Test Drive: 2014 Lexus RX 350 F Sport car test drives luxury cars lexus
Test Drive: 2014 Lexus RX 350 F Sport car test drives luxury cars lexus
Test Drive: 2014 Lexus RX 350 F Sport car test drives luxury cars lexus
2014 Lexus RX 350 F Sport. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Simon Hill

Ever since the first-generation Lexus RX was first introduced back in 1998 – making it one of the earliest luxury crossovers on the market – it has been winner for the Japanese luxury brand. It has been the best-selling vehicle in its segment since its launch, and the third-generation version continues to lead the pack based on annual sales numbers even as it enters its fifth year on the market (it first went on sale in early 2009 as a 2010 model).

Five years is a long time in the automotive world however, and now that Toyota has launched the fourth generation of its domestic-market Harrier on which the RX is based (the Toyota Harrier debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show in November), a new RX is expected for 2015. Certainly given that BMW’s X5 overtook the RX for the top monthly sales spot in both the U.S. and Canada in November 2013, it seems unlikely that Lexus will drag its feet remaking the new Harrier in the Lexus image.

In the meantime, while the Lexus faithful await their new prescription for luxurious utility, Lexus spiced up the RX lineup in 2013 with the RX 350 F Sport version. I tried out a 2014 RX 350 F Sport for a week and it killed my camera. I’ll get to that later, but first, a little about the car … uh, crossover.

In the RX 350′s case, the “sport” in F Sport refers to the crossover’s appearance and ride rather than its raw performance: Under the hood, the RX 350 F Sport gets the exact same 3.5L V6 engine as the regular RX 350, delivering the same 270 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard equipment, same as for the base model (this is a Canadian advantage – in the US the base model is FWD, with AWD being optional).

Where the powertrain differs is in the transmission department, because instead of a six-speed automatic the F Sport gets an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters. This doesn’t offer a night-and-day performance advantage, but it does help the engine stay closer to its optimum operating speed, which aids daily driving performance in a subtle way and also confers better fuel economy: At a city/highway rating of 11.2/7.7 L/100 km the F Sport actually does about 0.5 better per 100km than the base model – go figure.

With my tendency towards short-hop inner-city driving I usually get far worse than advertised fuel economy, especially in larger crossovers and SUVs, so I was pleasantly surprised to record a real-world city average of 11.8 L/100 km (by pure coincidence this is exactly on par with the official city rating for the base RX 350 with the six-speed automatic).

Test Drive: 2014 Lexus RX 350 F Sport car test drives luxury cars lexus Test Drive: 2014 Lexus RX 350 F Sport car test drives luxury cars lexus
2014 Lexus RX 350 F Sport. Click image to enlarge

Outside, the RX 350 F Sport gets a much more aggressive – and I think much better-looking – front fascia than the base model, with a honeycomb mesh grille, a deep full-width spoiler, and self-levelling HID headlights instead of the base car’s projector-style units. At the corners, 19-inch F Sport aluminum alloy wheels replace the standard 18-inch wheels, and the F-Sport gets a sport-tuned suspension with performance dampers. This helps keep the F Sport a little flatter and crisper in the corners than a regular RX 350, though it does impart a significantly firmer ride. That said, I stepped into the RX 350 F Sport after a week behind the wheel of a Scion FR-S, and compared to that little rocket the RX 350 F Sport was clearly still a big 1,970kg SUV with tall centre of gravity and a suspension designed for plushness. For enthusiast drivers an RX 350 F Sport would likely win out over a regular RX 350, but it’s not really going to fool anyone into thinking it’s a performance sedan.




About SimonHill

Simon Hill rebuilt his first engine, an air-cooled Volkswagen, at 14. He started writing professionally about cars in 2009 and is also the editor of Boat Journal magazine. He lives in Vancouver, BC.