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2016 Lexus RX 350 & 450h First Drive

A New Prescription

Sue Mead –
Oct 5, 2015
Photographers: Courtesy of Toyota
The Lexus RX jump-started the midsized luxury crossover craze in the late '90s with charming styling, a comfortable ride, and compelling features. Nearly two decades on, it's the best-selling vehicle in the Lexus stable and has been the top-selling model in its class since it was born. Now it's reborn again.
Photo 2/54   |   2016 Lexus RX 350 F SPORT Driver Side Rear Quarter View
The all-new, fourth-generation '16 Lexus RX gets a boost of refinement on all fronts but preserves the qualities that made it appeal to many buyers looking for a sprightly and safe compact ute with unique style. Its update brings a new attitude of expressive tailoring, improved performance, advanced technologies, and a bigger cabin. Toyota's luxury division took the wraps off the flashy new-gen RX at the 2015 New York International Auto Show, garnering praise for its floating-roof design, bolder trademark "spindle" grille, and its engineering enhancements.
The '16 Lexus RX comes in a 350 gas version and a 450h hybrid. Both are available in front and all-wheel drive and each has a souped-up F-Sport model with unique trims and boosted performance attributes, as well. Competitors in this ever-growing crossover segment are the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, Porsche Macan, Lincoln MKX, Volvo XC60, and nearly a dozen others.
Photo 6/54   |   2016 Lexus RX 450h Driver Side Profile
Lexus designers fashioned the newest model to represent sophistication with an edge. Its highly sculpted form is cultured and urbane, with chiseled contours. Concave, angular lower panels run the length of the doors, while a more traditional convex line runs the length of the body at door handle height; rocker panels are penned with an upward kick. The crossover remains 67.7 inches tall, has a slightly increased width of 74.6 inches (up 0.4), is 4.7 inches longer at 192.5 inches, has a 2 inch longer wheelbase, and has slightly increased ground clearance.
The hood is split by carved lines from two contours that converge at the nose. The most notable and edgy feature is its stretched hourglass-shaped black grille with thick chrome surround. It has a fierce look and is a size of almost menacing proportions. Arrowhead-shaped fog lamps punctuate attractive, slanted headlamps, and LEDs come front and rear in the Lighting Package. The tailgate design is sharpened, and a new optional hands-free liftgate allows easy opening of the back by waving a hand or an elbow near the Lexus badge. Optional 20-inch wheels also stand out from the crowd with colored inserts in titanium, black, pearl white, or copper, while 18-inchers are standard. All sizes shod with Michelin Premier LTX tires with a novel technology that extends the life of the tires. A rumored three-row version may debut in 2016 as a '17 model.
Photo 7/54   |   2016 Lexus RX 450h Shifter
The base RX comes an 8-inch touchscreen that is paired with a heads up display (HUD) to project navigation, speed limit, tachometer, and more on the windshield. A 12.3-inch Electro Multi Vision Display (EMV) screen is also available. An optional Mark Levinson 15-speaker sound system upgrades the base audio. All versions come with the Lexus Safety System +, which includes Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert (LDA) with Steering Assist, and Intelligent High Beam. LDA and Sway Warning sense movement out of the lane and gently correct, whereas Intuitive Parking Assist uses front and rear sensors to detect objects. An available Panoramic View Monitor gives the driver a 360-degree view from above of the car.
Photo 8/54   |   2016 Lexus RX 350 Passenger Side Front View
Under the hood both the 350 and 450h come with a redesigned and more fuel-efficient 3.5L direct-injected V-6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 350 produces 295 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, and the 450h produces 308 total system horsepower with instant torque from 0 mph due to the electric motors. It has an intelligent, fuel-saving E-Four AWD system.
The RX's redesigned powerplant features Lexus's D-4S fuel injection system that optimizes driving by optimizing combustion—A high-pressure fuel system injects fuel directly into the cylinders, while a low-pressure system injects into the ports. Variable Valve Timing with intelligence Wide (VVT-iW) maximizes torque throughout the rev range on intakes, while the exhaust side gets VVT-i. Combined, the technologies maximize torque and aid fuel economy.
Photo 9/54   |   2016 Lexus RX 450h Front View
We sampled each version of the new RX 350 AWD over a course of 150 miles in Portland, Oregon, and were impressed by the quietness of the cabin as a result of improved aerodynamics and drag coefficient that come from front and rear spoilers and new aero stabilizing fins, along with other drag-reducing features, such as a rear diffuser beneath the rear bumper on the hybrid. Notable is improved visibility, with Lexus having slimmed down the pillars framing the windshield and the rear C-pillar giving the driver a wider view in all directions, including rear blind spots. The digital gauge cluster has the look of a classic analog gauge with the modern touch of features like changes in mood lighting, depending on the drive mode selected. Also of note is the power on tap, smooth-shifting transmission, upgraded brakes, and comfortable ride that comes from refinements to the front-strut and rear double-wishbone suspension system to increase handling prowess and rigidity. Additionally, the RX's electric power steering has also been tweaked for precision.
With six different drive settings (Normal, Eco, Sport, Sport S, Sport S+, and 450h-exclusive EV), the drive experience changes as well as some cabin settings. Eco monitors the throttle response and the interior climate control, while Sport S and Sport S+ are available with RXs that have Adaptable Variable Suspension (AVS) and are engineered to give increasing levels of a performance-oriented suspension. EV lets hybrid drivers operate the car purely off electric power and completely shuts off the gasoline-powered engine. Additionally, enthusiasts can customize the driving experience of F-Sport models through the dashboard display screen.
Originally, the RX was built at the Miyata plant in Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan. While worldwide production continues at this plant, RXs for North America have been manufactured at Toyota's Motor Manufacturing Canada plant, in Cambridge, Ontario, since 2003. The hybrid's transaxles are built at the Kokura plant in Fukuoka.
Photo 13/54   |   2016 Lexus RX 350 Passenger Side Rear Quarter View
2016 Lexus RX; Compact Luxury SUV/Crossover
Engine: 3.5L V-6
Transmission: 8-speed
Horsepower: 295 @ 6,000 rpm (450h: 308 hp)
Torque: 267 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Fuel: premium unleaded
Fuel Capacity: 17.2 gallons
EPA estimated fuel economy: 350 AWD: 19/26 city/highway; 350 FWD 20/28 city/highway; 450h AWD 30/28 city/highway; 450h FWD 31/30 city/ highway.
Curb weight: 4,740 pounds (AWD); 4,608 pounds (FWD)
Photo 20/54   |   2016 Lexus RX 450h Driver Side View
Photo 27/54   |   2016 Lexus RX 350 Center Console
Photo 34/54   |   2016 Lexus RX 350 Passenger Side Front View
Photo 41/54   |   2016 Lexus RX 350 Center Console
Photo 48/54   |   2016 Lexus RX 450h Driver Side Rear Quarter View

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