Jan 29, 2021 - Economy

What we're driving: 2021 Lexus RX 350 all-wheel-drive F Sport

Picture of a 2021 Lexus RX 350 F Sport.

2021 Lexus RX 350 F Sport. Photo: Lexus

The 2021 Lexus RX 350 all-wheel-drive F Sport is a midsized luxury SUV that tries to look young and athletic, but isn't.

The big picture: Way back in 1999, the RX introduced the first "crossover" — an SUV built on a car chassis.

  • Back then, it was a tradeoff by engineers who didn't have a truck chassis to work with.
  • But people loved it, and the RX set the standard for all the crossovers that followed.

Yes, but: Today's RX seems to be struggling to keep up with the competition. It puts on a brave face, with sharp angles and creases that suggest a youthful swagger. But it's all cosmetic.

  • The F Sport performance package, starting at $49,675, adds sportier tweaks, but under the hood, it's the same V-6 engine that comes standard on other RXs.
  • At least the interior remains quintessential Lexus, with tasteful styling and premium comfort.
  • Another plus: Lexus got rid of the aggravating trackpad-controlled infotainment system and replaced it with more traditional touchscreens.

There are some added safety benefits in the 2021 Lexus, too.

  • Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are now standard equipment, joining other driver-assist features like adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
  • On a two-lane, 35-mph stretch in my neighborhood, the lane-keeping system kept wrestling me for control, to the point that I was tempted to turn it off — defeating the purpose of the active safety technology.

The bottom line: Lexus' loyal customers will come back for the premium quality and customer service, but if they're looking for driving thrills, they won't find them in the RX 350 F Sport.

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