With the goal of getting in one last shot of off-road riding in before Old Man Winter came calling, I took a 2017 Lexus RX 350 to take me and a cameraman up north where we put a Yamaha YXZ1000R side-by-side ATV through its paces for a story for sister site ATV.com.
While a more performance-oriented Lexus might have been a better match for the sporty side-by-side ATV, an unexpected snow storm during our four-hour drive made me thankful for the burlier 2017 Lexus RX 350.
Like many people, I’m a torn on the outward appearance of the RX. While I do like the general shape and form of the vehicle, it’s in need of a nose job. The giant grille up front was the first thing my wife noticed, and it wasn’t because she loved it. It certainly stands out, just not in a good way.
The test car was equipped with gorgeous 20-inch allow wheels, which come as part of the F-Sport Series 3 package. The wheels help make the RX a nice looking vehicle, so long as you only see it in profile.
Step inside the RX and there are few complaints with the beautiful interior. Highlights include F-Sport seats wrapped in leather that offer both heating and cooling, a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum sport pedals, and a panoramic glass roof. The optional 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system is the cherry on top of the sundae.
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A 12.3-inch interior display is the control center for the RX and is big and bright, but the Remote Touch controller interface is an abomination. It works sort of like a computer’s mouse pad, except it’s ridiculously sensitive and difficult to move it into the desired position. This is particularly painful when trying to input an address to the navigation system.
As soon as I turned on the Lexus RX 350, I made my way to the highway for a four-hour drive north, smack dab in the middle of an early-season snow storm. And it was on the highway where this vehicle really shines. Even at highway speeds, the RX offers a luxuriously quiet and comfortable ride as the 295-horsepower V6 smoothly eats up mile after mile of snowy road.
Due to the storm, the wind was occasionally violent and the RX would sway a little but it never felt out of control. When the lanes were largely clear of snow, the lane keep assist feature did a remarkably good job of keeping the vehicle between the lines. This feature was far more active during the windy drive up north than in the calmer conditions on the return trip. This feature might get abused by distracted drivers eager to glance at their phones, but it really did make for more relaxed driving experience.
I also appreciated the head-up display, which offered up a host of information without having to take my eyes off of the road.
As much as I enjoyed the highway driving experience, the RX was not quite as at home in the city. That uber-comfortable suspension on the highway seems to come at the cost of a slightly sloppy feeling while taking tighter turns on city streets or braking even slightly aggressively.
Because I’m cheap, I spent most of my time driving the RX in Eco mode. That worked just fine on the highway, but in the city, it turned the engine into a dullard with a painfully slow response. Going against my skinflint instincts, I briefly took advantage of the F Sport Series 3 package’s Sport S+ Mode and the personality changed dramatically. An RX will never be truly sporty, but the Sport S+ Mode really livens things up and makes the RX, dare I say it, sort of fun when taking off from a dead stop.
That Sport S+ Mode fun, however, comes at a serious fuel penalty. You don’t have to drive aggressively for long before your average fuel consumption meter starts quickly changing for the worse. But even in Eco mode, the RX is not exactly miserly when it comes to sipping gas. Over the course of about 550 miles, largely on the highway and in Eco mode, I averaged about 19.5 miles per gallon.
The Verdict: 2017 Lexus RX 350 Review
Take away front grille and the 2017 Lexus RX 350 is pretty nice looking vehicle inside and out. If you spend more time on the highway than in city traffic, it would make for a quiet, comfortable commuter vehicle with plenty of room five adults. The fact that it was so great during a snow storm made it even more impressive.