The new Lexus RX is one of the most eagerly-anticipated new SUVs for 2016. This redesign proves the RX can be a style leader even while outselling entire luxury brands like Volvo and Jaguar in the USA.
So far, the RX has been so ubiquitous on the roads that any sense of chic sexiness was seriously diluted. The 2016 model wears all-new styles and new trimlines to bring variety to the efficiency, lux ride comfort and versatility its 2-million owners love so much.
The upgrades for 2016 are extensive — with the entire cabin, exterior and some drivetrain parts refreshed for the new model-year.
The flagship of the line is now the RX450h F Sport — the first time the F Sport pack has been available on the RX450h. It seems really counterintuitive at first to make a hybrid F Sport version. But then you meet the truck in the flesh — its all-new lines and on-trend dark trims and alloys banishing most nerdy jabs about hybrid cars in general.
It is once on the roads, though, that the RX450h F Sport really starts to make perfect sense.
Far from being a curio in the RX family, the F Sport RX450h is actually our favorite in the group! How can this be? Even versus the howling V6 RX350 F Sport AWD and its new active intake acoustics?
Yes indeed! For the truest Lexus RX — the $56k RX450h F Sport AWD is the best at evolving the RX’s style statement and drive experience.
DRIVE VIDEO – 2016 Lexus RX450h F Sport AWD
Clearly, the new RX is a really interesting and very fresh design — unlike anything else on the roads. This even includes the new kid brother: the NX200t and NX300h.
The RX design for 2016 is truly all-new. In this strange era of facelifts acting as all-new models, the RX outside really proves its modern and artful appeal in the flesh. The RX no longer looks like an rounded pebble in its overall stance and attitude — largely thanks to its chiseled new cheekbones, intense bodyside curvature, and expressive boxed fenders versus round ones perviously. These fenders extend far out from the glasshouse of the truck for 2016 — especially in back — giving a strong sense of muscularity that is all new for the RX range.
While all the RX’s share their stylish widebody shape and floating roofline for 2016, the F Sport models really up the ante in the nose and tail.
Starting from the fully integrated spindle grille, the RX finally looks credibly premium and like a holistic design. This is clear as day seeing the two RX generations next to one another. Slimmer and higher-mounted lights, deep layered slashes in the front bumpers, plus a longer-looking hoodline with inverted central portion. This wild hood with its sharp lines extends the grille’s upper angles all the way to the windshield of the RX. It is not just a new design, but an entirely new level of panel depth and variety for any Lexus sheetmetal!
So, back to the F Sport nose.
The standard RX looks far more aggressive than even the old F Sport. So this Hybrid F Sport model goes further still: massive new chin spoilers are layered over one another in a deep and sporty way. The main grille features sharp beveling for its satin silver lower finish — becoming progressively wider and bolder lower down the car’s face. Versus the fang-like spindle grille of the current RX Hybrid, this is quite a change.
The grille itself for the F Sport models swaps the standard mesh for a criss-cross of “L” shapes up top, and “F” shapes down below. It is a smooth and dark-finished look that’s credibly premium and classy. The near-vertical grille angle is also new for this year, echoing the premium German marques and their ultra chopped front overhangs. The RX Hybrid has more nose to disguise, but does so effectively from most angles.
This premium chopped nose appearance is one of the major advantages of the F Sport over the normal RX450h up front. Paired with the lower splitter elements and origami-like bumper look, there are a number of classy form lines at play. The impression is overwhelmingly positive, especially in the Hybrid-exclusive Silver Lining color on the test truck. It is a cool shade — semi-gloss in finish and a perfect match for the sharp new shape.
Dark multi-spoke F Sport alloys, sill extensions and a cool lower diffuser look in back are also bonuses for the RX450h F Sport outside. For the first time, the Hybrid badges look lost on the trendy new shape.
One thing we do not love about the RX450h F Sport are its standard lights. Though bi-LED for the main projector balls, LED for the foglights and LED brake lights…. there is much to be desired in the overall aesthetic. Most of the blame goes to the integrated arrowhead DRLs — inside the lamps versus standing apart for the NX and IS. These LEDs are too segmented in their appearance, and not really bright enough to shade the 2015 RX Hybrid’s slim and ultra-bright LED DRLs in front.
Triple-Beam LED Option
Luckily, there is a solution! The AMAZINGLY beautiful Luxury package includes triple-beam LED low and high-beams in front, LED blinkers in back, plus new LED cornering lamps in the triangular fog-lamp bezels.
(RX350 FWD Luxury Package Shown above)
These awesome lights bring some more-appropriate new LED DRLs. They form just the slimmest white line of light in the already-much-slimmer overall lamp shape — and are beautiful and fresh enough to match the rest of the RX revolution outside.
