The Lexus RX – the original luxury crossover. And, still going strong.
I could end the story there. But, it keeps on coming back to this website. For good reason, mind you. It is what people with better incomes buy or lease.
The story may end here, but it won’t. In fact, it hasn’t. And, it may never will.
When I was working at the National Truck Summit in Minneapolis, I drove there in a 2020 RX 350 F Sport. This vehicle was picked up at the media fleet center in the Chicagoland area two days prior. I proceeded to take it to Iron Gate Motor Condos in Naperville for the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s meeting with Alfa Romeo. After I left, the RX 350 F Sport took me home afterward.
It was yet another chapter of a story that began in Cary, North Carolina in the fall of 2015. Perhaps one of the best media drive events I attended in this career. We were introduced to the RX's fourth-generation – a sharper-looking take on the original luxury crossover. It has done quite well for itself since.
Over three separate stints in the RX, along with another media event introducing the mid-cycle refresh of this model, I always concluded that this Lexus SUV has always been poised, quiet, and confident. Overall, it has provided me with consistent feedback to confirm what Lexus has done since giving us this angular iteration of the RX some five years ago.
What’s so different about this RX 350 F Sport over the various current-generation models I worked within the span of five years?
This particular one simply hit the jackpot.
If you ask me which Lexus RX you should buy or lease, it is this exact specification: the two-row version in the F Sport trim with all-wheel-drive and the Performance specification. Oh, and that Circuit Red NuLuxe upholstery!
Why this one? Before they added a few more inches for a third-row seat, the RX seemed already content for being a comfortable and spacious two-row luxury SUV. Of course, we wanted some personality from our RX, so we were given the option of the F Sport in either the 3.5-liter V6 or the Hybrid driveline. Still, making a choice requires making a decision on how you see the world and whom you would bring along for the ride.
I see the world with a combination of practicality and sport. The intersection of introversion and extroversion, if you will. But, a wolf in sheep's clothing it's not.
Let me talk you through the Performance Package that was included in my tester. The package includes Adaptive Variable Suspension, Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, Sport Steering, Front/Rear Performance Dampers, and 20-inch alloy wheels. These certainly helped the RX 350 F Sport’s cause and turned this mere SUV into something a bit more fun.
It probably explains why the RX 350 F Sport felt a little frisky. Which is really not a bad thing. It helped make this experience more enjoyable than previous fourth-generation RXs I worked with. There is the 295-horsepower V6 without the Hybrid driveline that offers pure power to this SUV. It feels light, the shifts are smooth, and the all-wheel-drive system works very well.
I must admit some disappointment with the fuel economy. Even as I crossed Wisconsin on Interstate 94 to get home and some additional highway miles in the Twin Cities, I managed only 19.7 MPG. Is that a deal breaker? I can think of other performance-based SUVs that could be less fuel efficient.
The ride is smooth. It maintains this smoothness on Sport S+ mode without any firmness. Again, Sport S+ also helps in cornering and overall handling. Again, no firmness was felt. Flip it to normal, and there is a tinge of softness even with a sports-specified suspension.
You are probably seeing a pattern here when I compare the driving experience in Sport S+ and Normal modes. Steering feel is pretty good; even better in Sport S+. You probably get that I prefer a heavier steering feel. Translation: better turning performance with solid feedback. As for braking, it is really superb. Pedal feel is good and offers great braking in normal and panic situations.
The driving experience is enhanced by those Circuit Red seats on the F Sport. They are supportive and, yes, the bolsters on the cushion do yield to your body. They feel firm, but you do have power adjustments for lumbar, rake, recline, and height to find your driving position, along with memory settings.
Rear seat room is great! I can sit behind myself without any tension. This is usually a test to see how rear – ahem, second-row – seating feels for adults. Yes, even those of us with long torsos standing above six-feet-tall and with some width in the middle.
Back in November, I remarked how the 2020 RX's 12.3-inch infotainment screen was moved up closer to the front seat occupants and is now touch-capacitive. I must say that it worked exactly as designed. It is a bit of a stretch to get to the screen, however. Still, I do have the touchpad and steering wheel controls to augment the screen.
There were a couple of things that kind of made me go "huh." There is a Sound Generator that gives you a sense that it has the same sound as, say, an RC F or GS F. The exhaust on the RX 350 F Sport Performance package emits a very lovely sound as it is. I’d rather open up the windows and listen to it live.
Then, there are the running boards that were equipped on my tester. I see this feature in two ways. Firstly, I’m tall enough to simply enter and exit the RX without any issue, but I see why some folks might need the running boards. However, I see them as an aerodynamic aid to help keep air along the lower sides flows nicely.
Keep in mind that I’m just nitpicking. You might find these two features beneficial. You can take them any way you want.
Still, the 2020 Lexus RX 350 F Sport with the Performance Package is the most fun I ever had in a Lexus SUV. Even with a sticker price of $60,785, it is a great overall package compared to other performance-based SUVs. Although, there is an RX that will fit your budget if that price seems a bit steep, including Hybrids.
In all, I actually enjoyed my time in this particular 2020 Lexus RX 350 F Sport with the Performance package. It is one of the few SUVs I do not mind driving. In fact, I would drive it even more. It is that fun to drive – perhaps the best compliment one could give to an SUV these days.
As I said a few times in the past couple of weeks: The SUV is our reality…deal with it!
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Toyota Motor North America
All photos by Randy Stern