2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport – Review and Test Drive
The Lexus RX was one of, if not the first crossover to breach the then seemingly impenetrable market of truck-based SUVs in the U.S. and, since 1998, it has become a staple form of transport for suburban families and urban dwellers alike. In 2006, the RX became the first hybrid luxury crossover and, by the time the third generation RX was launched in 2010, the market was red hot, with an entry from nearly every carmaker. Lexus recently freshened up the RX 350, and it proved to be a pleasant surprise.
This particular SUV was Starfire Pearl (metallic white) with black perforated leather seats, and grey 19-inch wheels. Certainly less feminine than its garden-variety siblings thanks to its aggressive, sport-inspired F-Sport styling, it sits above traffic and provides good forward visibility, with a combination of a rear-view camera and blind spot warning to compensate for the limited rearward visibility.
The seats were large and supportive, but paled in comparison to the multi-contour seats in the GS tested last year, and the steering wheel was satisfyingly thick. I started the Lexus Remote Touch controller, which is essentially a mouse used to control the central (it used to be touchscreen). The only thing in the cockpit that I didn’t really like was the high console-mounted shifter, which reinforced that this car wasn’t going to win any drag races.
DRIVING THE LEXUS RX 350 F-SPORT
Despite sharing the 350 model designation with the GS 350 that I described as the automotive equivalent of my partner in juvenile delinquency from high school, the RX has a less powerful, 270 horsepower V6. F-Sport models are only offered with full-time all wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters mitigated most if not all of the disappointment that the RX didn’t deliver 306 horsepower. Power was constant and quite adequate, though an average of 20.0 mpg (11.8 l/100km) over 1,500 miles of mostly highway driving left something to be desired, especially with most competitors returning better fuel economy, and 300 horsepower.
Compared to the basic RX 350 AWD, the 8-speed automatic contributes a 2 mile per gallon improvement in EPA-estimated highway fuel economy and it actually makes the car quite responsive. There was no point at which the car felt low on power, and no matter what speed, a demand for passing speed went drama-free.
Handling was good, likely thanks to the sticky Dunlop tires and a tuned suspension. Despite bearing the F-Sport designation derived from Lexus’ LF-A supercar, this car isn’t going to put a smile on anyone’s face pulling out of a tight curve, nor should it ever find itself on a racetrack. The steering did, at least, provide satisfactory feedback, as did the ride, which could be characterized as a bit rough but most passengers described as smooth.
I drove the car in a variety of conditions including ice and snow and it handled quite well, unlike some other SUVs I saw on the side of the road.
My one issue with the car was braking. I experienced two instances that I would describe as unintended panic braking. In both cases, I was braking normally for a light when it felt as if the car had deployed its parachute brake. At least my iPhone landed face down, since my DSLR camera had flown off the front seat and landed on it with some force. Otherwise, braking was satisfactory, I should add.
Click here to continue to Page 2 – Lexus RX 350 F-Sport Technology and Specs
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