2013 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

The Lexus RX 350 has been around for more than 10 years. It’s an iconic luxury SUV and it hasn’t changed that much over the years. This year, however, Lexus introduces an F Sport model that adds a little Tony’s to the gumbo.

The new F Sport brings an 8-speed transmission, 19-inch wheels, paddle shifters and a sport-tuned suspension. The result is a sporty, fun ride with all the quiet and luxury you expect from the brand with the tilted L.

The RX may be getting older, but like wine and friends, it gets better with age. We spent an entire day in our RX 350 F Sport test car recently, driving throughout a four-parish area to shoot pictures of new homes that will be in the upcoming Parade of Homes. All we can say is thank goodness we were in the RX.

Here are my top five reasons why:

• It is a comfortable and spacious SUV.

• It has a taller step-in height, which makes it easier on taller drivers, of which I am one.

• It has the Lexus Enform system with navigation that uses an easy and intuitive mouse-like controller to select destinations and map functions.

• It has heated and ventilated 10-way adjustable front seats.

• It has a bright heads-up display that reflects vehicle information onto the windshield, allowing the driver’s eyes to stay on the road.

The RX is the quintessential SUV for a typical family of four. The split and sliding second row seat folds down to double cargo capacity from 40 cubic feet to 80 cubic feet.

Powered by a 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, the RX was just as comfortable on the Interstate as it was on city streets. The new 8-speed transmission with paddle shifters was smooth as butter, and our AWD test vehicle felt planted on the road at all times. Steering was linear and on center, and braking was excellent.

With the AWD system, torque is sent to all four wheels when the vehicle is accelerating or on a wet road surface. When the road is dry and the wheels are spinning at a steady speed the torque goes just to the front wheels, actually resulting in better fuel economy for the AWD model. EPA fuel economy ratings put the RX 350 FWD at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. With the AWD, the RX 350 gets 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the road.

In fact, it’s hard to find much to quibble about with the RX.

Some observers have griped about the Enform connectivity and infotainment system, but we found the Remote Touch controller a quick and easy way to access climate control, audio, phone and navigation settings. Even keying in destinations in the nav system was easy. The “cursor” controlled by the “mouse” snaps to letters on the keyboard, making it easier to select them. Some other nav systems drive us crazy, requiring the operator to jump through numerous hoops to enter a destination address, but the Enform system was intuitive and easy to use. Apps like Bing, OpenTable and MovieTickets.com are also available.

Our 2013 tested RX 350 F Sport had a base price of $47,000. A blind spot monitoring system added $500, the heads-up display added $1,200, upgraded sound from Mark Levinson was an extra $995 and the Enform system with navigation tacked on another $2,775. The bottom line was $52,970, which did not include $895 in freight.

All RX models have a segment-leading 10 airbags, including side curtains and knee airbags for the driver and passenger. The government gives the 2013 Lexus RX 350 the best five-star safety rating; the vehicle has not been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

2013 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6
  • Horsepower: 270
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters
  • Test model base price: $47,000 ($53,865 as tested)
  • EPA mileage rating: 18 mpg city / 26 mpg highway