2016 Lexus RX 350 Reigns Supreme in the Segment It Invented

Sometimes automakers have to be careful with their own success. Take the RX for example, a vehicle that defined a new segment when it launched more than 17 years ago. That was the birth of the luxury utility vehicle and since then many have tried to dethrone the king. Does Lexus still reign supreme with the 2016 RX 350?

2016 Lexus RX 350/Images courtesy Lexus

2016 Lexus RX 350/Images courtesy Lexus

For its 2016 model RX, Lexus went back to the drawing board and has delivered an all-new midsize luxury ute for the masses. This fourth-generation vehicle brings more aggressive styling while not forgetting the comfort and amenities that got it here. In my week behind the wheel of the newest RX 350 I found many to be polarized by the edgier look of the new Lexus family of vehicles. One thing that was undeniable however is Lexus’ ability to deliver an overall solid performer.

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The 2016 RX lineup still features gasoline 350 models in front and AWD (where W stands for weather instead of wheel) and hybrid 450h gas/electric variant. All new RX models can be ordered with the F Sport package as well. Our tester was a “base” model RX 350 but with Lexus the term “base” is relative. The vehicle arrives with nearly every amenity or comfort feature one could wish for and at the end of the week we wanted for almost nothing else.

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Charting the changes for the 2016 model are proportions that see higher body panels and lower roofline for a more athletic look. Occupants sit a bit higher for a more commanding presence on the road and it feels as if Lexus added a ton of interior space inside the new model. Overall length has increased 4.7 inches with a longer wheelbase and ground clearance has increased nearly an inch. Wheel positions have been move forward and the spindle grille styling is even more aggressive in the new RX.

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The powertrain in the RX 350 consists of a nicely responsive 295hp direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 engine that delivers 267 lb. ft. of torque. It is mated to a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission with fuel economy rated at 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. Drivers can select one of three driving modes in the RX between Eco, Normal, or Sport, and manual shifting is available via the steering wheel paddle shifters. While we played with the various drive modes we found nearly all our needs met in Normal mode, even when the urge struck for more aggressiveness.

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Slipping inside the new RX the first thing you notice is the billboard across the top center dash. This is the infotainment display and it is huge – 12.3 inches wide to be exact. Enough real estate to work as dual displays providing more than enough information for drivers and occupants between audio, navigation, climate, and other vehicle systems. A controller in the center console allows the driver to “navigate” their way across the expanse of this display screen. The new RX also features a new color heads-up display for drivers, putting vital information higher in the sightline for safer driving.

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Thanks to the new dimensions, the 2016 RX features more rear seat legroom and more cargo space as well. Five occupants can ride in full luxury and the flat rear seat floor allows for more comfort for center passengers. Lexus interiors are some of the nicest around and the new RX is no exception. Leather is everywhere and craftsmanship is obvious, some may find themselves taking the long way to their destinations just to enjoy the RX experience a little bit longer.

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Pricing for the 2016 Lexus RX begins at $41,900 with our tester arriving with a final sticker of $54,025 thanks to quite a few add-ons (panoramic sunroof, Mark Levinson premium audio system, intuitive parking assist, touch-free power rear door, premium content package, Lexus Safety System+, etc.).

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Lexus created this segment and has enjoyed absolute success in it. This fourth-generation RX is destined to bring continued success to the automaker and not just because RX clients are very loyal. The new model will attract new buyers thanks to its more aggressive styling and driving experience as well its wide expanse of models offered. Lexus RX is still the king!


About the Author

David Goodspeed
David was editor of AutoworldToday at Today Newspapers in the Dallas suburbs until its closing in 2009. He was also webmaster and photographer/videographer. He got started doing photography for the newspaper while working as a firefighter/paramedic in one of his towns, and began working for the newspaper group full-time in 1992. David entered automotive journalism in 1998 and became AutoworldToday editor in 2002. On the average, he drives some 100 new vehicles each year. He enjoys the great outdoors and as an avid fly fisherman, as is his spouse Tish. He especially enjoys nature photography and is inspired by the works of Ansel Adams.