The Lexus brand has come to define a certain kind of plush comfort, and the 2017 Lexus RX 350 delivers all the luxury car buyers have come to expect from the marque. This midsize crossover was extensively overhauled just a year ago, and those changes gave the RX a fresh and dynamic new edge.
The RX seats five passengers. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is available. The SUV is offered in two trims: base and F Sport. A hybrid model is also available and reviewed separately.
You could say a certain relentless pursuit of perfection is obvious with the 2017 Lexus RX 350. The brand’s midsize crossover welcomes major upgrades for the new model year, even after the 2016 model was completely redesigned. Previously optional driver-assistive features such as forward collision warning, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control are now standard on all models. Lexus also offers the F Sport trim on front-wheel-drive RX 350 for the first time, enabling more drivers to enjoy that package’s improved handling and responsiveness.
A year after its debut, the dramatic exterior design of the 2017 Lexus RX remains fresh and eye-catching, and our all-wheel-drive-equipped RX 350 F Sport inspired positive comments from its younger passengers. The vehicle’s prominent “spindle” grille and intricately carved front fascia drew plenty of attention. Our test vehicle showcased F Sport features such as dark grille mesh, unique badging, black mirror caps and a unique front bumper. It also rode on 20-inch, dark-finished aluminum-alloy wheels.
The base RX 350 comes standard with 18-inch wheels, LED headlights and fog lights, LED daytime running lights, LED mirror-mounted turn-signal indicators, LED brake lights, rear privacy glass and dual chrome exhaust tips. Even the exterior door handles have standard LED illumination for added visibility.
The 2017 RX 350 supplies a premium environment that helped last year’s model earn a place on the 2016 10 Best Interiors List from Wards Auto. Our test vehicle certainly had high levels of craftsmanship, with noticeably tight, even stitching on places like its heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
NuLuxe (leatherette) upholstery, 10-way power-adjustable front seats and sliding and reclining 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats are standard on the base RX. Options include a heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats and heated rear seats.
The RX provides 18.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the second row, and this expands to 56.3 cubic feet with the second row folded. Access to the cargo hold, which also holds a standard first-aid kit, is through a standard power-operated tailgate.
Four real wood trims – Espresso Walnut, Matte Bamboo, Matte Linear Dark Mocha and Gray Sapele – are offered to highlight the cockpit. For more sunlight in the cabin, conventional and panoramic sunroofs are available.
There is a minor nit to pick over the RX 350’s front console storage: There’s no dedicated niche for loose coins, which is something a vehicle like the Toyota 4Runner deals with by using small shelves in its front-center storage bin.
Though the driving experience in the 2017 RX 350 isn’t quite as dynamic as its exterior design suggests, our F Sport was fun to pilot.
All RX 350 models are configured with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. That output is managed by a standard eight-speed automatic transmission, and Lexus reports 0-to-60 mph acceleration of 7.9 seconds. In the real world, the engine pulled strongly off the line and continued to offer brisk performance at highway speeds.
The F Sport builds on that powertrain with paddle shifters and an adaptive variable suspension. Both RX trims offer selectable drive modes, but the F Sport adds a Sport+ drive mode to the mix for enhanced performance.
Real-world results were relatively impressive in Sport+, where the vehicle’s handling was at its sharpest. Yet it must be said that the RX 350’s power-to-weight ratio is a lot less favorable than a conventional midsize sedan like a Toyota Camry V6, and its handling isn’t helped by either its curb weight or its taller, crossover-style center of gravity.
EPA ratings for the RX 350 are 20/27 mpg city/highway with front-wheel drive, and all-wheel-drive models are rated at 19/26. Our test vehicle returned about 19.7 mpg in 215 miles of suburban driving.
Standard technology features for the 2017 RX 350 include a nine-speaker audio system with an 8-inch screen, push-button start and Bluetooth connectivity. Scout GPS Link is also standard, and this app-based technology leverages the owner’s smartphone connectivity for turn-by-turn navigation.
Our RX 350 F Sport model featured an optional navigation system with a 12.3-inch screen and the Lexus Remote Touch controller. An alternative to touch-screen control, Remote Touch allows owners to control navigation, audio and other vehicle functions with a mouselike controller located on the center console, just behind the gear shift. It’s fairly easy to get the hang of using this feature, but you also have the option of managing the SUV’s controls via voice recognition and steering-wheel-mounted buttons.
Other options include a Mark Levinson 15-speaker sound system and Lexus Enform Service Connect, which provides vehicle health alerts and maintenance reports.
The RX 350’s standard safety features include front and rear side-curtain air bags, driver and front-passenger knee air bags, a rearview camera and antilock brakes.
There is a full complement of standard driver-assistive technology, too. Lexus Safety System+ was made standard for the 2017 Lexus RX, bringing in full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, lane keeping assist and a pre-collision system that integrates forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.
That didn’t leave much to add to our RX 350 F Sport, yet it was equipped with two optional safety measures that were quite useful: a head-up display that projected vehicle information onto the windshield in front of the driver and a panoramic-view monitor. The latter technology creates a top-down, 360-degree view of the vehicle that was very helpful while parking.
The starting price for a 2017 Lexus RX 350 is $43,020, not including a $975 destination fee. At this trim level, the 2017 Cadillac XT5 is less expensive than the RX 350, and three-row choices like the Acura MDX or Infiniti QX60 open at $43,950 and $43,100, respectively. Still, those rivals aren’t as well-stocked with standard safety technologies. Moreover, similarly sized German crossovers like the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE have base MSRPs of $55,500 and $52,000, respectively.
In a vehicle such as our RX 350 F Sport, on the other hand, where Lexus is going head to head against other brands’ up-level trims, the RX makes more competitive sense. That same Cadillac XT5 would cost above $52,000 in a comparable Premium Luxury trim with a performance suspension and advanced safety measures.
With an eye-popping exterior design and a cabin that shows much attention to detail, the 2017 Lexus RX 350 more than looks the part of a premium, modern-day crossover. The available F Sport trim adds enhanced performance for those who seek it.
Of course, there are a couple of issues that customers should keep in mind, like a dated voice-recognition system that still requires users to say a command category, and then a specific command. Also, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay smartphone integration isn’t available, and neither is mobile Wi-Fi.
In the end, though, there is much to love about the RX. The Lexus brand has a well-deserved reputation for reliability and retained value. When this is considered, along with the RX 350’s solid competence overall, it’s clear this crossover furnishes almost everything owners could expect from the segment.