When you’re the top of the pack, expectations are that you’ll be the best there is. The Lexus RX350 has been the top selling luxury SUV for some time now, and continues to be a leader in volume. The current generation features the most power, aggressive styling and performance this crossover has ever seen. On the inside, simplistic elegance is the name. Everything is where it should be, buttons and knobs do what they should, feel great and look good, too. Build quality is exceptional. She’s a whole lot of fun to drive in sport. There’s one glaring issue with the RX350, though, and it is borderline unacceptable in a vehicle north of $55,000.
As a luxury brand, Lexus is known for their obsession with perfection. Being in the interior of the Lexus certainly reflects that. There is painful attention to detail in how the RX350 is put together. Simplistic design ensures that everything is where you’d expect it to be. While many competitors are trending towards much more high-tech focus, Lexus has kept the RX350 refreshingly analog. There is no absence of technology, the RX350 is loaded with automated tech, but the interface is laid out in a simple, easy to understand. In general, it’s a dashboard that is refreshingly basic in what it does, without missing out on any of the features competitors do.
Built quality is top notch. Soft leathers, suede and padded plastics surround driver and passengers. Adding the F Sport package nets aggressive sport styling. It’s not the kind of thing traditional Lexus owners might be interested in. It does, however, greatly spice things up a bit. There’s spice under the hood, too. A spirited 295hp 3.5L V6 is mild mannered when eco mode is selected. Turn the dial once right for Sport mode, and again for Sport Plus. The RX350 becomes a very different vehicle entirely in this mode. Graphical changes on the LCD tachometer let you know when you’re about to have some fun. Acceleration becomes snappy, steering tightens and all-around suspension changes eliminate sway. Aggressive styling is matched by aggressive performance.
Passengers will find themselves with adequate space in the rear. Many of the creature comforts found in the front are carried into the rear. Power folding seats make expanding the trunk space quick and painless. Unless you’re sitting in the chair when somebody hits the button. They are located in the trunk, and beside the seat cushions. A panoramic moonroof opens with a single panel.
Lexus has equipped a Mark Levinson designed all digital sound system across their lineup. It certainly doesn’t have the most speakers, or the most watts, but it is the best sounding one in the market. Even topped up Merc or BMW systems sound on par, at best. Music lovers and audiophiles will immediately find this a buying feature. Infotainment controls come via a joystick of sorts, which snaps around to match the icons on the UI. A large LCD monitor adorns the center dash and encompasses command central for your infotainment. Clear and informative heads up display reminds you of where you’re going, how fast you’re getting there, and other bits of information.
With great attention to detail, excellent build quality choice, and an even better audio experience, the Lexus RX350 F Sport hits all the notes its competitors do.
The not so good
Complimenting the stellar audio system is a less than acceptable infotainment system, with connectivity from five years ago. Toyota’s shunning of Apple and Android automotive systems has left Lexus at a serious disadvantage with its competitors. Worse still, connectivity with the Lexus system barely goes beyond streaming music via Bluetooth. Contact importing is clunky, and making calls isn’t as intuitive as using competing systems. Getting text messages to read or display on the UI requires special permissions, something we couldn’t get sorted during our test. Such a high quality digital audio system required more audio throughput than Bluetooth could handle. Switching to modern connectivity, via USB, would negate this. As it was, there was gaps in streamed music, like how a YouTube video would buffer before broadband internet.
While the infotainment UI was fairly intuitive, being limited to the joystick controls was, well, limiting. Lexus makes the best of it by snapping it to icons or buttons on screen. It’s an interesting compromise, when a touchscreen or touchpad would have done the trick nicely. It works well for what it is, though.
Should I buy this car
Lexus has sold more RX350s than the competitors can muster. They also know their target customers well. Infotainment connectivity aside, there is a lot done right here. Of the mid-sized luxury SUVs, the interior and dash are this reviewer’s top pick. If you’re not fussed on infotainment, look nowhere else. Tech savvy buyers, however, might want look at what Acura or Audi has on offer. You’re just not going to get the deliciously simple interior design, or fantastic audio experience. But you will get your text messages read to you.