2013 Lexus RX 350 F SportPosted on April 4th, 2013
Performance focused five-passenger crossover
By Nina Russin
Having added hybrid variants throughout its model line-up, Lexus has shifted focus to enhancing performance on the gas-powered models. F Sport is the designation for the race-inspired versions, the newest of which is the RX 350 five-passenger crossover.
The RX is by far the most popular of Lexus’ sport-utility vehicles. The new F Sport grade expands the car’s audience to include buyers wanting more dynamic performance, similar to BMW’s X3 or the Infiniti F series.
Although the new RX utilizes the same engine as the base model, it features a modified suspension, bigger wheels, eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, modified exterior and special interior trim.
Base price is $47,000, excluding the $895 destination charge. Options on the test car include blind spot monitoring, a heads-up display, Mark Levinson premium audio system, navigation with Lexus Enform and satellite radio, intuitive park assist and a cargo net. Final MSRP is $53,924.
Test drive in Phoenix
This week, I drove the RX 350 F Sport in the Phoenix, Arizona area, including some rural roads on the Gila River Indian reservation south of town. The RX combines Lexus’ legendary quiet ride with more aggressive acceleration and better fuel economy, thanks to the eight-speed automatic transmission.
The modified suspension enhances the car’s high-speed performance, while the bigger wheels provide a larger footprint. Formula-style paddle shifters enable the driver to manually select gears on winding two-lane roads.
At the same time, the RX is spacious enough to carry up to five passengers and their cargo. While I wouldn’t recommend taking the car off-road with its nineteen-inch wheels, the sporty crossover has enough cargo space and 3500 pound towing capacity, putting it on the short list for buyers with active lifestyles.
The heads-up display projects the speedometer reading at the base of the windshield, so that the driver doesn’t have to take his eyes off the road. A rearview camera enhances peripheral visibility, and makes it easier to monitor cross-traffic in crowded parking lots.
The blind spot monitor illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors when drivers in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. I would recommend the option, since the RX 350’s thick D pillars impact visibility in the rear corners.
Xenon headlamps project longer, brighter beams at night than halogen. Daytime running lamps make it easier for other drivers to see the car on canyon roads with a limited sightline.
The electric power steering system provides more assistance at low speeds, while maintaining a heavier feel on the highway. On-center response is not particularly good, but I did feel disconnected from the wheels the way I have in some similarly equipped cars.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in firm, linear fashion.
Designers did an exceptionally good job on the interior, giving the RX a competitive edge in the segment. Keyless access and start enables the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket.
Inside, the RX seats up to five adults. I was impressed with the amount of legroom in the second row center position. While there isn’t as much space as in the outboard positions, an average adult should be comfortable around town, and even on some shorter road trips.
The gate shifter is on the center stack, making space for the mouse device on the center console. The mouse, with controls on either side, enables both the driver and front passenger to make audio selections, program the navigation and pull up information without foraging through myriad buttons.
The current version of Lexus Enform includes some apps, that the driver can access through his smart phone: Pandora, Bing, OpenTable, MovieTickets and iHeart Radio.
The driver’s seat is easy to adjust, with ample lower lumbar support. Memory settings enable multiple family members to share the vehicle. Heated and cooled front seats keep the driver and front passenger comfortable in temperature extremes. Vents behind the center console circulate air throughout the back of the cabin.
A power liftgate makes it easier to load up the back with large cargo. Buyers with active lifestyles will appreciate the cargo area light and 12-volt power point in back. A tonneau cover keeps items stored in back hidden. Second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor, meeting our bicycle-friendly standard.
The Lexus RX 350 comes with front, side, side curtain, and front knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and a first aid kit. Smart stop technology overrides the throttle and stops the car if the driver inadvertently depresses both pedals at the same time.
Standard safety connect automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious collision.
The RX 350 received a five star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is on display at Lexus dealerships nationwide.
Like: A stylish, yet versatile luxury crossover. The eight-speed automatic transmission improves fuel economy over the base model.
Dislike: Thick rear pillars create large blind spots in the rear corners, making the blind spot monitoring system more of a necessity than an option.
Model: RX 350 F Sport
Base Price: $47,000
As tested: $53,924
Horsepower: 270 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 248 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 7.7 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 18/26 mpg city/highway2013, Luxury 2013, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Lexus, performance, pricing, standard safety
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