2016 Lexus RX first drive review Page 2

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The design is no doubt at its most dramatic in sporty F Sport form, where the bigger wheels and dark metallic finishes—as well as the crosshatched, blacked-out grille and sporty details inside, altogether help this design achieve a more serious, almost menacing look.

F Sport takes the personality to its peak

The F Sport is also the way to go if you want various other important performance upgrades, like a sportier suspension tune, front sport seats, and the Adaptive Variable Suspension system—as well as new driving modes that include Sport S and Sport S+ settings, affecting steering, suspension, transmission and throttle response, and the behavior of the all-wheel drive system.

That’s the model we headed to, after sampling the ‘lesser’ models of the lineup, which are perhaps a bit more pleasant-riding and progressive, because of their higher sidewalls and the greater degree of body lean that’s allowed.

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One of those lesser models worth considering, if for a moment, is the 2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport. Here, the high-mileage hybrid model, with its electrically driven rear wheels, is for the first time offered in edgier F Sport guise. While that does make the driving experience a little more engaging, and the hybrid’s 308 combined system horsepower makes this model just as quick as the gasoline-only model (exactly, by official times, at 7.9 seconds to 60 mph, with all-wheel drive), we’d pinpoint three reasons why it’s not as great of a drive.

The first of those is that while F Sport models get steering-wheel paddle-shifters, the planetary-drive system in the Hybrid still won’t allow you to hold a firm gear ratio; it instead allows you to vaguely raise the revs higher than they were before you clicked the left paddle, for instance. Secondly, the 450h is quite a bit (about 350 pounds) heavier, and it drives that way, with a more ponderous feel when you’re trying to make a quick change in direction (or tackle a hairpin curve).

Finally, it’s worth noting that Hybrids have somewhat higher seating in back (because the battery pack resides underneath). While Lexus has changed the seating angle and made sure that the second row is just as comfortable, taller riders are short an inch or two versus the RX 350 and may be pushing up against the moonroof enclosure if so equipped.

As sharp and responsive as a roomy comfort crossover can be

Stepping back to the model that best embodies this change of priorities for the RX—the RX 350 F Sport—it drives surprisingly light and responsive relative to other models in this class. Curb weights are down about 100 pounds versus the previous generation —closer to 150 pounds if you compare the new RX 350 F Sport to the previous version in that same guise.

In recently pushing that model through the paces on some tightly curved mountain roads outside Portland, Oregon, we found the F Sport’s body control to be really quite good, with a suspension that loads and unloads with aplomb (it’s usually the weak point for taller, larger crossovers) and an engine and transmission that feels on top of its game in the Sport S+ mode.

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