Review of: 2014 Lexus RX 350 AWD 4dr F Sport
2014 Lexus RX 350 F Sport: It's vanilla, but it's good vanilla
By Jil McIntosh
Apr. 4, 2014
While it’s usually not high on a lot of drivers’ trend-o-meters, I’ve always thought highly of the Lexus RX. It may be vanilla, but it’s good vanilla, and I like the way it rides and drives. It’s even better in my tester, the RX 350 F Sport, which adds an eight-speed transmission for smoothness, and a buttoned-down suspension for better handling.
The basic RX 350 starts at $46,150, while the F Sport’s sticker begins at $55,400 (you can also get the RX 450h hybrid for $62,300). My tester was further optioned with a package of upgraded stereo and electronic safety gadgets, bringing it to $58,850.
Pros & Cons
- + Well-matched engine/transmission
- + Throttle response
- - Value for money
- - Technology
- - Steering feel
The RX underwent a transformation for 2013, which considerably sharpened its edges and added the new Lexus signature “spindle” grille.
The F Sport adds handsome 19-inch split-spoke wheels, auto-levelling HID headlights, and a whack of F Sport-exclusive features, including unique front-end styling, steering wheel, badges, door sill trim, and badges.
The RX’s asymmetrical dash looks good, and the centre console is augmented with wood and metallic trim in just the right amounts. The nicely-sized F Sport steering wheel is sweet, but the bright aluminum pedals are a bit out of sync with the luxury look of the dark interior.
Heated and ventilated perforated leather seats are standard, and they’re very comfortable and supportive. Rear-seat passengers get lots of legroom, and I love how those back chairs fold: it’s a one-handed operation to pull a lever and watch them drop flat to increase cargo capacity.
A seven-inch screen tucks into the upper dash, housing the standard stereo, satellite radio, and voice-activated navigation system. On mine, the music was upgraded by an optional 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system.
That centre screen doesn’t work by tapping it with your fingers. Instead, it uses Remote Touch, a joystick mounted in the centre console that feels and works like a computer mouse. I have a love/hate relationship with it. It’s simple to use, but it’s also very sensitive, and it can often be tough to hit the icon you’re trying to access without going past it.
My vehicle’s option package also included a blind spot monitoring system, parking sensors, and a head-up display. I like head-up systems, which display speed and other information on the windshield, and I especially like that the Lexus’ version uses hard buttons to fine-tune the display height and brightness. Some manufacturers bury those adjustments in the computer screen, which takes too long if you just want to make a quick tweak to it.
All RX models use a 3.5-litre V6 that makes 270 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, but while the regular RX 350 mates that to a six-speed automatic, the F Sport swaps in an eight-speed automatic with wheel-mounted paddle shifters. It’s a great powerplant, and the eight-speed shifts smoothly but doesn’t overwhelm the engine or hunt for gears; these two units were made for each other.
Published fuel figures are 11.2 L/100 km in the city and 7.7 on the highway, while I averaged 12.2 in combined cold-weather driving.
The tuned suspension doesn’t really feel all that sporty, although it settles well around turns and stays balanced on rough roads, and the ride is very comfortable. The steering is too light to be a sports model, but I still like it for an everyday driver: it’s nimble through traffic and holds its line on the highway.
The all-wheel system automatically distributes torque from front to back as needed, but if you’re trying to get out of a snowy or muddy driveway, you can lock it into all-wheel, where it stays until you hit the brakes or exceed 40 km/h.
As much as I like the RX 350, I think it’s a bit pricey at the F Sport level. The base RX at $46,150 is pretty much in line with most of its competition, but the step up to the base $55,400 F Sport is a steep one, especially when there’s no bump in power to the engine. For all that was in my tester, I couldn’t quite see almost $59,000.
The RX has been around for a while, but I think it still feels fresh. It’s not for everyone: stacked up against the performance crossovers out there, its handling falls far short. But I could certainly live with it every day, whether it’s on a trek to the grocery store, or a summer driving vacation to the other side of the country. It may not be on your test-drive radar, but it’s definitely worth a look.