The feature list for the 2016 Lexus RX lineup doesn’t tread over to radically different terrain. If you’re willing to check some option boxes, you’ll get a luxury vehicle that embraces this lineup’s somewhat sportier, more tech-savvy direction.
Keep in mind that there's more of a pricing jump from the RX 350 to the RX 450h hybrid than there has been in the past—around $10,000 now. That's because a number of items that are optional on the RX 350 come standard on the hybrid. Remove the factor due to that equipment difference, and the pricing gap between these two powertrains, all else the same, is closer to $5,000.
In addition to F Sport models and all of their performance-oriented upgrades, you have a few major packages from which to choose. A Premium Package adds aluminum roof rails, driver seat memory settings, leather front seats, rain-sensing wipers, rear armrest storage, and special Espresso Walnut, Matte Bamboo, or Matte Linear Dark Mocha Wood trim. The Luxury Package adds to that 20-inch super chrome wheels with color inserts, Gray Sapele Wood and aluminum trim, heated-and-ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, ambient lighting, power folding heated rear seats, rear sunshades, and semi-aniline leather upholstery.
There’s also a towing package, which includes a heavy-duty alternator and radiator plus a transmission cooler. Additional standalone options include a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, triple-beam LED headlamps with LED cornering lamps, the touch-free hatch release, and park assist.
Audio and infotainment systems leave you with a few choices. In base models, an 8.0-inch Display Audio system adds a new single-panel home-screen layout, and you can toggle between navigation, audio, air conditioning, and fuel economy displays. The base audio setup includes a nine-speaker system with HD Radio with iTunes tagging, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, an in-dash CD player, two USB ports, an aux input, Bluetooth hands-free operation and audio, and a 15-minute audio cache. Mark Levinson surround-sound audio is available and it includes 15 speakers, 835 watts over 10 channels, a 12-channel amp, and Clari-Fi Music Restoration Technology to make MP3s sound better.
The display that the new RX’s dash feels designed to host is the 12.3-inch widescreen, with the Lexus Remote Touch interface, a mechanical controller that’s partway between a mouse and trackpad. For this latest version Lexus has added "Enter" buttons to either side of the controller.
Also, a rear-seat entertainment system offers two large 11.6-inch LCD screens and HDMI connectivity.
We still aren’t in love with Remote Touch, as even with its haptic feedback it requires looking at the screen while making selections. Likewise, the horizontal orientation to the expanded map view is counterintuitive, as most people want to see what’s along the road ahead. We can't help but wonder aloud: Wouldn’t a vertical orientation be better?
Also available in the RX is a new, larger head-up display; it offers several views and now can cover up to four times the display area of before, including inputs from active-safety systems, parking clearance, navigation directions, warnings, and gauge displays.
Lexus has also, across the RX lineup, improved the voice recognition system, so that it now allows more natural inputs, like “Please speak louder”—and it’s trainable. Most processing (including standard POI search) is onboard, but the destination search uses an app and connected smartphone.
The Lexus telematics suite and apps-based services—some of them subscription-based—has been expanded for 2016; new items include a new feature that shares vehicle diagnostics with nearby service centers. The safety system also includes automatic collision notification or stolen vehicle location, as well as new remote functions such as remote start, locking and unlocking, and climate pre-conditioning (all through an app). Through the Navigation Package you get an expanded app suite with which you can also take advantage of Bing search; Pandora, iHeart Radio, or Pandora streaming audio; or Yelp, among others.
The power rear hatch operates with just a swipe over the Lexus logo in back, provided the keyfob is in your pocket. That’s better, we think, than systems that require temporarily standing on one foot.