Road Test: 2013 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

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Sometimes you just have to ask, “Why?”

You know, like “Why do they need to deep fry a Twinkie at the state fair?” Or “Why do some men wear Speedos” (when they clearly shouldn’t)?

2013 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
2013 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

Which leads me to the 2013 Lexus RX 350 F Sport. It left me wondering why I would feel the need to spend a minimum of $48,000 for the F Sport option when a perfectly good Lexus RX 350 can be had for about $8,000 less.

The concept behind the F Sport is simple. Take a car, add some suspension goodies that give it a firmer ride and less roll, throw on a racy sounding name like “F Sport”, some cool looking pedals and you’ll create a new market for people who thought the original version was a little too tame.

Just What Does F Sport Mean?
Does "F" Stand For Firm?

The problem is that this is a luxury car and a crossover. Most RX 350 buyers aren’t planning to push the limits on their way to pick up groceries or decorating supplies. They just want a smooth ride and enough power to get up to speed quickly. Of course, the F Sport wasn’t built on a whim. I have no doubt that Lexus did its market research. Apparently the marketing folks felt there was an unclaimed niche of luxury crossover buyers who wanted more.

I’m just not one of them.

2013 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
F Sport Gets a Bolder Grill

Let me take a moment to talk about the RX 350. It’s a great luxury crossover. The RX 350 is built on the ES platform and has been a big seller ever since it was introduced. The 2013 model gets a facelift up front. The grill stretches down to the pavement and matches that of the new ES and GS body styles. The F Sport grill is even bolder at the bottom. I have to admit I’m a little disappointed in the back. It’s looked basically had the same look since 2004. It’s not bad, just a little dated. I would like to have seen the designers take clues from the front end and make the back a little more aggressive. If I’m waiting to spend money on the new model, I want a little more bang for my buck.

2013 Lexus RX 350 F Sport Interior
Styled Dash Sweeps to One Side

Inside the most noticeable feature is the center portion of the dash. It has a design that is swept to one side. Interestingly, I really liked the look of it while I was sitting in the backseat (I need to test that as well you know), but it wasn’t as impressive to see from the driver’s seat. However, it isn’t just another cookie cutter look and I’ll give Lexus credit for that. The only thing I didn’t actually like was the clock. I know this sounds piddly, but unlike the classy looking analog time piece in the ES and GS models, The RX has a lame digital clock mounted low on the dash. I want it up high and near my line of sight so I know how late I’m going to be.

2013 Lexus RX 350 F Sport Remote Touch
Remote Touch Sits Just Below Shift Lever

The RX 350 uses the Lexus Remote Touch multimedia system. I was fortunate to test drive a series of Lexus models and I really like the Remote Touch. It basically works as a mouse for the dash mounted display. You move the cursor around with side to side movements, and then push down to click on the item you want to activate. We’ll probably look back on it in a few years and consider it archaic, but it works well for today. I like the fact that I didn’t have to reach up to work a touch screen.

The RX 350 has enough horsepower, but it’s nothing you’re going to brag about. It’s a solid 270 horsepower. I was surprised that the F Sport didn’t get extra ponies. It’s not a problem, just not an impressive asset. It does get an eight speed transmission instead of the six speed that normally comes on the RX. The F Sport is all wheel drive (an option on the regular RX). Interestingly, the F Sport AWD version gets mileage equal to the two-wheel drive (averaging 21 mpg) and slightly more than the all-wheel drive non-F Sport (only 20 mpg).

Most of the F Sport money is spent on the firmer suspension with performance dampers front and rear. I didn’t get a chance to drive the different versions of the RX 350 back to back, so I couldn’t make a direct comparison. But the folks at Edmunds.com were not impressed. They felt it was harsh. I don’t know that I would go that far, but it’s wasn’t a smooth luxury car cruise. Considering that is likely the thing most RX 350 customers want, going with a sporty, yet firm, ride seems at cross purposes.

2013 Lexus RX 350 F Sport Rear View
Is It Time to Update the Rear Styling?

The Lexus RX 350 is a solid performer that has served its army of customers well for many years. The management at Lexus hopes that the F Sport will bring in new recruits who felt the base model was just a little too tame. Hopefully they weren’t counting on my purchase when they looked at the drawing board and said, “Why not?”

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