TechnologyTell

WTF-SPORT, Pt. III: The Impressive Interior of the Lexus RX350 F-SPORT

Sections: Car Audio, Chassis, Infotainment, Navigation, Telematics

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The interior of the Lexus RX350 F-SPORT is what I’d call class-leading. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

We told you a few days ago about our two-week stint with the Lexus RX350 F-SPORT. While its performance didn’t blow me away at first, its interior was a cut above most other SUVs.

The F-SPORT package gives the RX350 black leather seats with perforated surfacing. Those perforated surfaces are carried over to the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, as well. Meanwhile, smooth leather pads cover the armrests and upper door. In place of the lighter hues of wood found in other RX350s, the F-SPORT gets ebony-stained birds-eye maple. One thing it does not get: the multi-mode drive selector found in many other Lexus models.

Lexus’ own website bills the RX as “the very first luxury crossover,” and these elements certainly come together in a way that suggests they’ve been at this longer than anybody else. The seats are among the most comfortable in the class, with a good range of adjustment. Much like the LS460 F-SPORT and the GS F-SPORT we tested earlier, that perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel felt awesome. The dashboard was soft to the touch, and all latching mechanisms– glovebox, center console, doors, cupholders– performed with a quiet solidity not found in most vehicles.

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Little touches like the reclining back seat impressed passengers who were largely unfamiliar with Lexus and the brand’s usual interior work. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

It was the little details that most often impressed those unfamiliar with Lexus’ way of doing things. My dad’s first remarks were, “They even put carpeting down inside the door grab-handles!” And he was right. They did. They also included a thoughtful little pen holder on the underside of the center console lid. And deep inside that center console cubby were two trap doors: One made the opening roughly twice as deep, and another opened to reveal a hidden storage hole ahead of the main console storage cubby. The rear bench reclined– something my step-mother appreciated on the two-hour drive home after a long day in Nashville. My wife was impressed to find the map pockets in the front doors pulled open to make it easier to get to things stored in there. Like I said, little details.

Our tester had the same Lexus Enform infotainment suite we’ve grown accustomed to in all our Lexus testers so far. Like the ES350, however, this example was a square-shaped eight-inch screen instead of the wide, panoramic screen we had in the LS460 and GS. SiriusXM NavTraffic and NavWeather were on-tap once again, as was the usual Bluetooth connectivity that would allow for wireless streaming of music if I didn’t have a dumb phone. Even with my low-tech phone, it paired just fine and had good audio quality on both ends of the conversation when used in making or receiving phone calls.

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The Lexus RX350 F-SPORT featured this eight-inch infotainment screen and a voice recognition system that was above-par when it came to summoning music from my USB drive, finding directions, or even looking up nearby fuel prices.

The navigation system was Lexus’ standard fare, with point-of-interest (POI) searchability, gas price finder, and the ability to store favorite destinations. That feature comes in handy when you’re in unfamiliar territory and need to find your way back home, or back to your hotel room, or wherever.

Calling, music, and navigation can be summoned by voice. The Lexus Enform mistress is helpful, for the most part. I was slightly disappointed that I couldn’t tell the mistress to tune to a given frequency or SiriusXM channel as I could with the Chevrolet Equinox’s MyLink and the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave IntelliLink systems, but those functions could be taken care of by a separate MODE and TUNE button array on the steering wheel. This is something I’ve tried to do with just about all the Lexus models we’ve been fortunate enough to test. After getting this same result the first three times I tested Lexus automobiles, you’d figure I’d remember how Lexus does things, but nay!

For other functions, however, the voice command system is very easy to use. If I wanted to place a call, I just said, “Call [name]” and it would bring up the number to confirm it heard me correctly. Once I responded in the affirmative, the mistress dialed the number for me. Same with navigation. Other than the usual difficulties with the odd unusual place or person name, the system seemed to have an easy time understanding my commands so long as road noise wasn’t too intrusive. Concrete on-ramps could cause enough roar from the big, performance tread 19-inch tires to make my voice unintelligible to the computer, apparently, but otherwise, it always heard me.

One thing that worked very well in the RX that has proven problematic in some other cars was the ability to use voice commands to reliably summon artists, albums, or even individual songs from my test USB stick loaded with several albums’ worth of music. I asked it to “Play artist the Hellacopters,” and by golly, it did. I got in the mood to hear Jimmy Eat World’s “Singles,” and upon using the “Play album” command, the Enform mistress cued up the album post-haste. I wanted to crank The Living End’s barn-burning track “Carry Me Home” after a long, stressful day at the paper, and the “Play song” command delivered flawlessly as the song did just as its title implies. As expected– and as we’ve experienced in other Lexus models– the Mark Levinson sound system rocks hard.

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The heads-up display (HUD) in the Lexus RX350 F-SPORT put my vital info– speed and gear indicator– ahead of the dashboard just under my direct line of sight. This made checking my speed or gear a lot faster than looking down at the cluster. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

A favorite feature of mine was the RX350 F-SPORT’s heads-up display (HUD). While simpler than the similar HUD we experienced in the GMC Acadia Denali, it was always clear and was the quickest way for me to see my current speed. Whenever I switched tracks or radio stations, that information would briefly be displayed on the HUD, as well. More cars should have this technology. I find I lower my eyes from the roadway much less with this feature than I do without it.

My only real interior criticism: The seats, while both ventilated and heated, seemed to work best on heat. The ventilated feature was underwhelming compared to others we’ve tested with the feature, including the GMC Acadia Denali and the Chrysler 300 SRT8.

But that’s a minor quibble with an otherwise segment-leading interior. While I’ve not completely decided whether the F-SPORT treatment is worth it, as far as sheer powertrain and handling performance goes, I’m fully sold on the F-SPORT interior treatment.

Disclosure: Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

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