Lexus: 2016 RX350 review

Lexus: 2016 RX350 review

In the late ‘90s, Lexus put together an SUV package that had everything, a driver of a slightly mature age would need, being excellent visibility, the latest in safety technology, seating and suspension that is pleasant on the spine, and looks the melt into the background.

Today’s Lexus RX isn’t the wallflower it once was. Lexus has modernised the design to the extreme. If I had to render the battle helmet of an evil robot overlord, the RX visage would be a good starting point.

Lexus RX350 2015 frontRather than the slightly lumbering and friendly look that it had, the Lexus RX can now shoot lasers and will attempt world domination at the expense of the human race.

The remainder of the design is equal as bold, playing with the surface angles in ways which hint that armaments might be concealed within the panels ready to emerge and dispatch Mazda Bongo and Toyota Elgrand drivers.

Lexus RX350 2015 sideThe good thing is that I like it. The floating roof idea, effected by the use of a black insert behind the tinted rear windows is cool.

There’s a deep crease at the door sill which gives the effect of muscle loins, and a high shoulder line which rises continuously from the bottom of the headlights to the top of the taillights.

Lexus RX350 2015 rearTwenty-inch wheels look like the right size for the body, and there’s chrome trim most notably surrounding the grille. Embrace it or run away from it, this SUV doesn’t look like it’s mucking around.

But mucking around is what I wanted to do, so I set off in search of some good gravel roads to give the four-wheel drive a test. I found them on the way to Te Arai, a couple of hours north of Auckland.

Lexus RX350 2015 front interiorThe first challenge for the RX350, though, was the enormous amount of holiday traffic which slowed everything to a pace reminiscent of a cat gingerly creeping towards a newly placed statue of a cat, trying to figure out if it’s real.

This traffic was found around Warkworth…someone will bypass it soon, hopefully. In slow crawling traffic, the RX350 is immensely smooth, but the eight-speed automatic gearbox is a bit ‘grabby’ from a standstill.

Lexus RX350 2015 rear seatsImpatience was alleviated by the significantly capable stereo system which is accessed (along with other vehicle systems) on a dashboard screen which can only be described as ‘cinema-like’.

Functions are controlled using a little joystick and either pushing the joystick or pressing one of the two ‘enter’ buttons. Pushing the joystick usually resulted in the cursor moving from the thing you wanted to select, so you rapidly learn to use the buttons instead.

Every evil robot overlord has to have an Achilles heel, and the RX350’s reared its head: the suspension manages to give a sort of bouncy-ish ride.

You don’t notice it on motorways or bumpy surfaces, but on our generic New Zealand state highways and minor roads it just doesn’t feel fun to drive, pitching into the corners in a way that’s, well, different to what I want.

Once onto the gravel the Lexus, with its suite of electronic anti-crash features, kept everything in quite a straight line despite me pushing it through some of the corners. On the brash unsealed road, the bumpy suspension was less evident except that it was occasionally noticeable when cornering.

If you’re a rear seat passenger, you will be pleased with both the shoulder and legroom. Front seat passengers have plenty of space, including door pockets for full-sized (1.25-litre) water bottles and a decent sized central binnacle and glovebox.

Driver and passenger get electric seats with heating and cooling, and the cooling has a subtle bias towards the upper back rather than trying to chill your perineum (which can be a little uncomfortable after a while).

Sitting between the NX and LX ranges, the RX350 is the mid-sized SUV in the Lexus range, but this doesn’t mean it is small. It’s almost 4.9m long and approximately 1.9m wide.

Don’t let the girth fool you: there’s a 221kW, 370Nm 6-cylinder, 3.5-litre engine ready to roar at the front. Fuel economy isn’t that flash: 9.6l/100km claimed, and I was well into the 11s for my time in it.

Looking at the competition, it’s stiff with the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 being the obvious choices, and they are both more athletic.

With its new angular looks, the RX350 follows Lexus’s most recent design language and creates an obviously aggressive statement.

It is plentifully appointed, but it’s not particularly fun to drive.

In fact, there’s so much gear it doesn’t seem like it’s the base model, but (amazingly) there is a Limited version above this which arrives with items that are either better or more (depending on which items we’re talking about).

Price: from $95,900

Pros

  • Technologically competent
  • Spacious

Cons

  • Bouncy ride

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