The triple-beam LEDs are available in the Lexus builder a la carte for around $1600, or including some cool five-spoked machined alloy 20-inch wheels for a $2k bump in price.
The cabin of the new RX is a big change over the current model too. And indeed, the F Sport pack makes big improvements for sporty drivers inside.
Much cooler seats with nearly 3X the side bolster strength of the standard RX are a huge change. These can actually hold you in place around fast corners — while being just as comfortable at straight-ahead as the standard seating.
In fact, these seats make the F Sport pack for fast drivers in general. They feel more premium than the current truck, while the standard RX350 and RX450h’s thrones up front actually seem a bit lower-quality than before. Much sharing with the Toyota Highlander — the seats seem almost exactly the same as the $50k Highlander Limited AWD test truck we enjoyed a few months back.
The Lexus experience is solid and throughout the rest of the cabin, however. The first time you notice is how easy it is to get in or out of any RX. The next bit is how touchable and fresh all the trims and cabin materials are. In addition to exclusive F Sport cabin colors, the F Sport RXs also bring a unique set of trims. Among the ten wood/alloy finishes available… the RX Hybrid is again top of the group. (For all woods except the gorgeous striped Sapele laser-cut ebony wood of the RX Luxury pack:)
Three cabin colors for the F Sport come standard with all alloy trims, but most of the 10 new woods are available on the F Sport with various packages.
We cant stand the part-wood steering wheel that comes on some RX trims, so the small and sporty F Sport wheel is a huge asset again. The wheel is physically smaller in diameter overall, and much, much more compact for the inner airbag element. This compact boss is also more inward from the rim… ditching the yestertech blob of airbag cover that has marred all cars for too long.
With the polished-alloy pedals — with floor-mounted accelerator pedal like a Porsche! — the F Sport sets a great tone inside. Its steering paddles are icing on the cake, and are handy for engine braking or holding a ‘gear’ around corners.
Flying around corners with Sport Plus engaged, paddle shifters snicking among ratios — wearing a grin on your face as wide as the spindle grille up front?
Yes. For the first time ever, the RX Hybrid loves to be flogged. The drive mode knob of all the RX F Sport models now has four settings — a credibly sporty new Sport Plus tightening up the F Sport-exclusive adaptive dampers, throttle and steering very nicely. It is still a light helm, but feels quicker-reacting than any RX in memory.
308-horsepower is up by 11 over the current Hybrid and 14 versus the 295HP of the base V6, and also makes this RX450h F Sport AWD the most powerful of all the RXs. The RX F Sport Hybrid comes standard with AWD, by the way, and really benefits from the extra traction. On the rainy drives, the FWD RXs struggled for traction at times when the AWD just sticks and goes.
[This may not be accurate, actually. We see F Sport RX450h FWD models on the Lexus configurator with pricing from $56k, $2k less than the AWD version.]
It is also one of the most efficient of any SUV or crossover — easily maintaining its official 30-mpg combined mileage rating without much restraint on your part. Around town, the RX450h is supremely efficient for an SUV: it almost never drops below 20-mpg no matter how hard you flog it.
The RX450h F Sport is the most efficient RX, but not quite the quickest. The official time to 60-mph is 7.9-seconds, down 0.2-seconds versus the RX350 FWD.
In truth, even though we love the F Sport handling and drive modes… the RX never feels as rapid as any BMW X5. Just a slight lack of overall power is notable for enthusiasts, but is unlikely to irk most RX buyers.
F Sport makes the most of the power available, though, at all speeds. The giant F Sport wheels are barely noticeable over bumps versus the standard smaller rims — thanks to the adaptive dampers — but the RX does get a bit rougher in Sport Plus drive mode. A tradeoff for tighter body control around corners when you are in the mood, but chill otherwise? Great balance overall.
The overall RX base price for 2016 is around $42k, and this jumps to $52k for the RX450h. The FWD or AWD RX450h models have the same $52,235 price level, but this jumps to the high $50s for the F Sport Hybrid.
As tested with the up-level 12-inch nav unit (versus the standard 8-inch one) but few other options like the LED lighting upgrade or panoramic moonroof, the RX450h F Sport rings in just below $61k.
The RX is arriving now to Lexus showrooms nationwide.
The new Lexus RX is massively more stylish than ever before. It stays around the same size as before, yet is more efficient and much roomier in the back seat. Up front, a lower possible drive position melds with the sedan-like center console and dashboard to feel sporty, premium and very modern.
Yet no less easy to drive, easy to park and easy to love?
The new RX450h F Sport AWD is better at everything. It is no Macan by its overall speed. But at the same time, the Macan has nothing on the ultra smooth and relaxed drive experience of the RX Hybrid in the other 99-percent of driving time.
And at swapping moods from plush to a rush with the flip of a knob? The RX Hybrid F Sport is still the best in the world.
2016 Lexus RX450h F Sport AWD
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.