As you probably expected, the F Sport is longer on Lexus luxury than it is on performance. I found the F Sport's stiffer suspension and paddle shifters less impressive than the car's comfort, quietude, and well-built quality.
So what are the differences between the F Sport, which comes only with all-wheel-drive, and a base AWD RX 350? First, there is the $6,290 price differential: $41,160 for the base all-wheel-driver, and $47,450 for the F Sport.
Then there is the F Sport's longer litany of standard equipment, which includes performance paraphernalia such as an eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters, stiffer suspension, tuning, and 19-inch alloy wheels, instead of the base car's 18-inch wheels.
The F Sport is also fitted with a special lateral damping system that reduces vibration and enhances ride quality rather than improve handling through increased structural rigidity.
The smooth, nifty-shifting eight-speed automatic in the F Sport not only out-finesses the six-speed found in the base car, but gets better mileage. Both gearboxes have city EPAs of 18, but the eight-speed's 26 highway is 2 mile per gallon better than the six-speed's.
The F Sport is powered by the 3.5-liter, 270-horsepower V-6 used in the other RX 350s. This engine was detuned slightly for the 2013 model year - from 275 horsepower to 270 - to allow it to use regular gas instead of premium. This move saves the customer money while whacking only about a tenth of a second off the car's zero-to-60 time (now about 7 seconds flat).
While the F Sport's acceleration and improved handling and steering certainly make it a pleasant driver, its fun quotient isn't quite on a par with competitors such as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
Where the F Sport does excel is in the fit and finish of its attractive skin (that includes a unique front bumper and grille) and the quality, comfort, and facile design we find inside.
The test car was indeed blessed with a handsome interior, as in fresh, clean, and flowing.
The seats are upholstered in supple, smooth, and perforated black leather. The front ones were heated, cooled, and equipped with 10-way power. They were also reasonably bolstered and quite comfortable.
The F Sport tester's upmarket cabin amenities were joined by high-quality workmanship and low noise levels. I don't know what the base F Sport's sound system is like, but the Mark Levinson system I found in the test car (a $995 option) was a real treat.
The F Sport is a roomy five-passenger crossover with good rear-seat leg and shoulder room. A reclining/sliding 40-20-40 split-rear seat adds to the car's passenger and cargo-carrying versatility. Ride comfort is probably a mixed bag. I found the ride acceptably firm, but others may not.
The car did well enough in the government crash testing. It earned a maximum five-star rating in side crashes and four stars for frontal crashes and rollover.
2014 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
Base price: $47,450.
As tested: $53,375.
Standard equipment: 3.5-liter engine, 8-speed automatic gearbox, all-wheel-drive and a premium amenity list ranging from heated/cooled power front seats to leather, veneer accents and a power rear lift gate.
Fuel economy: 18 city/26 highway
Engine performance: Adequate but sub-par in segment.
Ride comfort: Firm.
Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles bumper-to- bumper.
The Ben key: four Bens, excellent; three Bens, good; two Bens, fair; one Ben, poor.