2016 Lexus RX 350 and 450h First Drive – F-Sport Hybrid Impresses

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A few weeks ago, Lexus flew me out to Raleigh, North Carolina to check out the all-new 2016 Lexus RX 350 and 450h SUVs. Avid readers of this site know I am a pretty big fan of the outgoing models and these new ones have big shoes to fill. Can they? I’m a bit mixed.

2016 Lexus RX 350 and 450h First Drive - F-Sport Hybrid Impresses

The RX styling is a big departure from the previous generation.

For the all-new 2016 models, Lexus went back to their original chief engineer to lead the way. This is a bit unusual since chief engineers put their hearts and souls into vehicles to perfect them. Going back and trying to identify weaknesses in a vehicle you thought was perfect is indeed a tough task. However, they did just that.

2016 Lexus RX 350 and 450h First Drive - F-Sport Hybrid Impresses

Here is a picture of the prior generation for comparison.

While the SUVs get a slew of upgrades, many of these are simply company directed carryover improvements. For example, the styling is the new “design language” Lexus is using throughout their lineup and the addition of the Lexus Safety System + is a company wide mandate as well.

2016 Lexus RX 350 and 450h First Drive - F-Sport Hybrid Impresses

Sharp styling lines accentuate the front.

Beyond the styling, the powertrain improvements (the nitty-gritty) are the real improvements. The 3.5L V6 gasoline engine has a slew of improvements including an all-new cylinder head design with reshaped intake ports and combustion chamber. This design combined with the “new to the RX” D-4S fuel injection system (sound familiar Tacoma fans?) improves horsepower and efficiency. Mate this this newly updated engine ┬áto a new 8-speed transmission (yet another vehicle with the 8-speed) and you have a much more powerful vehicle. But, that’s not all. Lexus is adding the VVT-iW timing on the intake along with the Atkinson cycle to improve fuel economy.

2016 Lexus RX 350 and 450h First Drive - F-Sport Hybrid Impresses

This is Lexus 3.5L V6 engine which is pretty good. Not quite as good as the hybrid.

The real head turner though is the re-engineered 3.5L V6 hybrid engine. Why is this so good? It now comes with the higher performance F-Sport mode. With the flick of a dial, you can change the hybrid from a fuel-sipping, low emissions SUV into one of the most fun-to-drive SUVs you will find in any lineup. While driving this variety around, I was doing impromptu 0-60 runs and it was really, really good.

On paper, the numbers match what I was feeling. The 2016 Lexus 450h goes 0-60 in 7.7 seconds in FWD and 7.9 seconds in AWD. Without the Lexus hybrid drive system, it produces 259 hp @6000 rpm and 247 lb-ft of torque @4800 RPM – total system HP is 308. All of this speed doesn’t take away too much from the fuel economy which is EPA-rated at 31/30/30 MPG city/highway/combined for FWD and 30/28/30 city/highway/combined for AWD.

2016 Lexus RX 350 and 450h First Drive - F-Sport Hybrid Impresses

Plenty of cargo room in the rear with the tonneau cover to hid valuable items from prying eyes.

Contrast the hybrid performance with the non-hybrid and I think the hybrid stands out even more. The gasoline version produces 295 hp @6000 RPMs and 267 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 RPM – not too much of a difference, but 25 hp better than outgoing model. With the same 0-60 times, fuel economy is the big factor. The V6 gas returns an EPA-estimated 20/27/23 city/highway/combined MPG for FWD and 19/26/22 city/highway/combined MPG for AWD.

2016 Lexus RX 350 and 450h First Drive - F-Sport Hybrid Impresses

Roomy and comfortable interior.

What about price? The starting MSRP for both is quite a bit of a difference. A stock RX with the V6 gas stock starts at $41,900 while the hybrid starts at $52,235. Keep in mind, the hybrid does come standard with navigation.

2016 Lexus RX 350 and 450h First Drive - F-Sport Hybrid Impresses

A new feature for the RX is the ability to hover a hand or elbow over this logo to get the rear hatch to pop open.

Besides the powertrain, there are a variety of new items in the RX including:

  • 8″ center multi-display (optional 12.3″)
  • Panoramic Moonroof
  • Touch-free power rear door (hover hand, elbow over the back logo and door opens)
  • New, large 11.6″ rear-seat entertainment LCD displays
  • Lexus Enform upgrades with vehicle maintenance┬áreminders
  • Panoramic view monitor for backing out and parking
  • Host of safety features like lane-departure assist, rear-cross traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control
2016 Lexus RX 350 and 450h First Drive - F-Sport Hybrid Impresses

The big change here is in the rear glass on the C pillar. It has the new styling trend of putting glass there instead plastic.

All in all, the new Lexus RX 350 and 450h are improvements in many way. Why then am I mixed? I’m concerned the styling is going to polarize people and I’m not sold on the entertainment and technology feature improvements. While the larger screens are nice, I wonder if they are now so big, they are a bit distracting.

2016 Lexus RX 350 and 450h First Drive - F-Sport Hybrid Impresses

I’m not sure larger is always better.

Also, there are only 2 USB ports in the entire vehicle and the rear-seat DVD screens cause me a lot of concern on durability. For example, when my boys see them, they are going to immediately start kicking them with their feet. I really don’t want to be yelling at them to keep their feet down the entire time I am driving the vehicle.

2016 Lexus RX 350 and 450h First Drive - F-Sport Hybrid Impresses

This model has the standard 8″ center multi-display above the clock. The larger 12.3 inch really fills the above dash space and could be distracting. The cabin feels better than the prior generation especially with an improved gear shifter (prior generation has a oddly placed stick).

Finally, Lexus dumped the Qi wireless charging system from the previous generation. Why? They found the take-rate and interest was abysmal. While I can see their point of view, the reality is the Qi wireless charging system is just so new, people aren’t sure how it works. Once it catches on, it will be a big hit with cell phone makers advertising this handy feature. What then? Lexus will have to rush to add it back. Considering it is probably a $10 part for them to add to the vehicle during the manufacturing process, I question this thinking like I question why isn’t Lexus (and Toyota) more focused on technology upgrades.

Filed Under: TundraHeadquarters.com

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  1. Anthony says:

    Awesome SUV … I’ll have to take this for a spin soon!

  2. Breathing borla says:

    looks pretty cool, just a lot of coin for something that small.

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