There are some vehicles you simply enjoy looking at. The 2016 Lexus RX 350 sport-utility vehicle is one of them. You don’t have to hunt for it in a crowded parking lot. It stands out, announces itself: I’m here — bold front fascia, sharply angled headlamps, strong side haunches, unmistakably sculpted rear.
You don’t have to hunt for it. There is nothing else like it on the lot, unless it is another 2016 Lexus RX.
I like that. It goes beyond the notion of prestige, of creating something to say, I have what you can’t have and have no right to want. It implies you can have it, too. It is beauty, after all, and there is something universal about that.
Someone cared enough about it to do it right, to appeal to that thing within all of us that says, “Wow, that’s attractive!”
Who doesn’t like that? If the people at Toyota, makers of all things Lexus, cared enough to make something this nice for me, maybe they’ll do it for you, too.
That is the Toyota/Lexus secret, isn’t it — an implied trust that ordinary craftspeople at the company actually care enough about what they are doing and who they are doing it for to actually do it right?
Who knows? Maybe after years of paying notes on a Toyota Corolla economy car that served me well and wasn’t all that hard to look at or sit in, maybe I’ll earn a salary that allows me to sit in the comfort and beauty of an RX 350.
It is trust rewarded, a promise kept. I did my job. The people at Toyota/Lexus did theirs, and this is the exceptional vehicle I get and can afford as a result. It is a communication generally understood by everyone, and there is nothing false or phony about it. The proof is in the product.
This is what Toyota understands and what it communicates to its consumer base worldwide. Look closely at the RX 350. Everything fits exactly the way it is supposed to fit. Metal bends and wraps the way it is supposed to bend and wrap. There are no half-painted, poorly painted parts. It is all done well. That makes me feel good. That means whoever built the car’s 3.5-liter, 24-valve, V-6 gasoline engine (295 horsepower, 267 pound-feet of torque) probably did a good job, too.
The front-wheel-drive RX 350 SUV moves nicely, precisely. There is complete confidence in taking curves, even on wet West Virginia mountain roads. Lexus did a good job of making the 2016 RX 350 more car-like — lengthening its wheelbase and improving its handling — but the world is a noisy place, and the vehicle’s engineers seem to have let more of that noise in.
The model I drove came with a premium, 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. That took care of any ambient outside noise. I moved through the world in peace and beauty — a color heads-up display presenting everything I needed to know about the car’s operation on the windshield; heated and ventilated front seats; sapele wood with aluminum trim interior — simply beautiful. I could get used to this.
NUTS & BOLTS
Bottom line: If you are a hard-working person wanting to reward yourself for work well done and well rewarded, you will appreciate the care that went into the design, engineering and construction of the Lexus RX 350. It is as if it was done just for you.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent marks in all categories.
Head-turning quotient: Maximum.
Body style, layout: The 2016 Lexus RX 350 is a luxury compact sport-utility vehicle available in several versions—regular, F Sport and RX 450h hybrid.
Engine/transmission: The RX 350 comes standard with a 3.5-liter, double-overhead cam, 24-valve gasoline V-6 with variable-valve timing (295 horsepower, 267 pound-feet of torque). It is linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission that also can be driven manually.
Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 18.4 cubic feet. Maximum cargo capacity with middle seats folded is 56.3 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 19.2 gallons of gasoline. Regular grade is okay.
Mileage: I averaged 26 miles per gallon in West Virginia’s mountains.
Standard equipment: Front and rear ventilated disc brakes, four-wheel anti-lock brake protection, emergency braking assistance, traction and stability control, and side, rear, head and knee-bolster airbags.
Recommended: This column recommends the purchase of all available advanced electronic safety items, which ultimately can save money and lives.
Pricing: The manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the RX 350 with premium audio system and Enform display is $43,300, with an estimated dealer’s invoice price of $41,000. Price as tested is $58,090, including $13,850 in options (advanced electronic safety equipment, premium Mark Levinson sound system with 15 speakers, panoramic glass roof), and a $940 factory-to-dealer shipment charge.