Stick Shift: 2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

Stick Shift: 2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

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Back for another round in 2017 is Lexus’ best selling model, by a big margin, the RX350. Though not as obvious a first choice as it once was, with so many other enticing options available, the RX350 is still bringing plenty of punch to the fight. It’s fresh out of surgery, having just undergone a major cosmetic and attitude adjustment last year, to deliver a more expressive design and rapacious style. Now, one year post-op, the RX350 is still stopping traffic with its edgy appearance. Especially in F-Sport trim. With those striking 20” aluminum alloy wheels, chrome dual exhaust, an aluminum roof rack, sharp lines, big spindle grille, aggressively styled LED headlights over fog lamps, and that cleverly toned out C-pillar that gives the illusion that it’s floating.

Good as this 2016 redesign was, for the new year, not much is really different. Some previously optional safety features now come standard, and you can integrate your smartphone navigation straight into the RX through the GPS app. Even with so few changes, the RX350 makes a bold statement with just its raw curb appeal, making any owner feel special as he walks up and climbs aboard.

Image via Lexus.

Image via Lexus.

Once inside, the RX350 continues to impress. With Lexus, you can usually expect to be treated to an impeccable cabin. The F-Sport trim ups the ante even more by injecting plenty of sporty flair, like exclusive leather interior trim, aluminum pedals, shift knobs and metallic details on the gauges. The 12.3” navigation/system display sits front and center, with a vivid monitor that neatly organizes information visually, but continues to feel a little like having a dance partner with two left feet in its use. Best to make major system adjustments while parked.

Propelling the newest RX350 is the same tried and true 3.5L four-cam V6 engine, making 295 hp and managed through an automatic 8-speed transmission. Though acceleration leaves a little to be desired, especially when held up against some of its direct competitors, the RX350 is no slouch. The F-Sport model helps here too, adding legitimate performance without sacrificing that supple ride quality that makes the RX such a pleasure to drive, almost no matter the road surface. Adding adaptive variable suspension dampers, a sporty drive mode with enhanced engine sounds and more aggressive rpm mapping. You’ll also find paddle shifters tucked behind the leather wrapped steering wheel. All of this combines to create a nimble, athletic driving experience, making the RX350 feel much smaller than it is. Body roll is minimal and turn-in response is great, again, all while still making almost any road feel silky smooth.

Image via Lexus.

Image via Lexus.

As run-way ready as the RX350’s looks are, combined with that immaculately pieced together interior, and capable yet comfortable drive, it isn’t quite the automatic choice it once was. With cars like the Mercedes-Benz GLE, BMW X5 and Volvo XC90 hot in pursuit of its best-selling title, the limited cargo capacity, no third-row option and clumsy remote touch interface is starting to hold the beloved RX back. Hopefully these are issues that can be addressed in future models, ensuring one of our favorite luxury SUV’s firmly holds its place on top.

Price as tested: $57,815.00 

By: Brandon Randall 

 

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