It's a Guy Thing

Cut Through Butter!

Melt away your troubles in the new Lexus RX 350 F-Sport 

Lexus has stiffened the new 2020 RX 350 F-Sport. Oh dear, does that mean it’s forgone all comfort to chase after a superfluous Nurburgring laptime? Were that the case it would put the new Lexus RX on a collision course with macho opposition that frankly Lexus doesn’t want or need. Nope, the RX 350 is still the comfiest, cushiest premium SUV on sale.

Changes to Lexus’s RX range focus on fine-tuning the cosmetics as well as the aforementioned chassis upgrades. We finessed both ends further with the optional F-Sport package, a relatively inexpensive addition that includes a broad range of value items. Across the range the headlights are slimmer, bumpers are more rounded while side and rear styling is tweaked to emphasize a coupe look with a (perceived) widened stance. Typical design incantation to our ears but one that masks the RX’s size well. Fans of fuss-free metal work might want to avoid the Lexus brand altogether.

Yet, a startling revelation, we spend our time inside cars listening to music, connecting devices and using whatever autonomous aids are available to us. The RX 350 F-Sport comes standard with a 15-speaker Mark Levinson system which is one of the car’s highlights. You’re also likely to be streaming that music; another reason to use the car’s onboard WiFi which comes with 15GB on free data with a top-up plan. Autonomous features like active cruise control and lane-keep assist are easy to enable (and disable) and are reasonably good at sedating the ongoing irritations of the daily commute. F-Sport seats are the best in the business (sorry Volvo) but we could do without the tacky aluminum pedal plates. Rear seating is very clever and techy for its class. You can heat them, slide them, recline them or fold them flat, electronically. 

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

Being a Lexus I am compelled to mention the touchpad interface and those dreadful black and purple graphics. The latter hasn’t changed but the accuracy of the cursor has improved with every generation. Creating separate buttons and displays for the climate has mitigated the touchscreen’s daily relevance while we found that voice control took care of the rest. 

For the new model, Lexus has enhanced the RX’s comfort. The rear anti-roll bar is 1mm thicker and now there is Active Variable Suspension, migrated from the Lexus LC. The driver can set the dampers between Normal and Sport but it’s not as binary as that because the system automatically adjusts through 650 other settings to deliver the smoothest ride. Even those 20-inch wheels with sporty rubber float across harsh surfaces like they’re filled with helium. 

We decided against testing hybrid version of the RX. I’m aware that doing so has portrayed us as a bunch of uncaring petrolheads who are to be the cause of our own species’ extinction. This is not true, the RX 350 costs a whack less than the RX 450h, is almost as fast to 100kph, thanks to being lighter, and doesn’t ask the uncomfortable question of sourcing – and disposing of – lithium-ion. It’s the better model, period. 

The engine is the same 3.5-liter V6 as before, and even before that. It’s not very special or fuel-efficient in any of the three modes and does not respond kindly to sudden overtakes – this is exasperated by the doziness of the gearbox. Yet these are rare instances that only the likes of nitpicking car journalists might complain about. Here’s another, steering feel: Not brimming with texture. 

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

One should always rank comfort and practicality at the top of any SUV shortlist. Do that and I can’t think of a better choice than the new Lexus RX 350. The way it detoxifies, and de-stresses is like booking yourself into a wellness center. The craftsmanship and quality finish is still there except this time there’s less of a gap between the way it looks and the way it functions.  Pawan Dhingara