What Is It?
The 2016 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h hybrid represent a complete redesign for the popular midsize luxury SUV. They're bigger than before, boast more features and promise improved driving dynamics.
What's New About This Model?
The completely redesigned, fourth-generation Lexus RX is longer than the vehicle it replaces, with about 2 extra inches of wheelbase and nearly 5 extra inches of overall length. Much of the extra size has gone into opening up more space for rear passengers.
To go along with this added space, rear passengers will be treated to newly available luxury features like heated outboard seats and a panoramic sunroof. The driver should appreciate the new, optional color head-up display and 12.3-inch electronics interface screen, which compares to the current RX's 7-inch screen.
A strengthened body structure and improvements to the suspension, including a newly available Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), are said to offer better ride and handling. Rounding out the highlights is the new Lexus Safety System+, which bundles together a variety of advanced collision prevention technologies.
When Does It Go on Sale?
No official announcement was made, but we expect the 2016 RX to arrive at dealerships this fall.
How Much Does It Cost?
Expect modest price increases above the current models. The 2015 RX 350 starts at $40,970 and the RX 450h starts at $47,620.
What Kind of Standard and Optional Safety Equipment Is Offered?
Lexus was more forthcoming about the optional equipment than those items fitted to every 2016 RX. This includes LED head- and foglights, 20-inch wheels, a color head-up display, a large 12.3-inch electronics interface screen, heated rear seats, a power-folding second row, a dual-screen entertainment system with larger displays, and a hands-free liftgate that opens when you hold your hand over the Lexus emblem. There is also a variety of high-tech safety features described below.
For more information, read the 2015 Lexus RX 350 review to get an idea of what features were previously available and will likely be so again for 2016.
What's the Interior Like?
Just as it has for other recently redesigned and all-new models, Lexus has significantly upped its game for the new RX interior. Materials quality is outstanding and construction is impeccable, even on such early pre-production cars as those shown at the 2015 New York Auto Show. The design is also radically different and far more interesting, dominated by an available 12-inch display placed on the low, flat dash that meets a small center stack angled toward the driver. The center console is higher and wider (perhaps a bit too much, as it may impinge on the driver's legs), but it's what's placed upon it that really got our attention.
Lexus has returned to the joystick-style mouse to control the Remote Touch electronics interface. We were never fond of this controller, as it drew too much attention away from the road, but it was substantially better than the even worse touchpad that replaced it in the Lexus RC and NX. We'll have to see if there are any improvements to go with this quasi-positive regression.
Passengers will find an increase in rear legroom, which is certainly welcome but hardly a fix to something that was wrong with the existing RX. The backseat can also be folded by pressing buttons in the trunk or on the seat itself. Rumor also has it that the RX will eventually be available with a three-row variation to match the Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60.
What Safety Features Does It Offer?
Lexus is quite bullish about its new suite of technologies bundled into the Lexus Safety System+. These include a lane-departure warning and keeping system, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control and the Pre-Collision System (PCS).
PCS uses a camera and a laser sensor to detect vehicles or pedestrians ahead that could cause an accident. It will then provide additional braking force for the driver, or automatically brake in the event of driver inaction. Other available safety features include a multi-angle parking camera system, adaptive high beams and a blind spot warning system that also includes rear cross-traffic alerts.
How Many Body Styles and Trim Levels Are There?
There is only one five-passenger, midsize SUV body style available. There are three variations: RX 350, RX 350 F Sport and RX 450h
What Is the RX 350 F Sport?
As the name suggests, the F Sport adds a degree of sportiness to the 2016 RX 350, both in terms of style and driving dynamics. It gets a unique variation of the Lexus spindle grille and other special styling elements, 20-inch graphite-finish wheels, a unique gauge cluster, a sport steering wheel, transmission paddle shifters and exclusive interior trim choices.
The F Sport comes standard with the Adaptive Variable Suspension and an "active stabilizer system" that together promise to keep the big RX planted through corners and reduce body roll. This adaptive suspension is perhaps the biggest upgrade over the current RX F Sport, which handles well but rides poorly. This has the potential to improve both dynamic elements.
Every 2016 RX gets the Drive Mode Select system available on most other Lexus models, which allows the driver to select among various settings (Normal, Eco and Sport) for steering, throttle, transmission and stability control response.
What Kind of Engines and Transmissions Does It Have?
Details were light, but Lexus announced the RX 350 models will be powered by an upgraded version of the existing 3.5-liter V6. It will be direct injected and paired to an eight-speed automatic with the "aim to deliver 300 horsepower." The current RX 350 produces 270 hp, so barring a significant weight gain, performance should certainly improve.
The RX 450h gets a version of the same engine (albeit tuned for improved efficiency) paired to an electric motor for "around 300 hp." As before, both RX models will be available with front- or all-wheel drive.
What Models Will It Compete Against?
Acura MDX: Although Acura's midsize SUV has a third row of seats, it's realistically only for kids and for short distances. The MDX otherwise boasts size, features and performance that are similar to the RX, although it lacks a hybrid model.
Infiniti QX70: Infiniti's two-row midsize SUV can't compete with the RX's interior space, but its flamboyant style and engaging driving dynamics may appeal to those considering the RX F Sport. For those who DO need extra space, there is the three-row Infiniti QX60 that trades any semblance of driving pleasure for one of the most spacious interiors in the luxury segment.
Lexus NX 200t and NX 300h: Although the NX is not a competitor per se, those who don't need the extra space offered by the RX 350h would be wise to consider Lexus' smaller SUV. It provides similar quality and luxury, along with compelling performance.
Should You Wait for It?
Although it offers a few new optional features, including the intriguing adaptive suspension, the 2016 Lexus RX models aren't substantially different vehicles in concept than those they replace. The real question is: Do you like their new look better? That's ultimately the biggest change.