2019 Lexus RX350 F Sport – Understated Luxury

A few weeks ago I received an email stating that the folks at Lexus would like to have me in one of their vehicles for the very first time and being completely honest, the RX350 F Sport wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Maybe the rolling sofa persona the Lexus RX of yesteryear had left me with too many preconceived notions. I vaguely recall a supple leather interior and a suspension configuration that would put your Nana to sleep before you even hit the freeway. The design and engineering teams at Lexus have clearly been taking great strides on creating not only visually stimulating products, but also increasing the driving dynamics to a new level across the portfolio.

When considering a Lexus RX checking the box for F Sport presents an entirely different persona.  A more chiseled front chin, beautifully sculpted front seats, F Sport exclusive wheels and the availability to select the fantastic Rioja Red leather interior as my test car was equipped. The Ultra White paint showed very well in person with an insane amount of metallic flake, unfortunately white doesn’t photograph quite as well as we’d like.

Fortunately opting for the F Sport variant continues beyond just aesthetics and offers adaptive dampers, which are fine tuned to the drive modes allowing for a spirited drive without wandering all over the road and comfort on demand. We did note when driving through some relatively aggressive corners that we put every test vehicle through, the traction control system seemed to be working overtime. The question we took away from this scenario is if that’s due to the way the front-wheel drive based AWD system is balanced, or due to lack of grip from the manufacturers tire of choice, a Bridgestone Ecopia. We’d say with a more aggressive set of rubber, the limits of the vehicle would likely be a little less accessible.

Mark Levinson Premium Audio presents itself for an additional $1,080 to any Lexus RX with equipped with Navigation. In the ballpark of one thousand dollars you’re treated to one of the most pleasant audio experiences in a mainstream automotive application today. Yes it’s possible we’ve experienced better audio systems in things like a Mercedes-Benz S-Class with Burmester 3-D Audio, or the Niam HiFi in the Bentley Bentayga but that’s a completely different realm.  The clarity at higher volumes was superb, and absolutely no interior component vibration was noted.  Any consumer who does not heed this recommendation shall receive a lifetime of  I told you so’s. It is a little surprising that the speaker covers aren’t dressed up a little more to match the performance of the system… but I guess that’s why Lexus has this whole understated luxury thing mastered.

Rear passenger room is ample, and quite comfortable. Our RX350 F Sport was lacking the optional rear heated seats, something we’d expect to see bundled with the Cold Weather Package rather than the power folding rear and ventilated front seats. A single 12V outlet is positioned beneath the rear vents, and no notable USB ports were found.

Storage is at a bit of a premium, there is no way of getting around the fact that the rear window is pitched at such an angle that it intrudes on an insane amount of the potential cargo volume. Positioning the rear seats (that both slide, and recline) in a favorable spot for full-sized passengers there is 18 cubic feet of space. Fold those seats down, and this Lexus presents a practical 56 cubic feet of space!

Premium Triple-Beam LED headlamps are both a stylish and functional option for the RX, replacing the standard bi-xenons. Opting for the LED’s also gains you fantastic  cornering lamps during low speed maneuvers, and signaling. Having the headlamps pivot was a feature we certainly missed, and would likely see from the competition.

We’ve had this complaint before, so bear with us as we complain yet again… The entire steering wheel isn’t heated, but only the outboard portions. We can’t for the life of us figure out why the folks at Toyota/Lexus absolutely refuse to warm the entire wheel. Maybe they’re trying to shame us into driving solely at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions? The steering wheel does have a lovely feel with nice Rioja matched stitching and nicely formed paddle shifters for those who want a little more control of their driving experience.

Fuel economy figures dial in at 19 MPG City and 26 MPG Highway, well within range of its competition, but not anything to write home about. We’ve seen more efficient powertrains with similar power from competitive brands. There is a hybrid variant (RX450h) that is stated to drastically increases the city consumption.

The takeaway here should be that Lexus offers a SUV with edgy styling characteristics,  pleasant driving experiences and the tried and true Lexus reliability. This package comes at a price considerably less than the competition from Germany, but provides an infotainment system that still comes with that wretched mouse. Our test vehicle displayed a MSRP of $61,983 and without many more boxes to check it seems like a great value with very little compromise.

As always, a huge thank you to Lexus and DriveShop for facilitating my time with the RX350 F Sport for your reading pleasure!