It ain’t news, but bears repeating. The 4-door sedan has lost both favor and fervor in the automotive sales sweepstakes. Sure, Accords and Camrys will continue to move, and we suspect there will always be a buyer for a Civic or Corolla. But beyond the volume brands the beating heart of the 4-door sedan or sport sedan is diminished; the pulse remains perceptible, but just barely. In much the same way as Carson begat Fallon and Yamaha’s XS650 is now the FZ-07, yesterday’s 4-door is quickly morphing in to today’s crossover. And yeah, you’ve guessed it from the headline: the next 5 Series is arguably today’s RX 350.
This, then, is something relatively new. Take the practical outcome of combining a midsize platform and 5-door configuration with design that looks to have come from a junior high after-school detention, and you have a fairly reliable summation of what the new-for-’17 RX 350 constitutes. From its gaping (or is it gasping?) mouth to the chiseled side panels and aggressively sculpted hatch, there ain’t much that’s left from mom’s (your mom, my mom – virtually everyone’s ‘mom’ bought or leased one) RX. And while not sure why advanced design needs to be polarizing, we’ll admit it: Lexus’ new design direction would seem to be moving the metal, if that metal is atop a crossover or SUV platform. Sedans? Not so much…
Beneath the sheetmetal is an upgraded platform that makes the 5 Series reference almost credible. Under the RX hood is 3.5 liters of DOHC V6, now producing 295 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. And if you’re inclined to dismiss a naturally aspirated V6 as soooo last century, know there remains a lot to be said (if you have the word count) for six naturally-aspirated cylinders when compared to four turbocharged cylinders. We’re all about of-this-century, but we think the RX and GS Lexus platforms are more appropriate to ‘six’ than ‘four’, regardless of what intake plumbing you happen to attach to the four.
Available in both front-and-all-wheel drive, the V6’s 295 horses are connected to the pavement via an 8-speed auto. And if it’s Lexus AWD (All-Weather Drive – catchy?) you opt for, the rear diff receives Lexus’ Active Torque Control. That’s just the thing for navigating the mall parking lot before the snow removers have had a chance to get there…
Inside, Luke will be blown away by the attention to detail, especially when outfitted with the RX 350’s F Sport accoutrements. The buckets are both comfortable and supportive, without the claustrophobic feel that often comes with a ‘sport’ descriptive. The dash layout is definitely of this century and not the next one, so for Luke this will be the prequel. But we will continue to argue the need for more analog and less digital; changing bands on the radio should be a one-step process, not two. And adjusting ventilation, even with only a few days in the car, should be intuitive – and not, notably, counterintuitive.
On the road, the RX – even in F Sport trim – is appropriately docile when you want, while surprisingly visceral if that sort of driving is what you have in mind. I liked the driving dynamic a lot, and while no one – even a Skywalker – will use the RX on a track day, you wouldn’t be embarrassed if joining the BMW Club for a poker run.
Base pricing on the RX 350 is $43K, or $46,000 if opting for the AWD. Our F Sport starts at $50K, can easily run (with packages and options) past $55K and might – MIGHT – hit $60,000. That, of course, is a lot of money, and would provide you with a host of competitors, including those from the BMW and Benz showrooms.
We liked the RX 350 F Sport, but only after we got behind the wheel; the walk-up was excruciating. But it doesn’t matter what we like. Luke – we guarantee – will love it.