By Frank S. Washington
DETROIT – When you make one of the most popular luxury sport utilities on the planet, why change it before it is time? Thus, the product planers at Lexus did not do that much to alter the 2021 Lexus RX 350, or the 2022 version.
Engineers added blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, and they added power folding auto diming side mirrors. They added and then made wireless charging optional, and they renamed the performance package the handling package.
There were a couple of interior colors added to the palette, but our interior was a dulled red which was not hard on the eyes. And the sheet metal was a gun metal grey. Lexus called it Nightfall Mica. It still befuddles us that people get paid a lot of cash to come up with these names.
Anyway, the specs on the 2021 Lexus RX 350 AWD F Sport are impressive. It was powered by a 3.5-liter 295 horsepower V6 engine that made 267 pound-feet of torque. This engine is normally aspirated, it has been around for years, thus it is a tried and tested reliable set of pistons.
The car had sport instruments. There was an odometer with a digital speedometer in the middle. The temperature and fuel gauges shared the same housing and the TFT screen was on the left.
Because it is a V6, we’ve always felt the RX could do a little better on fuel economy. It got 19 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined.
Mated to an eight-speed transmission with paddle shifters, this RX 350 is also equipped with ride modes: eco, normal, custom sport and sport+. This powertrain has always been quiet with subtle power. Gear shifts we barely detectable.
We had to get down on the accelerator a couple of times and the RX 350 responded nicely. Road work took us over some uneven pavement and the suspension did not feel like we were traversing a battlefield.
We had a two-row version of the Lexus RX 350. Because of the longer wheelbase, there was plenty of headroom and legroom. The floor in the back compartment was surprisingly flat. It looked like three people could sit in the back seat in relative comfort.
The front was dominated by a 12.3-inch floating touch infotainment screen. The Lexus multimedia touchscreen, as it is called, was moved 5.5 inches closer to the driver. So, operating it was not a harrowing experience.
Although the wide infotainment screen takes attention away from the center stack there is a center stack. The infotainment screen was atop the dash. The climate controls were embedded in the face of the dash. And beneath them were two USB jacks, an auxiliary plug and the 12V plug. Wireless charging was also in that nook.
There were two more USB jacks, along with a 12V plug in the center console and yet another pair in the back seating compartment. There were more USB jacks than the capacity of the Lexus RX 350.
Lexus said with Android Auto™, drivers can seamlessly access and use their phone on the RX’s touchscreen display. With larger touch targets, a simplified interface, and easy-to-use voice actions through Google Assistant®, it’s designed to minimize distraction, so you can stay focused on the road. Once connected, guests will enjoy music from apps such as Spotify® and Pandora®, or send messages through commonly used apps like WhatsApp®.
The interface also allows them to navigate with Google Maps™. With the Google Assistant® in Android Auto™, drivers can use their voice to get things done quickly and easily for a smooth, and enjoyable driving experience. Tailored information is provided based on calendar, device usage, activity, and habits.
For Apple CarPlay® integration, guests can use their iPhone® through the Lexus RX’s touchscreen display. When their iPhone is connected, commands for driving directions, phone calls, and sending and receiving messages via Siri® are enabled.
They can also gain access to favorite apps like Apple Music®, Apple Maps, podcasts, and audiobooks, as well as third party apps like Waze™ or Spotify®.
Through in-car integrations with voice services like Amazon Alexa, guests can access their preferred service and play music, check the news, control smart home devices and more.
With the addition of a designated space to store smartphones near the front of the center console, guests can better utilize space to secure their personal items and still engage with the Lexus Multimedia System.
One of the characteristics of the luxury vehicle was that the quality of materials did not fade when we got in the back seat. It was the same as the front.
The F Sport package included the head up display, the 12.3 screen with navigation, the 12-speaker premium audio system, touch free power rear door with kick sensor, panoramic view monitor wit intuitive parking, assist and rear cross traffic braking, a moonroof and aluminum roof rails.
For $57,975 as tested, the 2021 Lexus RX 350 AWD was nicely packaged and nicely priced.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.