Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 23, 2014

Cargazing: Lexus RX crossover upgraded

Ever since the Lexus RX was launched 15 years ago, it’s followed a three-part formula that buyers seem to like.

One, it’s built incredibly well. From the rich materials to the tight construction and subtle color choices, it’s hard to find any crossovers that are executed better than this one.

Two, it’s got a quiet, smooth ride that makes it a joy on highway trips.

And three, it’s got an overall style that is classy but doesn’t draw too much attention to itself. It’s more subdued than ostentatious.

That’s why I was surprised to see that Lexus has dramatically changed two-thirds of that formula on the 2014 RX 350, at least when you opt for the F SPORT package.

The sporty version of the RX is still built as wonderfully as any other RX, but its firm suspension and more aggressive styling combine to give it a different personality from the standard model.

First, there’s the bling.

The F SPORT package adds big, dark, 19-inch wheels that look trendier and more youthful than the base RX. It also gets an angrier looking front end, with a unique mesh grille treatment and bigger air intake thanks to its revised front bumper.

Inside, black leather upholstery with silver stitching, ebony bird’s eye maple wood trim and a black headliner give it a sinister look. But, despite all the blackness, it doesn’t have the cave-like feeling you might expect. The textures are different and rich enough that it feels more warm and cozy than dark and cold.

The biggest surprise for me, though, is just how differently this F SPORT version drives. A major reason for that is a firmer suspension, of course, which makes it much more controllable in aggressive maneuvering and tight turns.

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