The 2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport is positioned as the more sporty and aggressive version of the regular RX 350. I had the privilege to test and review both versions within the last few weeks. How do they compare and does the F Sport label live up to the image? Lexus is taking a page from its German competitors’ playbook and adding more “Sport” into the Sport Utility Vehicle. Lets take a closer look at how this strategy transforms the RX.
For starters, a performance version of any vehicle needs to look the part. The RX350 F Sport is a mixed bag. At the front, it’s sporting a modified grill with a larger spindle opening that extends further down than on the regular RX. I think this is a nice touch. It differentiates the F Sport and makes the front more aggressive. My black on black on black test car does look downright sinister. However, I not impressed with the rear styling. You will not be able to tell the F Sport from the regular RX from behind. It’s identical with not even an F Sport badge in sight. Perhaps, the biggest miss is the lack of dual exhaust tips or any other performance oriented differentiating details. The F Sport exterior styling does not fully capture the high performance character in my eyes.
The story continues on the inside. The F Sport interior is identical to that of the regular RX 350 with the exception of the aluminum brake/accelerator pedals. Of course, the interior is still just as functional, roomy, and comfortable. No complaints there whatsoever, but there is again the lack of performance character that F Sport aims to convey.
So what else is different of the F Sport model? It features an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters as well as the F Sport tuned suspension. Unfortunately, Lexus did not add any oomph under the hood. The F Sport 3.5 liter VTT-i V6 motor makes the same 270 HP and 248 lb-ft of torque as in the regular RX350. This is perhaps my main issue with the F Sport. It does not offer a perceptible or documented power increase. Lexus states that the F Sport at 7.7 seconds is 0.1 seconds quicker 0-60 MPH than the regular RX. This advantage is not noticeable in real world driving, especially at high altitude. That being said, the V6 sounds powerful at full acceleration and the paddle shifters add some performance flare.
The 8-speed automatic in this Lexus is not as refined as I expected. At highway cruising speeds, it sometimes hunts between seventh and eighth gears. Perhaps it’s because the motor does not have enough torque at a mile above sea-level to maintain highway speed in eighth cog. It does cruise nicely at speed with the motor turning a hair below 2,000 rpms at 75 mph. After all, the 8-speed is supposed to deliver better fuel economy. The F Sport is rated at 18/26 and 21 MPG combined as rated by the EPA. The regular RX 350 is rated at 18/24 and 20 MPG combined.
Interestingly, I averaged 20.2 MPG after a week of mixed city and highway driving. This is in comparison to 19.9 MPG I got in the regular RX 350 running the same daily routes. I must point out that it was below freezing all this week while I had the F Sport. It was significantly warmer when I tested the RX350. Still the efficiency of both cars is nearly identical in my testing.
Now, what about the specially tuned suspension on the F Sport. I did not feel much difference between it and the suspension system of the RX 350. If anything, the F Sport provides just a touch of additional road feel. It’s not harsh over bumps, but it communicates just a tiny bit better than the regular RX. The handling capabilities of the two are very close as well. The F Sport does not provide adjustable suspension or transmission modes, although the 8-speed does have the Snow Mode and the rear differential is lockable just like on the regular RX 350.
The F Sport’s primary competition comes from the famed German power houses. The F Sport is trying to match the success of the Audi S-line, the BMW M-Sport, and to some extent the Volvo R nameplates. Both the S-line and the M-Sport are deeply rooted in high performance and racing heritage. I think that Lexus F Sport nameplate does not have nearly the same performance pedigree. Yes, Lexus has the IS F and the LFA super car, but the value of the “F” moniker is somewhat less than the famous S Quattro and M racing and road performance cars from Germany.
|Starting Retail Price||City/Hwy MPG||HP / Lb-Ft||0-60 MPH|
|2013 Lexus RX 350 F Sport AWD||$47,350||18/26||270/248||7.7 sec|
|2013 Audi Q5 S line Quattro||$46,900||18/26||272/295||6.0 sec|
|2013 BMW X3 xDrive35i M Sport||$48,395||19/26||300/300||5.5 sec|
|2013 Volvo XC60 T6 R AWD||$44,850||17/23||325/354||5.8 sec|
On the TFLcar scale of:
- Buy it!
- Lease it!
- Rent it!
- … or Forget it!
I give the Lexus RX 350 F Sport a Lease It! My test car stickered for $53,865 and with nearly all the same options as the regular RX 350 that I tested earlier, it’s just about $1000 more expensive. The F Sport matches its competitors very closely on price and economy, but it falls behind in the performance and appearance departments. I still maintain, that for about the same price the RX450h Hybrid is the better choice.
Please enjoy this TFLcar mashup video as Roman and Nathan compare this RX350 F Sport against the 2013 Cadillac SRX.
Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, software engineer, writer, and reporter. He has been writing and reporting at TFLcar since 2011. When not working or spending time with the family – you can find him tinkering in the garage or scouring the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.