Getting Dirty in a 2016 Lexus RX 350 AWD F-Sport
When you think of the 2016 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport, you probably think of driving on city streets or along coastal highways enjoying the smooth roads while engaging the F-Sport mode for a bit of fun. What if instead you ended up on a seemingly never ending series of dirt roads? Can the luxury SUV handle the dirt or is it simply not equipped for that terrain? Thanks to some errant directions from the on-board navigation I found out and it wasn’t exactly pretty.
On a recent trip, I picked up a 2016 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport from the airport parking for the 200-mile drive home. Typically, I head north out of Denver through Cheyenne before turning east on I-80. However, the last few times I’ve made the trip, I have played around with heading directly south through the northern part of Colorado before picking up I-76 and the toll road to the airport. This is a more direct route and thanks to very little traffic (and police patrolling), I can sometimes make it to the airport much faster.
I selected this route for the drive home and once on I-76, I realized I wasn’t exactly sure which exit to take since I’ve only done this route a handful of times. No worry, I found the Lexus Destination Assist and told the operator my address. My address was immediately downloaded to the navigation system and I was advised to exit the highway in less than a mile. WIth no time to check the route, I exited and followed the rather odd directions which had me backtrack west before heading north. As I traveled the route, I was trying to determine where it was taking me to no avail. Chalk it up to jet lag or general stubbornness, I sheepishly followed along.
Things seemed fine and I thought maybe this was a new route I could explore to save even more time. This joyous thought was dampened somewhat when the navigation had me turn down a dirt road. I still was convinced things were fine since quite often in the country short sections of dirt roads connect major east-west roads. So, I started driving on the dirt. Then, I kept driving and driving and driving. Turns out, the navigation took me over 30+ miles of dirt roads and added another hour to my drive time! However, it did provide for an unexpected test of the Lexus SUV.
I did learn several things about the Lexus RX 350 F-Sport over the course of that long hour. For starters, on the freshly grated roads, it absorbed the road noise and it felt nearly as well as it does on the oil roads (paved roads). However, washboards caused a lot of discomfort at any speed with one memorable section making me nearly pull over.
The section was about 10 miles of dirt road used by oil companies which do some drilling in that part of the state. With the heavy tank trucks using the road, the conditions deteriorated rapidly as I get closer to the refineries and, at times, I can only assume the roads mirrored what post-explosion Afghanistan IED fields look like. Literally slowing to a crawl, the Lexus SUV did its best to maneuver over the terrain, yet it was woefully outmatched and the various adaptive suspension modes did little to help.
After the hour or better on these roads, with many stops to check the 20″ tires for damage, I emerged back on a 4-lane US highway. Making the turn onto smooth pavement, the Lexus RX 350 felt like it sighed and immediately returned to providing the comfort feeling associated with luxury products. Comparably, it was a really smooth ride home and the comfortable seats did wonders on my tired body. Plus, I finally got a chance to fire up the 3.5L V6 and enjoy all the fun the F-Sport package provides.
Overall, the Lexus RX 350 F-Sport did pretty well considering the circumstances. In all honesty, I would imagine even the Tundra TRD PRO would have had to slow down through some of the rough sections. What really helped the Lexus though, was the comfortable interior and responsive handling. I had plenty of control over the SUV and used this to my advantage picking my way over the various holes and rough sections. Also, the additional visibility along with driver seat position allowed me to spot the big ones and steer clear before bottoming out the undercarriage.
While I would not likely suggest this Lexus SUV for those living on miles of dirt (go with the GX or LX instead), it is still one of the best Luxury SUVs on the market for many reasons. Off-roading just isn’t its forte.
For more on the new 2016 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport, click here.
Model: 2016 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport AWD
Engine: 3.5L V6
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic with Paddle Shifters
MPG: 19/26/22 city/highway/combined
- Blind Spot Monitor w/Rear Cross Traffic Alert – $500
- Lexus Safety System + w/Triple Beam LED Headlights – $2,240
- Touch-Free Power Rear Door – $200
- Navigation System with 12.3″ multimedia display – $2,180
- Intuitive Parking Assist – $500
- Moonroof – $1,100
- F-Sport Heated Steering Wheel
Price as Tested: $56,995 with $940 Delivery Fee
Filed Under: TundraHeadquarters.com