2016 Lexus RX350 expands its appeal without losing loyal followers

The 2016 Lexus RX350 sports a new larger spindle grille anchored by angular headlights and sharp angled air intakes. Copyright Ron Moorhead

The 2016 Lexus RX350 sports a new larger spindle grille anchored by angular headlights and sharp angled air intakes.   Copyright Ron Moorhead

The RX is one of the most popular of the SUV/CUV offerings in the Lexus line up. As the Lexus designers, engineers and marketing folks looked at the direction they should take the RX in this the fourth generation they realized they must tread lightly. When you have a winner such as the Lexus RX you must not alienate your loyalists. However, it is equally important to bring new owners on board to r3tain the momentum you have with the vehicle. It was imperative to keep the vehicle fresh while not distancing your loyal customers. Reading between the lines, that means attracting more male buyers.

Our initial impression as we walked into the media introduction and saw the vehicle for the first time was as if we were looking at the front of bullet train with a monstrous mouth ready to swallow everything in its path. The large spindle grill achieves the goal Lexus designers had in making the new Lexus RX350 more aggressive looking. You can also read that as moving the RX350 toward a more male buyer. Yet, not so much as to alienate the women who have swarmed to the RX for its versatility and luxury. All are incorporated here in even more dramatic ways.

The 2016 RX will be available in two distinct models, the RX 350, and the RX 450h hybrid, plus now the F SPORT will be available in both gasoline and hybrid models. Expanding the model availability will no doubt expand the interest and the market for those buyers who need adaptability and luxury but are interested in different driving modes.

Angles seem to be the theme of the 2016 Lexus RX350.

Angles seem to be the theme of the 2016 Lexus RX350.

Along with the dominant grille the front end design includes the available triple L-shaped LED headlamps that are coupled with turn signals comprised of 18 individual LEDs that circle the headlights. Though the body design flows easily from front to rear there are sharp highlight character lines that stand out and even seem a bit of a contrast to the flowing lines of the floating roof. The blacked out area that gives the roof a look of floating above the body also gives the impression there is a larger green house then there is.

Power for the Lexus RX350 comes from a 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline engine that produces 295 horsepower while developing 267 lb-ft. of torque. The direct injection intake system gives the RX 350 performance, fuel efficiency and lower emissions.

The RX 350 is powered by a 295 horsepower V-6 gas engine.

The RX 350 is powered by a 295 horsepower V-6 gas engine.

Auto manufacturers are expanding gearing in transmissions, especially automatics, and in this move gaining better fuel economy. However, they must also watch they do not lose performance. The eight-speed automatic in the RX350 offers close ratio gearing that provide robust performance both in acceleration from stops and passing maneuvers.

The RX400h is powered by 3.5-liter V-6 hybrid engine that combined with the Lexus Hybrid Drive system develops 308 horsepower and 247 lb-ft. of torque. Interestingly, Lexus makes all-wheel drive available in the RX400h and this year the F SPORT package.

One of the ways Lexus has developed to attract more male drivers is to offer the RX350 in an F SPORT version which amps up the sporty personality of the vehicle. The F SPORT raises the bar in handling curvy country roads by adding Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system. AVS controls the dampening at each individual shock absorber in response to road conditions along with driver input. Drive the RX350 F SPORT more aggressively and the system responds to increase handling abilities.

Redesigned interior displays modular angles throughout.

Redesigned interior displays modular angles throughout.

Let’s face it, modern day vehicles have become quieter and quieter, in fact, perhaps too much so. In response to the quiet environment found in the RX350 passenger compartment, the F SPORT receives a sound generator that uses the engine’s air intake to induce sounds of performance during acceleration in mid to high rpm ranges, thereby increasing the visceral experience of driving.

The F SPORT receives interior exclusives such as heavily supportive front bucket seats, a unique leather wrapped three-spoke, sport steering wheel and leather wrapped shifter. Adding to the sporty atmosphere is a heavy dose of aluminum trim including drilled, non-slip accelerator, brake pedals and foot rest.

It is easy to distinguish the F SPORT by its exterior features, most noticeable is the black-out mesh spindle grille. To include more highlights, designers added a satin finish lower valiance and black side mirrors. Also, exclusive 20-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels lend an aggressive and hearty foot print on the road.

It is a good thing that Lexus wants to maintain its solid presence in the mid-luxury SUV category because there are a large number of RX loyalists who are ready for something different and just might begin looking at other offerings. The manner with which Lexus has expanded the RX to bring in a larger audience, while continuing to satisfy loyal customers will no doubt keep the Lexus RX around for quite awhile. With the luxury, performance and fuel efficiency each model displays a lot more potential buyers will be heading to Lexus dealers for a look.