I was driving the 2016 Lexus RX 350 down a neighborhood street when a friend flagged me down and said, “I see you’re driving Darth.” Not quite understanding, I said, “What? No, this is a Lexus RX 350.” He responded, “I know, but it reminds me of Darth Vader’s helmet from Star Wars. That’s sharp.”
This visual set the tone for my test drive of the Caviar-colored luxury utility vehicle, featuring a 295 horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine and new eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Completely redesigned inside and out to meet the needs of loyal Lexus owners, this front wheel drive on available 20-inch F Sport aluminum alloy wheels definitely makes an iconic statement, and then backs it up with numerous enhancements.
No matter where you look, a change has been made. The body design breaks out of any creative shell that may have held it back in previous models. Chiseled creases, curves, corners and lines project a sense of dynamic motion even when the car is parked. The well-organized center console, features an easy to use mouse to navigate through the 12.3-inch wide-screen multimedia display. The lengthened wheel base increases the rear-seat leg room and cargo space, enhancing the flexibility of the 40/20/40 split rear seat. The level of the power tilt and telescopic steering column has been adjusted for more of a sporty feel. Even the instrument clusters are redesigned.
The five-passenger force of determined designers and engineers is steeped in race-inspired F-Sport features from the tuned suspension with front and rear performance dampers to the exclusive leather interior trim, aluminum pedals and shift knob. The front view of the new RX boasts an emboldened version of the Lexus brand’s signature spindle grille featuring a chrome-plated border and triple L-shape-LED headlamps. Combine this with the new front fog light and available LED cornering light clusters, and the entire face of the RX 350 practically invites you to stare just a little longer. It’s almost hypnotizing.
How does it drive? I drove this force in and around the city and also into the mountains. The drive was so comfortable that I was startled when the rain sensing wipers went into action in response to a few sprinkles. Real-world testing. They work!
Lexus reports that this fourth generation RX has the most comprehensive safety system ever offered for the RX. The 10 airbags are great. But, I was impressed by the other listed safety features, namely the vehicle theft-deterrent system with engine immobilizer. This is an excellent feature to thwart stalkers looking for an over sized Darth helmet, AKA Caviar.
A little bit of icon. A little bit of delicacy.
2016 Lexus RX350 MSRP: $49,125; Combined City/Highway MPG: 23.