or all-wheel drive and was completely redesigned for 2016. It competes in a very crowded segment with other luxury crossovers like the Acura MDX, BMW X5, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti QX70, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover Range Rover Sport, Lincoln MKX, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC90.
The RX is available with a gasoline-powered 3.5 liter V6 that makes 295 horsepower or a hybrid powertrain that combines the V6 with electric motors for a total output of 308 horsepower. The gas only model is called the RX 350 and the hybrid the RX 450h. Both are offered in base and F Sport trim. F Sport models come only with all-wheel drive.
Prices start at $41,900 for the RX 350 and range up to $52,235 for the hybrid. The F Sport package adds $4000-6000 to the price and includes 20-inch wheels, adaptive suspension, additional drive mode settings, engine noise enhancer, paddle shifters, updated gauge package, heated and ventilated sport seats, leather upholstery and special interior trim. The Lexus RX is built in either Canada or Japan and comes with an $950 destination charge.
As Lexus' bread-and-butter vehicle, the RX gets a complete makeover for 2016. Aside from the striking new exterior and interior styling, the 2016 RX is almost 5 inches longer than the model it replaces and rides a 2-inch longer wheelbase. For 2016, safety and convenience features get a boost as does the center information screen, which grows to a whopping 12.3 inches overall.
Long a Lexus trademark, the RX interior is as posh and as comfortable as ever. Front and rear seats are well bolstered and offer great comfort and support. Both rows of seats also offer plenty of leg and head room. Step-in height is not off-putting and drivers get a commanding view of the road.
The interior design is somewhat dark, but contemporary and, for the most part, functional. Materials are more than appropriate for the luxury price point. Most controls fall close to hand and are clearly marked. Sadly, the remote touch interface that controls the navigation and audio system returns. It is improved over the old system, but still lacks the ease of use and smoothness delivered by simple touch-screen displays. Thankfully there are many redundant controls on the steering wheel and center stack.
The sloping design of the rear hatch contributes to disappointing cargo capacity of just 56 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. That's poor for the class and will limit the RX' usefulness as a weekend hauler. Thankfully, there's plenty of interior storage for small items, including a little pocket designed for iPhones in the center console.
The available suite of safety and comfort and convenience features is impressive. Features like lane-keeping assist, blind-spot, cross-traffic alert and accident avoidance warning help keep occupants safe and heated and cooled seats and multi-zone climate control keep occupants coddled.
Dynamically, Lexus balances overall passenger comfort with competent on-road manners. No the RX is not a sporty drive - even when equipped with the available F Sport package - but it's more than capable and quite comfortable. Ratcheting the adjustable suspension up to the firmest settings provides a modicum of athleticism that's more than up the challenge of most daily driving needs. However, at the end of the day, the RX is just too heavy to be considered sporty. Brakes have great stopping power and, even when equipped with the hybrid system, pedal action is smooth and easy to modulate.
The standard 3.5-liiter V6 provides adequate acceleration for the class and no more. It's a competent and smooth engine that's proven quite reliable over years of service. The hybrid powertrain actually feels a little quicker - provided you aren't in ECO mode. It's a bit slow to respond to throttle input as the transmission and electric motors spool up, but then provides ample passing punch. The gas-only engine mates to a slick shifting 8-speed automatic and the hybrid comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Both engines are fairly frugal. The V6 netting an EPA rating of 20/28 mpg city/highway and an overall of 23 mpg. The hybrid provides a nice jump with EPA ratings of 31/30 mpg city/highway and an overall rating of 30 mpg. Routine urban commuting in the hybrid will likely average about 26-28 mpg. Throw in some gentile highway commuting and you might pump that number to 30 mpg overall.
The Lexus RX was one of the first luxury crossover vehicles - you could say it invented the segment. That said, competitors were quick to copy and, in some cases, improve upon the original RX. With a complete overhaul for 2016, the new RX is at once comfortable and modern with just enough of that signature Lexus charm and reliability to be a compelling choice in the segment. Obviously, competitors are many, so shop around for the luxury crossover that best suits your style.