2016 Lexus RX 350 and 450h Review: Sharpened Up, Technologically Advanced and Comfortably Familiar [Video]

2016 Lexus RX 350

The most popular and best-selling crossover SUV gets a complete makeover for 2016 and I get a chance to drive the new Lexus RX 350 and 450h, along with the all-wheel drive F SPORT versions. Considered the gold standard of luxury crossover SUVs, the new Lexus RX gets a fresh look, a completely restyled interior, a full suite of safety features, new engines with more power, and an improved infotainment system for all passengers.

A quick glance at the redesigned 2016 RX exposes a luxury crossover that is both familiar, yet clearly different. The new RX has great visual drama, especially when equipped with the optional F Sport package that adds an aggressiveness in the form of a mesh front grille, F SPORT specific front and rear bumpers, adaptive variable suspension, F SPORT chassis tuning, 20-inch aluminum F SPORT wheels, and injection-molded leather-trimmed front seats unique to the F SPORT.

2016 Lexus RX 350
2016 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

The new bodywork is wrapped around a stronger vehicle chassis for improved handling and better ride quality. Front facing is a bigger and bolder treatment of the Lexus spindle grille with LED lights everywhere – DRLs, fog lamps, and available triple-beam LED headlamps. Rearward is a floating roofline which uses a blacked out C-pillar to give the illusion the roof is separate from the rear fender line. The rear taillights wraparound the corners to connect the fender lines with the rear spindle image and receive the LED treatment, too.

Larger inside than the outgoing model, the five passenger 2016 RX adds an inch of legroom for both the front and rear seat passengers. Headroom increases 0.3 inches for the front and 1.4 inches for the rear seated passengers. Those seeking a third row will have to look at the Infiniti QX60, Acura MDX or Lincoln MKT.

When the new 2016 Lexus RX reaches dealerships this fall season, it will be offered as the RX 350 and RX 450h. F SPORT trims, available for both the gasoline and gas-electric hybrid models that have all-weather drive (AWD), feature an adaptive variable suspension that reacts to changing road conditions.

Under the hood of the RX 350 is a new direct-injection, 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 295 horsepower (25 hp more than the 2015 model) and mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Power is directed to the front wheels or in case of AWD, a dynamic torque vectoring system actively monitors wheel spin and steering angle. Traction is maximized on changing surfaces and road conditions by monitoring wheel speed and steering angles. Input from the sensors determine torque distribution from 100 percent at the front to 50:50 by way of an electronically controlled coupling.

2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport
2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport

The 2016 RX 450h uses an Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V6 engine assisted by electric motors, and regenerative brakes that recharge the crossover’s Nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Combined output is 308 horsepower. Pure electric vehicle (EV) mode has been added to the 2016 RX 450h, which has a short range of 20 miles at speeds 25 mph or less. I like using EV mode to glide along silently in heavy traffic or at slow-speed stop-and-go situations because it helps conserve gas and doesn’t emit hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.

The RX 450h AWD features a Lexus E-Four proactive AWD system that optimizes energy output and fuel consumption by limiting use of the all-weather drive only when necessary. When necessary, the rear motor acts as a generator to charge the battery when in regenerative braking mode. All of this is seamless and unnoticeable when driving.

RX 350 Driving Impressions

Designed as a luxury crossover SUV with emphasis on comfort and safety, no one would ever accuse the RX as being fast. With a manufacturer’s claimed zero to sixty time of 7.7 seconds for the FWD version, there are a lot of crossovers that are more performance focused. The good news is that the RX 350 does not feel slow. Acceleration is brisk, and the RX feels confident accelerating past slower traffic. A MacPherson strut front and double wishbone rear suspension help the RX feel planted on the road, and the steering — though not as precise as I’d like, provides a nice amount of feedback and a distinct on-center feel.

2016 RX 450h F Sport

The RX 350 has three drive modes (ECO, Normal, and Sport) that manage powertrain response, steering effort levels, and suspension tuning when the RX is equipped with the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS). Both 350 and 450h F Sport versions add two more drive mode choices – Sport S and Sport S+ – that further enhances drivetrain response, defines a sharper steering feel, and enables a stiffer suspension setting for flatter cornering.

The RX’s Normal and ECO driving modes work fine for most conditions, though I would often use the Sport modes for those times when the roads opened up and became curvy. The 5-seater doesn’t feel significantly different in Sport or Sport S+ mode, but that extra edginess does make the RX feel more aggressive in comparison with its comfy family transporter ego.

The 2016 Lexus RX is due to arrive in dealership showrooms late November. Official pricing has not been announced, but sources say that the base RX will have an MSRP well below $45,000.

Watch this video for more details about the all-new, fourth-generation 2016 Lexus RX.

2016 Lexus RX 350 Specs:

  • Engine: 3.5L DOHC V6 with VVT-iW
  • Horsepower: 295 hp @ 6300 rpm
  • Torque: 267 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic, electronically controlled CVT (ECVT-i)
  • Manufacturer estimated fuel economy (city/hwy/combined mpg): 19/26/22 (AWD), 20/28/23 (FWD)
  • Curb weight: 4,387 lbs (AWD), 4,222 lbs. (FWD)
  • Dimensions (length x width x height): 192.5 x 74.6 x 67.7 in.
  • Wheelbase: 109.8 in.
  • Ground clearance: 8.2 in.
  • 0 – 60 mph (mfg. results): 7.9 seconds (AWD), 7.7 seconds (FWD)
  • Top track speed: 124 mph (electronically limited)
  • Maximum towing capacity: 3,500 lbs.
  • Coefficient of Drag (Cd): 0.34

2016 RX 450h Specs:

  • Engine: 3.5L DOHC V6 with VVT-i
  • Horsepower: 259 hp @ 6000 rpm
  • Torque: 247 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
  • Transmission: electronically controlled CVT (ECVT-i)
  • Electric motors: three motor generators that drives the front and rear separately, and 3rd that supports the generator, engine starter, and transmission ratio control
  • Battery: 288V Ni-MH battery pack that outputs 37 kW
  • Total system power: 308 hp
  • Manufacturer estimated fuel economy (city/hwy/combined mpg): 30/28/30 (AWD), 31/30/30 (FWD)
  • Curb weight: 4,740 lbs. (AWD), 4,608 lbs. (FWD)
  • Dimensions (length x width x height): 192.5 x 74.6 x 67.7 in.
  • Wheelbase: 109.8 in.
  • Ground clearance: 8.2 in.
  • 0 – 60 mph (mfg. results): 7.9 seconds (AWD), 7.7 seconds (FWD)
  • Top track speed: 112 mph (electronically limited)
  • Maximum towing capacity: 3,500 lbs. (AWD only)
  • Coefficient of Drag (Cd): 0.34

New for 2016 (partial list):

  • RX 350: new 295 hp V6 with direct-injection and 8-speed automatic transmission
  • RX 450h: 308 hp from combined output of direct-injection V6 engine and electric motors
  • F SPORT trim available for both 350 and 450h AWD models
  • 20-inch wheels
  • Panoramic moonroof (AWD only)
  • Completely restyled interior
  • Available 12.3-inch multi-information display
  • Lexus Safety System+
    • Pre-collision w/pedestrian detection
    • All-speed dynamic radar cruise control
    • Intelligent high-beam
    • Lane departure alert with steering assist