2015 LA Auto Show: 2016 Lexus RX Hybrid F Sport
Whether be held at this week’s 2015 LA Auto Show press days or test driven along the quiet streets and highways of Charleston, South Carolina, the 2016 Lexus RX Hybrid F Sport is constantly multitasking.
First, the crossover — like all of its sisters in the RX family — is the single biggest seller for Lexus. That makes it an essential vehicle in the company’s line — a tentpole for the automaker’s success. It’s held up under that burden quite well for years, thank you very much. This gutsy and aggressive 2016 redesign and updating shows no signs of shrugging off that responsibility.
Meanwhile, this particular RX – the Hybrid F Sport model — stands up and proves the auto industry can make a good looking, hybrid luxury performance vehicle that doesn’t need to announce to the world a crossover is saving it from drowning polar bears.
The evolution of the RX for 2016 starts with the new exterior styling. Obviously, as an F Sport model, this hybrid receives special badging and the signature mesh spindle grille. However, a closer inspection of the crossover reveals a slightly lowered, sleeker line front to back. The car is generally more stylish and distinctive than at any other time.
That’s Lexus taking a risk — with its most successful vehicle, no less. The RX sold so well historically because it offers equal appeal to men, women, fathers, mothers, etc. Its status and overall reliable performance made it a hit with single men and women of means. Its street-going crossover utility, manageable size and comfort made it must-have with dads and (more importantly for overall sales numbers) moms looking to make youth soccer game runs more stylish.
Visually re-creating such a surefire cash generator meant potential turning off some mix of those buyers. Still, Lexus went ahead and transformed the car into a more visually appealing machine — bringing it more in line with the rest of its constantly evolving line. Over recent years, every other Lexus introduced became sportier. The RX had to keep up, regardless of its already strong popularity. So much for Lexus being a conservative, “boring” brand.
The Hybrid F Sport is the top trim level in the line, with that F Sport badge putting this RX amongst the Lexus performance line. Powered with a 3.5 liter V6 engine capable of putting out 308 horsepower, the F Sport will manage a top speed of 112 mph and go 0-60 time of 7.7 seconds. An electronically controlled, continuously variable transmission keeps the engine in line.
If there’s any minor complaint for the RX F Sport, it’s in the drivetrain. An elite vehicle like this should roll out standard with all-wheel drive. Many of its competitors do. Whether driven by a responsible bachelor or a soccer mom, any crossover with a projected price tag north of $40,000 should offer that little extra bite in the snow.
Regardless, the Lexus RX Hybrid F Sport’s gas/electric engine helps this larger crossover offer a hatchback-worthy average mpg of 30. But, unlike other loathsome hybrids desperate to announce their presence to world in a desperate grab for self-ennobling attention, the excellent RX only wants to be an outstanding crossover. Its power, its handling, its performance are all undetectable from any straight gas model. In fact, the F-Sport tuned 450 trim level engine outpaces the capabilities of any other RX.