2016 Lexus RX Review

2016 Lexus RX - Lexus RX350 rides into 2016 dressed in new garb


Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

That cliché sums up the exterior of the 2016 Lexus RX350 sport utility vehicle.

Powerful exterior styling includes an exaggerated spindle grille, and sheet metal designed into multiple flares, indentations, and curving ridges. New LED daytime running lights and unique fog lamp bezels join the updated taillamps and rear license plate surround.

Some RX350 enthusiasts think the 2016s look beautiful. Others do not, with one critic going so far as to call the styling ugly (www.edmunds.com).

Both reviewers' evaluations for this vehicle go with beauty.  Besides this 2016 exterior redesign, the new RX350, rides on a longer wheelbase which increases length, and has more powerful engines.  

The RX 350 comes equipped with a 295-horsepower 3.5-liter direct-injected V6 gasoline engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. A 3.5-liter direct-injected V6 engine in a hybrid powertrain configuration generates a combined system output of 308-horsepower.

The high-intensity LEDs on the available head-up display project high-contrast white figures onto the windshield, which are easier to read - and easier on the eyes

Climate and sound controls are angled toward the driver making them easier to see and operate. Control knobs were big; the systems were simple enough for even someone with limited technological skill to operate. The mobile phone device was the essence of simplicity. In sum, the RX350 is owner-friendly.

For the ultimate in mobile sound, Lexus exclusively offers an optional 15-speaker Mark Levinson Surround Sound system. This vehicle is not so high-tech that it is confusing. People actually can tune in AM-FM or satellite radio stations by turning a knob. On several competing luxury SUVs, it will take a visit to the owner's manual to figure out how to accomplish something as simple as this. High Definition radio with iTunes tagging, Bluetooth, compact disc player (storage for six) and MP3 compatibility are part of the nine-speaker sound system. There are dual ports for iPod, USB and MP3 usage. The navigation system has an eight-inch color screen. A back-up camera reflects what is going on behind you on that screen while in reverse.

With more length, leg room increases to 44.1 inches front and 38 inches in the rear. This is comparable to leg room provided in a full-size sedan. There is more head room, too. Unfortunately the aerodynamic design has a raked roof which means less room in the cargo area. The official maximum cargo area is 56.3 cubic feet, which is less than major competitors such as the Lincoln MKX, BMW X5 or even Volkswagen's Touareg. For owners who are not loading refrigerators into the cargo area, this may not matter. When folded down, the split rear seats do not fold absolutely flat.

Behind the upright rear seats, storage area is 18.4 cubic feet or standard for vehicles in the mid-size, four-door, five-passenger midsize class of SUVs. The rear seats recline and slide forward or backward.

The 3.5-liter, 295-horsepower, double overhead cam V6 engine is mated to an eight-speed shiftable transmission, which has been around with Lexus for years. The powerplant can tow a 3,500-pound trailer. Regular unleaded fuel can be pumped into the 19.2-gallon tank.

During the test weeks with an all-wheel-drive 2016 RX350, fuel usage averaged 21.9 miles per gallon on combined city, country and interstate driving with two persons aboard. This fuel usage should be expected in a vehicle that weighs 4,387 pounds. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the vehicle at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.

The engine is a responsive and extremely quiet. The transmission includes a "snow mode" for more torque delivering power to the axle with the wheels that need the most help. The 2016 RX350 has been tested accelerating from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 7 to 7.2 seconds. Braking from 60 mph to a stop can be done, as tested, in 114 feet. This is good and compares well with other vehicles in its weight and size class. In fact, it is about 10 fewer feet than much of the competition.

With a strut suspension (coil springs over gas shocks) in front, multilinks in the rear, and stabilizer bars front and rear, the RX350 rides like a luxury sedan. It is still a sport utility vehicle, though, with an 8.2-inch ground clearance and a viscuous center limited-slip differential.

Disc brakes front and rear are in the 11-inch category. Standard safety features include a four-wheel antilock braking system, stability as well as traction control, brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution, tire pressure monitoring system, daytime running lamps, variable intermittent wipers, rear wiper and defogger, and five seatbelts mated with adjustable headrests. The front seatbelts are equipped with pretensioners and force-limiters.

Safety fare also includes airbags in front, airbags on sides front and rear, curtain head protection front and rear and knee airbags for driver and front-seat passenger.  Lexus publicists say the number of airbags adds up to 10. Tool and first aid kits are standard.

Power features include front seats, exterior heated mirrors, door locks, four one-touch up-and-down express windows, remote entry and smart start, rear liftgate, moonroof and the tilt and telescoping leather steering wheel.

Real wood decorates the interior, floors are carpeted with thick, heavy mats. Amenities are ruise control, intermittent wipers, trip computers, redundant sound controls on the steering wheel, air vents front and rear and privacy glass, fog lights in front, LED taillamps in the rear as well LED daytime running lamps, rain-sensing windshield wipers, remote entry, smart start and trip computers.

Grab handles, two 12 volt outlets, reading lights and cupholders are taken for granted, but Lexus also provides a lighted storage bin, self-dimming mirrors and wood inserts serving as trim front and rear.

Warranty coverage is four years or 50,000 miles with 24-hour roadside assistance, five years or 70,000 miles on the powertrain and free first and second scheduled maintenance services.

The 2006 RX330 turned into RX350 in 2007 when the 3.3-liter V6 engine with 223 horsepower was replaced by a 3.5-liter V6 with 270 horses. Today it is 295 horses.

The RX350 maintains a classy looking vehicle even with the 2016 redesign.

For history buffs, Lexus debuts a concept sport utility derived from the ES sedan, called Sport Luxury Vehicle (SLV) on February 6, 1997, at the 89th Annual Chicago Auto Show. One year later, the production RX 300 goes on sale and creates the "luxury crossover" segment.



Vehicle: all-wheel-drive 2016 Lexus RX350

Type: midsize luxury sport utility vehicle

Price: $43,300

Engine: 3.5-liter, 295-horsepower, double overhead cam V6

Transmission: shiftable eight-speed automatic

Fuel tank: 19.2 gallons

Fuel type: regular unleaded

Towing: 3,500 pounds

Payload: 1,477 pounds

Cargo: 56.3 cubic feet maximum, 18.4 cubic feet behind upright second row  split seats

Wheelbase: 109.8 inches

Length: 192.5 inches

Width: 74.6 inches

Height: 67.7 inches

Weight: 4,387 pounds

Ground clearance: 8.2 inches

Turning circle: 38 feet

Leg room: 44.1 inches front, 38 inches rear

Suspension: struts, multi-links, stabilizer bars

Tires, wheels: 18-inch

Warranty: four years or 50,000 miles with roadside assistance, six years or 70,000 miles powertrain, plus free first and second scheduled maintenance service

Final assembly: Canada

Information: www.lexus.com

M.J. Frumkin and J.E. Kuyper

M. J. Frumkin and J. E. Kuyper covered the auto industry for decades. Frumkin was with Consumer Guide for 14 years, has authored four books and co-authored three more. He is also the historian/archivist for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association/Chicago Auto Show. Kuyper has been an automotive writer, editor and columnist for newspapers in the Chicago area the past 25 years. His reviews currently appear in the daily Northwest Herald newspaper. Frumkin and Kuyper are founding members of the Midwest Automotive Media Association.