Miles driven: 658
Fuel used: 30.9 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 21.2 mpg
Driving mix: 35% city, 65% highway
|CG Report Card|
|Room and Comfort||B+|
|Power and Performance||B-|
|Fit and Finish||A|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Engine Specs||295-hp 3.5-liter|
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 19/26/22 (city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Regular gas
Base price: $51,750 (not including $1025 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Blind spot monitor with intuitive parking assist, panoramic-view monitor, and rear cross-traffic braking ($1865); Cold Weather Package ($315); color head-up display ($600); panorama moonroof, aluminum roof rails ($500); 12.3″ navigation system w/ Mark Levinson 15-speaker premium audio system $3365); touch-free power rear door with kick sensor ($150); door-edge guard ($140); mud guards ($155); running boards ($640); all-weather floor liners and cargo mat ($280)
Price as tested: $60,785
The great: Cabin trimmings, all-around refinement and ride quality
The good: Infotainment control system is improved for 2020; F Sport Performance models’ sporty tuning and add-ons provide a more-engaging driving character
The not so good: Sloped rear roofline slightly compromises cargo capacity and visibility to the rear corners
When Lexus hands out letter grades, it gives an F to its fastest learners like the GS F sedan and RC F coupe. Many others—sedans, coupes, and SUVS—get by with better-than-passing F Sport marks that suggest they, too, could be straight-F students if they just applied themselves.
Several luxury-label automakers do likewise, producing sporting vehicles that really can be graded on the curves while also turning out some teacher’s pets that have the look of the overachievers without their full honor roll. One of the latter at Lexus is the 2020 RX 350 F Sport premium-midsize crossover that Consumer Guide had the chance to test.
With a starting price of $52,775 including delivery, our test vehicle was an F Sport Performance model, which sort of is the RX F Sport’s extra-credit project. Over a regular F Sport, the Performance model adds an adaptive variable suspension, specifically calibrated electronic power steering, traction-preserving “Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management,” and a second-level “Sport” driving mode into the mix with, just for fun, a heated steering wheel and an underhood “sound generator” to help sell the notion of heightened performance.
Even without the Performance goodies, the F Sport shows up to class with front and rear performance dampers, 20-inch alloy wheels, specific grille and bumper design (both somewhat changed for ’20), an F Sport steering wheel, better-bolstered front sport seats that are heated and ventilated, driver’s-seat memory function, scored-aluminum trim on the console and front doors, stainless-steel rear-door trim, LED ambient lighting, and a power moonroof. There are paddle shifters for the 8-speed automatic transmission, dual-zone automatic climate control, the new availability of Android Auto smartphone compatibility (to go with the existing Apple CarPlay connectivity), a 9-speaker audio system, satellite radio, Wi-Fi hotspot, power tilt-telescoping steering column, and a power tailgate. The standard suite of safety features is upgraded to Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 for 2020, and includes a pre-collision system with low-light pedestrian detection, daytime bicycle detection, all-speed adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, and a lane-centering feature.
A few of those items were superseded by some of the many options applied to the $60,785 test truck. Audio was a premium Mark Levinson 15-speaker system with navigation, the moonroof was in extended panorama style flanked by aluminum roof rails, and the liftgate was a foot-activated hands-free job.
All RX 350s come with the same engine and transmission, a 3.5-liter V6 and 8-speed automatic, though 5-passenger base and F Sport 350s get 295 horsepower out of the powerplant while it makes 290 in the 7-seat 350 L. Acceleration, unspectacular in “Normal” mode, gets a little livelier when the console control dial is turned to Sport. The aforementioned sound generator is a modified air intake intended to ratchet up induction noise as a signifier of power (rather than, say, a burbling exhaust), but nobody who values the RX for its historically refined manners will be put off by this frankly subtle device.
Outfitted with all-wheel drive—which costs $1400 more than the front-drive layout—the 5-seat RX 350 is rated by the EPA at 19 mpg in city driving, 26 mpg in highway use, and 22 combined. This reviewer charted just 18.0 mpg in a stint of 185 miles made up of 55 percent city-style operation, but colleagues who put more highway miles on the tester pushed our aggregate mileage above 21 mpg.
The Sport setting not only tinkers with the responsiveness of the throttle, it also heightens steering feel a little bit. “Sport S+” that comes in the Performance Package further tweaks steering and suspension firmness. The almost pillowy standard-state ride does feel somewhat starchier in Sport S+, and road imperfections become a bit more audible. Brake action instills confidence.
The most welcome change to all RXs in 2020 is touchscreen manipulation for the infotainment system. Anybody who ever grumbled (and it’s a big club) about the fidgety remote-control “mini-mouse” on the console that was the only way to work the system is now free to tap directly on the screen to access and set radio stations and other functions. The test vehicle was equipped with a big, bright 12.3-inch screen in place of the standard 8-incher, all the better for viewing the navigation map. This being a Lexus, a central control remains, but it has been switched to a touchpad that is slightly less distracting than the old mouse knob.
Leather-like NuLuxe upholstery is now standard in all RXs. CG’s tester had dramatic Circuit Red NuLuxe splashed on the seats, console, and door armrests. Generous passenger room shows up in both seating rows, but the panoramic sunroof may crowd headroom for taller passengers. Three chummy adults can fit in the rear seat, aided to some degree by a modest floor tunnel. Rear seats recline and slide for added comfort in the quiet cabin. Slender A-pillars aid driver vision that is good to all but the far rear corners. Though step-in height is a little elevated, it shouldn’t pose too great a challenge to most passengers. The test truck was outfitted with optional running boards that actually got in the way of easy exits, and yet weren’t that necessary for entry.
There’s good storage space thanks especially to a pretty big glove box, a useful covered console box, pouches on the backs of the front seats, and a covered bin in the pull-down center armrest. Cup holders reside in the console and rear armrest. Out back, the stylish slope of the tailgate reduces some load space. Things get better when the 40/20/40-split second-row seats are folded. When down, the seats do rest a couple of inches above the level of the flat and wide cargo floor.
Considering that the RX is the top-selling Lexus, it’s obvious the manufacturer has gone to school on its midsize crossover SUV. F Sport or not, it makes the grade with lots of students of this class.
2020 Lexus RX 350 F Sport