First Drive: 2016 Lexus RX

2016 Lexus RX First Drive Charleston SC

I was invited by Lexus to Charleston, South Carolina to test drive the redesigned RX crossover. The traditional and historic setting of Charleston offered an interesting contrast to the sleek and ultra-modern design of the new RX, and the vehicle offered a very comfortable and luxurious mode of transportation as we toured some of the historic sites around this iconic Southern city.

2016 Lexus RX First Drive Charleston SC side view

As the biggest seller in its lineup, Lexus had to be very conscious of not messing with a good thing as the company approached the RX redesign. The designers listened to consumers who didn’t want the vehicle to get too big for example. And while they resisted any impulses to increase the size of the vehicle, the designers weren’t shy about continuing the latest trend at Lexus for boldness in design.


The new RX is immediately striking from all angles as you can see in the photos. You will be noticed in this vehicle, which should help Lexus with its stated goal of attracting younger buyers. Lexus’s new spindle grille is very prominent on the front end with a high pitch point that creates a very aggressive look for the RX. The entire vehicle sports bold lines but nothing seems forced. It all flows together nicely including the floating roof line. The result is a beautiful crossover that should have even broader appeal than its popular predecessors.


Crossovers have become popular for many reasons, but the roominess and comfort of the interiors has to be one of the leading criteria. But with the larger crossovers the extra room also takes away from the driving experience. With the RX, the size is just right and you can understand why loyal customers don’t want dramatic changes in the size of the vehicle. Thus Lexus went about enhancing what was already a very appealing driving experience. As we took in the sites and scenery around Charleston on a warm late fall day, the ease and comfort of the RX let us enjoy the experience without distraction.

The new RX interior offers everything you would expect from a luxury CUV. New additions include an available 12.3-inch monitor with full-screen map located above the center stack. In the back seats there’s more leg room along with heated outboard rear seats. Options include a rear-seat entertainment package with 11.6-in. dual screens placed on the back of the front headrests.


The new RX 350 features an upgraded and more powerful 3.5-liter V6 with 300 horsepower along with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The RX 450h features an Atkinson-cycle 3.5-liter V6. This hybrid version also generates roughly 300 horsepower when combined with the electric motor generator. Lexus’s Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) is also available on the RX for the first time. The AVS system electronically monitors and adapts the shock absorber damping and steering to help ensure optimal handling and ride depending on the driving conditions. The system is also designed to produce less body lean through corners.

I drove the 350 F SPORT which includes AVS and also offers enhanced features to improve performance. The F SPORT package also includes 20-inch tires and drivers can select the AVS-enhanced Sport S+ mode along with the standard Eco, Normal and Sport settings available on all RX models. I always like the flexibility of the various drive modes and the Sport S+ mode certainly gave the RX impressive acceleration and tight handling around corners.


2016 Lexus RX First Drive Charleston SC rear view

The F SPORT option gives consumers an even bolder design highlighted by the “F” mesh design in the spindle grille along with other unique design cues. But as mentioned above you don’t need the F SPORT option to get a beautiful design with the new RX.

Lexus continues to impress with its more aggressive designs along with the emphasis on performance across the lineup, and the new RX offers a bold expression of that new strategy.