When we opted to roll with a low-mileage L/Certified 2015 version of the RX350 for our long-term fleet, we knew it wasn’t going to be the latest and greatest version of Lexus’ midsize crossover SUV. But we were – and remain – convinced that it’s got plenty of the right stuff. That said, we recently had the chance to spend time in a 2016 RX350 also fitted with the F Sport enhancements and a similar roster of options and decided to see how the two stack up and where the most notable differences are found. 

A bolder vision 

The clearest at-a-glance evidence of the wide-ranging 2016 redo on the versatile Lexus is seen in its exterior styling. While the latest take retains undeniable heritage design links, the new-gen RX350 formula displays an edgier and higher-profile character no matter where you look. From its more prominent Spindle grille treatment to the blackout C-pillars that help create a “floating” roof, the 2016 embodies a more dynamic appearance furthered by recast L-themed LED front/rear lighting units, a 1.9-inch wheelbase stretch plus a bounty of other lesser detail touches. The F Sport is edgier thanks to its all sportier front fascia and 20-inch alloy wheels in place of the 19-inchers on our long-termer.

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The 2016 interior remake follows a similar path, starting with a selection of nicer trim materials and a more driver-centric focus to the well-finished 5-passenger cabin. The new dash with its more legible main gauge cluster and a remade center console with repositioned shift lever are big changes, as is the RX350’s new and larger standard 8.0-inch touchscreen that can be upfitted to a 12.0-inch unit with navigation. But those tangible advantages notwithstanding, our 2015 model remains a genuinely nice place to hang out, as discovered during a recent road trip to Whistler, British Columbia.

A more dynamic character

Lexus also cranked up the driving experience of its classy midsize crossover a notch for 2016. Although given the preferences of the typical buyer that has consistently made the RX 350 the division’s most popular vehicle, it’s by no means a radical departure from the RX350’s well-proven formula. The redesigned V6 holds its 3.5-liter displacement but now makes 295 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque compared to the 270/248 stats of the 2015 engine and is backed by a new 8-speed automatic in place of the 6-speed auto. Those plusses do make the latest RX350 a touch quicker off the line as well as more fuel efficient in front and AWD configurations. The 2016’s stiffer structure combined with a redesigned suspension plus enhanced steering and braking feel also result in better overall dynamics.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2016

One final change of note for 2016 is the availability of a new suite of driver aids: the Lexus Safety System +. Bolstering the Blind Spot Information System, Heads-Up Display, Pre-Collision System with Forward Collision Warning and pre-brake along with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control already on offer, this package now introduces Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist to the feature set. And while it may be less impressive, the 2016 RX 350 also adds a most welcome daily-use function we really miss on our 2015: dynamic grid lines for the backup camera display.

Were money no object, the 2016 Lexus RX 350 F Sport AWD would be an easy-to-choose and easy-to-live-with alternative. But with its $56,845 sticker representing a roughly $11,000 premium over our 2015 L/Certified model, we can’t deny the serious appeal of this well-cared-for pre-owned version and look forward to racking up even more enjoyable miles behind its wheel in the months ahead.

Check out past updates on our 2015 RX350 AWD F Sport L/Certified long-term vehicle…

Introduction

Long-Term Update: L/Certified Service

Long-Term Update: Road Trip


 

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