The 2013 Lexus RX F was the first SUV for the company, and it has become the best crossover Lexus makes.
For the coming model year, Lexus is introducing a newly design F Sport version of this well-appointed crossover. I had a chance to drive it hard recently in the Pacific Northwest.
A quick note for the less Lexus savvy car lover: The F badge on the RX – as with the GS and other Lexus models – indicates a sport-tuned model of the given car. But you shouldn’t confuse it with an elite make like the Lexus IS F. The latter is a scary, V8-powered beast that looks to hunt down BMW’s M3 and other sport-themed luxury cars.
The RX F The Lexus RX F-Sport ramps up the performance of the standard version with a 3.5 liter V6 engine producing 270 horsepower. That doesn’t sound like a lot of muscle for a larger vehicle like a crossover, but Lexus makes other fine tunings to up the ante. They add a lateral performance damper system. That’s a very fancy Lexus-ish term for an add-on that stabilizes the crossover’s overall ride.
That’s not just some slapdash extra. Over the years, the upright nature of many crossovers – or smaller SUVs in general – gave them a reputation of instability. Never forget the Suzuki Samurai. So, for even a small SUV to have any ambition at being a sporty ride, designers must add that extra assuredness so drivers are confident biting off an apex or two.
An eight-speed transmission inspired by the IS F’s gearbox comes along for the ride. Yes, it’s a silly number and seems like overkill. But what can you do? I tried out the paddle shifters that are unique to the F Sport version, but just let the automatic work in the end.
The external styling fits with the new Lexus motif that seemed to start last year with the introduction of the GS. The front grill and new headlight arrangement gives the RX F a more aggressive face. Otherwise, the crossover sticks to the traditional line of a vehicle looking to split the different between SUV and sporty hatchback.
The driving experience is powerful and enjoyable, even for a V6. For this particular test drive, I took to the Oregon hills between Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens. I had a passenger with me – another auto journalist who was along for the ride to evaluate the car.
I drove aggressively to see how well the RX F took hard turns and how quickly the big vehicle accelerated. I did not hold back even with lines of if pine trees crowding in around us. Suffice to say, I made my front seat passenger nauseous with all of the throwing around I did with the RX F on the mountain roads. There aren’t a lot of SUVs that drive sharply enough to make anybody sick.
For the MSRP of about $47,000, the RX F doesn’t come cheap and runs about $10,000 more expensive than the standard RX F 350. But, if anyone is in the market for a sporty crossover drive with all of the interior bells and whistles, it’s a good bet.