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2017 Lexus RX: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2017

The 2017 Lexus RX premium midsize crossover enters the second year of this current generation. And does so with a decidedly eye-catching design after a lifetime of conservative styling.

Get past the polarizing exterior, however, and the RX still retains a lot of what made the previous versions so popular (it's been the best-selling luxury vehicle in the United States). While handling has been improved, this fourth generation remains smooth, quiet and comfortable, emphasizing luxury over performance. It also continues to offer a fuel-efficient hybrid version as one of two reliable powertrains.

What's New for 2017?

The previously optional array of advanced safety features, known as Safety Sense Plus, is now standard throughout the range. The F Sport treatment can now be applied to front-drive versions of the RX 350. A smartphone-based navigation app called Scout GPS Link is standard. The RX 350 gains rain-sensing wipers and the RX 450h receives blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert as standard.

What We Like

Exemplary Lexus build quality; comfort; ever-reliable powertrains; efficient hybrid model; safety equipment

What We Don't

No third-row seating; Remote Touch interface can still be a challenge.

How Much?

$43,995-$57,620

Fuel Economy

RX 350 models use a gasoline-powered 3.5-liter V6 engine that develops 295 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic directs that power to the front wheels as standard; all-wheel drive is an option.

With front-wheel drive, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel consumption as 20 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined. All-wheel drive adjusts those figures to 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/22 mpg.

The RX 450h hybrid also uses a 3.5-liter V6, plus electric motors for a combined system output of 308 hp -- Lexus /Toyota does not quote total torque figures for its hybrid models. It uses a continuously variable transmission and a part-time all-wheel-drive system that engages the electric motor powering the rear axle as and when it's needed. Fuel economy is 31 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Lexus RX has a choice of regular or hybrid drivetrains and in "base" or F Sport versions.

The entry level RX 350 ($43,995) includes a rearview camera, premium vinyl upholstery, power tailgate, keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, 8-way power-adjustable front seats, 18-in alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, LED lighting, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, 8-in center screen with Remote Touch controller, 9-speaker audio system, USB port, CD player, HD radio, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assistance and forward collision warning with automatic braking and pedestrian detection.

The F Sport variation ($49,895) features 20-in alloy wheels, enhanced exterior styling, retuned suspension with extra drive modes, paddle shifters, plus a dedicated interior trim and leather upholstery with heated/ventilated front sport seats.

All-wheel drive is an extra $1,400.

The RX 450h ($54,010) and RX 450h F Sport ($57,620) are equipped similarly, but with a few additional items that are part of the RX 350's Luxury package, such as a power sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery and ventilated seats. Plus blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

In addition to the aforementioned RX 350 Luxury package (which also adds roof rails and seat memory), both models also offer a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, larger (12.3-in) center screen, rear DVD entertainment system, navigation, wide-angle rearview camera, and a panoramic sunroof.

With the rear seats in place, cargo space in the RX 350 is a generous 18.4 cu ft. This expands to 56.3 cu ft with the rear seats folded down. The RX 450h has extra hardware to accommodate, resulting in 18/55.9 cu ft.

Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the current RX a maximum five stars overall, with four stars for frontal impact protection and five for side impacts. It also earned the coveted Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Safety features are plentiful, including side-curtain airbags, front occupant knee airbags, and the advanced driver aids mentioned previously.

Behind the Wheel

Even in basic (non-F Sport) trim, the RX has composed handling. It's still no BMW X5 (or even Audi Q5), but the current model is the most rewarding to drive of any RX generation. Even more so with the F Sport, which enjoys precise cornering with minimal body roll.

That said, this version offers everything the RX faithful have come to know and love. Such as a comfortable ride, tranquil cabin, smooth transmission, predictable power output, and relatively lazy acceleration. Even with 295 hp and an 8-speed automatic, the RX remains one of the slowest models in its segment. Although steering feel has been improved, you can still expect easy turning capabilities at just about all speeds.

Unfortunately, you can expect poor outward vision as well. The RX has a low roofline and sloped rear pillars that create large blind spots. At least the driver aids help to mitigate this issue.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Acura MDX -- A close competitor to the RX in terms of pricing, plus a third-row seat, which the RX does not have. No hybrid variant, though.

2017 Lincoln MKX -- Similar fit, finish and comfort to the RX. But with stronger performance and arguably less polarizing styling.

2017 Volvo XC90 -- More expensive than the RX, but offers amazing technology and a finely crafted interior.

Used BMW X5 -- Stronger performance than the RX, along with better handling and cornering capabilities, plus the cachet of the BMW name. But prices are a lot higher, so a used model might be the way to go.

 Autotrader's Advice

If the budget can stand it, the RX 450h has the most power and equipment, while still returning excellent fuel economy. The RX is not, nor ever has been, a driver's machine, so F Sport variants seem kind of unnecessary.

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Used 2017 Lexus RX Models FWD
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New 2017 Lexus RX Models F Sport
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MSRP $59,259
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Lexus RX: New Car Review - Autotrader