When Lexus arrived in the U.S. market at the end of 1989 with the 1990 model LS 400, it was clear that they were taking aim at the luxury car market. The car was roomy, luxurious, quiet and almost tranquil. For the next twenty years or so, the name, Lexus, would be synonymous with luxury.
During this twenty year span, many of their competitors took aim at the sporty, performance driven U.S. market with more aggressive versions of the luxury sedans and SUV’s that they had come to be known for. If you look around the streets and parking lots these days, you’ll see everything from 20’+ rims, low profile tires, huge air-intakes in the grille’s, deep note exhausts systems to matte paint, on what had traditionlly been considered “luxury” cars.
Not to be left out and always in “the pursuit of perfection”, Lexus has thrown its hat into the performance ring. Lexus’ performance vehicles are more inconspicuous with subtle “F Sport” badge and capable underpinnigs to accompany!
When the 2014 Lexus 350 F Sport was delivered to my office, aside from the Claret Mica (Burgundy) color, I was impressed and excited. Having participated in the inaugural ride and drive for the IS 350 F Sport last year, I couldn’t wait to explore Lexus’ interpretation of performance in an SUV. It had all the great looks of the F Sport line with the new trademark spindle grille, 19’dark graphite aluminum alloy wheels and of course, the F Sport badge on the front fenders. It certainly looked the part.
Aside from the obvious visual cues (exclusive leather interior trim, aluminum pedals, leather steering wheel) to distinguish between the F Sport and its luxury bretheren, are the 8-speed transmission and the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. All of the other RX variations carry the 6-speed transmission from previous models. Not sure if the F Sport with the 8-speed transmission (only available in AWD) makes it any sportier (we have not yet driven the 6 speed version) but, according to Lexus, the 0-60 times improved by .01 second and the 1/4 mile times improved dramatically by .04 seconds. Highway cruising fuel economy improved by 2 mpg and overall by 1 mpg. With a 19.2 gal. fuel tank, that should get you about 30-40 extra miles per tank.
For my daily commute from Atlanta’s suburbia into the city, as well as, chaufering the six year old around on her busy social schedule, the RX F Sport made me feel more “hip” and less “middle aged”. This was impart thanks to the “nob” on the center console that allows the driver to switch from ECO to Normal modes and where this RX remained for my 7 days, Sport Mode! The suspension was stiffer and felt more confident as I occassionaly “pushed the limits” of the 19′ tires and the, F Sport specific, adjustable suspension.
For those that have come to expect luxury and refinement from the Lexus brand, rest assured that none of the convenience and comfort appoitments have been compromised. The press car that we drove came equiped with Mark Levision premium sound system with SiriusXM Satelite Radio, USB, iPod/MP3 Control, dual zone climate control, 10 way power heated/ventilated front seats, homelink garage door opener, navigation w/voice command, backup camera and so many other conveniences that I wouldn’t dare try to list here for the lack of space and time. Fully equipped, Lexus is proud of its work and it shows with the MSRP Sticker of $53,375.00. If you’re in the market for an economy SUV, this is not the vehicle for you. As stated earlier, Lexus is synonymous with luxury and by definition, luxury is a refinement of living rather than a necessity. Hence, this is an SUV for those looking to reward themselves for hard work, good fortune or both. Who are we to judge.
So guys, if you’re looking to convince your wife to drive an SUV that you can look cool driving, the RX 350 F Sport should certainly make your short list. And ladies, if you’re like my wife and consider yourself too young and stylish to drive a “mommy mobile”, share this review and you just may be the envy of the “car rider” line in the fall.
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