Coronavirus aside, it used to be said that the spread of sport utility sales was quite contagious, too. Now, that automotive infection has turned into just as much of an epidemic, with SUVs…and pickups, too … overwhelming what was the status quo, car category.
A quite proper prescription to medicate the condition, however, happens to be the Lexus RX 350. Particularly, when the patient takes further treatment in a high dose of optional, F Sport supplement.
Lexus calls the RX “the pioneer luxury crossover,” which means that it’s a sport utility that’s built on a car platform…making it a “crossover” utility vehicle (CUV). To retain their leadership claim that the 350 was the first such offering in the premium category, the upscale Toyota divison hasn’t rested on its laurels. Its “elegance and captivating appeal” has been further enhanced for 2020 “…through improved driving dymanics, an updated Multimedia system, additional standard safety features and elevated styling that brings a new sophistication…” Some of which I agree with, some of which I don’t.
First and foremost, the RX 350 is clearly fun to drive! Particularly, the high-performance F Sport edition. Nimble and lithe, the Lexus is quite responsive yet compliant and comfortable. With logical dimensions for the crowded world we live in, a curb weight of approximately 4,300 pounds and Active Variable Suspension (AVS), the combination not only proved purposeful, but quite entertaining from behind the wheel.
On the flipside, while some think that the 2020 version has “a sharpened look,” I’m of the opinion that it displays a somewhat disparate amalgam of swoops, curves and design cues, which don’t necessarily meld together. And as usual, I’m also not a fan of the latest in-your-face, “distinctive” front grille design. Though obviously, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Power is provided by a 3.5-liter V6 engine (thus, the 350 designation) with variable valve timing, and 295 ponies (horsepower) that are ready and willing to gallop. The rubber meets the road by way of an eight-speed automatic transmission and Active Torque Control all-wheel drive…which intelligently monitors road conditions in real time, and adjusts front/rear drive bias as appropriate for utmost efficiency.
As far as the other new-for-2020 claims referenced above, Lexus combined convenience with connecticivity through a whole host of latest infotainment technologies. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto™ smartphone integration provide easy interface, while Amazon Alexa and Digital Voice Command (DVC) offer intuitive access and search capability.
The Lexus Multimedia touchscreen controls audio and climate functions, in addition to providing a view of what’s behind the vehicle via the backup camera. There’s an option to choose between the standard 8-inch screen and available 12.3-inch high-resolution, split-screen multimedia display. The premium suite of connected technology offers multiple ways to stay connected, including the three-year Lexus Enform Remote trial to remotely start the engine using select smart devices. The touchscreen includes larger touch targets (remember when we used to call them switches, knobs and buttons?) to minimize distraction.
If that’s not enough, once connected, HD music can also be enjoyed from apps like Spotify® and Pandora®, while messages may be sent through commonly used apps like WhatsApp®. The interface also allows for navigation via Google Maps™ or Waze. All that’s left for you to do is hit the gas, steer and go.
Once you do, you’ll not only be coddled, but cocooned by what’s been called “the most comprehensive safety system ever included in a Lexus.” A total of 10 air bags are included, as is Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Braking, Vehicle Proximity Notification, Radar Cruise, Stability Control and Panoramic View Monitoring. There’s also a Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system (VDIM), which helps prevent a skid before it happens through a combination of individual wheel braking, torque modulation and steering assistance.
Lexus Enform Safety Connect offers peace of mind with Roadside Assistance when it’s needed most. In the event of a collision or any other type of emergency, assistance can be sent directly to the RX’s GPS location. Safety Connect is included for the first three years of ownership.
For those of us who spend time on the shoreline, there’s an available Cold Weather Package which features windshield wiper rain sensing and de-icing, headlamp washers and a fast-response interior heating. Along with already incorporated seat heaters, of course.
All-Wheel Drive Lexus RX 350 F Sport pricing starts at $49,350, while my 22 mpg test CUV retailed for $60,105. Opting for the 2020 F Sport also provides 20-inch wheels, upgraded suspension components in addition to the previously mentioned AVS package and a full array of sporty interior enhancements and exterior body bits.
And oh by the way, to prove that the RX is not just some simple placebo, it does deliver. Because it happens to be the best-selling Lexus model in America.