Words and photos by Kevin C. Limjoco
Now on its 3rd generation, the Lexus RX-series was one of the pioneering crossover vehicles beginning back in 1997. Until the current spindle-adorned RX, the older generations and their sub-variants were mostly appealing because of their sublime interior comforts, passenger luxuries with technology and raised silence when being cosseted around urban areas. They were not lookers, but they were very nice to drive (effortless and consistently silky smooth), always very comfortable and full featured albeit emotionless. Lexus wants to change that perception by producing the RX-series with emotion and driver connectivity beyond electronics.
Let us begin with the extremely versatile Toyotabuilt 3.5-liter (2GR-FE) V6 engine that has enjoyed duty in a Lotus Evora to a Toyota Previa. The same potent engine has been mated to both 5-speed and 6-speed transmissions before so with the new Lexus RX350, in F-Sport trim, receiving an 8-speed gearbox I was certain that the extra gears would extend the engine’s abilities even further for both better fuel economy as well as drivability. And I would be correct.
Our Nebula Gray Pearl 2014 Lexus RX350 F-Sport test unit was everything I had hoped and more. The new package incorporates firmer shocks and springs, more aggressive bodywork, contrasting white stitching on the exquisite black leather, aluminum pedals and mean-looking 19” dark graphite alloys. Other neat features were a head-up displa (the HUD uses high-intensity LEDs displaying high contrast white figures on the windshield allowing it to be read in direct sunlight), and a 330-watt 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system among a long list of standard equipment. One other new system included was the Dual Screen Rear Seat Entertainment system featuring Lexus Enform which I didn’t bother testing this time around as I am always in the pilot’s seat and I was eager to discover the limits of the new Lexus, I wanted to concentrate all my attention to its dynamic abilities.
Well I found those limits fairly quickly. The sport suspension maybe more taut and does offer tangible feel of what the RX is doing, but oddly enough it still wallows easily through even moderate corners. The lines are held in fairness but you are rocked about more than expected. The steering is very good in the beginning but tends to get overworked if you drive aggressively for sustained periods. The RX is no BMW X5 on any dynamic measure but it does make up for it with outstanding fit and finish together with absolutely fabulous seating comfort. The RX350 still understeers and behaves like a tall front wheel drive wagon.
The new gearbox definitely makes the RX350 a more enjoyable crossover to drive but I had hoped that Lexus had slipped in the direct injection 306 bhp powerplant from the incredible IS350 F-Sport and channeled most of the power primarily to the rear wheels; perhaps this will happen next year.
ENGINE: V6, 3456 cc, dohc 24V, VVT-i, 8-Speed AT
MAX POWER: 270 bhp @ 6200 rpm
MAX TORQUE: 248 lb ft @ 4700 rpm
0-100 KM/H (0-62 MPH): 7.6 sec.
TOP SPEED (MPH): 180 km/h (112 mph) Governed
FUEL MILEAGE: 18 mpg City / 26 mpg Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: US$ 56,534.00
+ : Peerless in its segment in terms of outright comfort and luxury, can be quite swift, more characterful than ever before.
– : Still needs more character and oomph, electronically speed governed.