Adorned with aggressive looks and F Sport badging, the performance line version of the Lexus RX350 is easily more attractive than its more subtle mainstream model. Looking at it you will immediately think: this is not your sister’s crossover.
|1. Available in FWD and AWD, the RX F SPORT features an eight-speed automatic transmission, sport-tuned suspension, a unique front bumper and mesh grille along with exclusive 19-inch split five-spoke wheels in a Dark Graphite finish.
2. The interior showcases perforated black leather-trimmed seats with white contrasting stitching, a black headliner, leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters and aluminum pedals.
3. With the same 270 hp 3.5L V6 as the rest of the RX lineup, the F-Sport gains an 8-speed automatic transmission to deliver improved fuel economy of 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.
4. F-Sport models are priced from $47,000.
While the base FWD RX350 starts at $39,310 and the AWD at $40,710, the F Sport trim is priced at $47,000. Undercutting the RX450h hybrid model by $310 it comes as a sole trim level without options.
DEEP BLUE SEE
The F Sport treatment makes the RX350 brasher, leaner and meanier. While from a profile it doesn’t appear to be overly unique, straight-on it gains a more dramatic front end.
All 2013 RX models boast the brand’s now trademark grille, although on F Sport models it’s more pronounced with custom bumper and mesh grille. Also notable are the LED daytime running lights and taillights with the L design motif, while fog lights are integrated into the more aggressive bumper.
Other notable exterior cues include the dark graphite 19-inch split-5-spoke alloy wheels, plus there are the obligatory F Sport badges.
F Sport models are offered with an exclusive Deep Sea Mica paint (dark blue), while other colors are more traditionally Lexus neutral. Handsome as it is, for maximum attention, we would recommend going with optional Claret Mica (deep red). This crossover is, after all, more about looks.
THE COOL NEW COCKPIT
Interior additions on the F Sport model add more flare but don’t do much to alleviate some of the standard model’s issues.
Luxurious with a hint of sport there’s plenty of perforated black leather with white showing through, plus white stitching throughout the cabin. A black headliner and aluminum pedals keep the cabin sporty, though the F-Sport steering wheel is too large to help – even if it does feature paddle shifters. A dark maple wood trim comes off as an odd choice for a sport-inspired car.
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Driving comfort is excellent with heated and ventilated front seats plus a seat memory system. Unaltered from the standard model in terms of their shape, the seats look more sporty than they are. A bit disappointing at first, for daily use and over long journeys the more typical SUV seat design is appreciated.
The large center stack does seem excessive and the gear shifter feels misplaced. There’s storage behind and below the sloped control center but access to it isn’t easy.
Drivers are treated to an interchangeable heads-up display (handy at times and distracting at others), plus there’s a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel and an electrochromic (auto-dimming) rear view mirror.
Pertaining to infotainment, the RX F Sport uses voice-activated HDD Navigation with an integrated backup camera and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system with subwoofer.
Impressively, despite sporting an F badge, utility isn’t compromised. In addition to significant front and second row space, the cabin gets large door pockets, multiple cupholders, and a 40/20/40 rear seat split for loading items. Cargo room continues to be best-in-class with 40 cu-ft behind the rear seat and 80 cu-ft total, while there’s also a storage area under the cargo floor.
STICKING TO THE ROAD WITH STYLE
Driving the F Sport, you won’t be fooled by its sporty physique. The drive is not extremely different from the regular RX350 because they share the same V6 engine, outputting 270-hp and 248 lb-ft of torque.
The similarities stop at the transmission, however, with the F Sport gaining two extra gears, totaling eight. With paddle shifters to help inject some sport, fuel economy benefits with an 18-mpg city and 26-mpg highway rating, better than the conventional models.
To help provide a more engaging ride, the F Sport model gains new springs and shocks as well as a unique set of chassis braces that use dampers to help firm up the ride, but also soften the discomfort that fixed systems can deliver. It’s not dramatically different from the standard model but is an improvement, while still offering a comfortable Lexus ride.
While not the dramatic sporty drive the brochures might promise, all things considered, there are only so many enhancements that can be made to the best-selling crossover before it no longer serves its purpose as a premium family hauler.
That said, while only marginally sportier and not exactly staying true to what an F Sport branded model should be, this special edition version does perform at a much higher level in the style category while maintaining and enhancing the rest of the features that make the RX such a popular choice.
It’s still your sister’s crossover, but now you’re going to want one too.