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With Lexus RX350, the beauty comes from within

The 2017 Lexus RX350 F Sport features all manner of creature comforts plus great drivability. Its exterior, though, offers a love-it-or-hate-it look.
The 2017 Lexus RX350 F Sport features all manner of creature comforts plus great drivability. Its exterior, though, offers a love-it-or-hate-it look.Read moreToyota

2017 Lexus RX350 F Sport AWD: Plush fun and ruggedness?

Price: $56,960 as tested. (The F Sport model starts at $49,125.) Options included $1,300 for blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, $600 for color heads-up display, $315 for Cold Weather Package, and $1,600 for panoramic sunroof. More options under "Play Some Tunes," below. A base RX starts at $43,020 with front-wheel drive.

Marketer's pitch: "Sophisticated. Sharpened."

Conventional wisdom: Sharpened by an ugly stick? liked the "impeccable cabin that features top-quality materials and construction; supple ride quality that makes almost any road feel smooth; available F Sport trim adds legitimate performance capabilities without sacrificing comfort…" but not the "less overall cargo capacity than its competitors; acceleration is merely average; optional tech interface is clever but distracting to use while driving."

Reality: Now if only it had sophisticated and/or rugged good looks …

What's new: Completely revamped for 2016, the Lexus RX350 F Sport gets a few safety equipment upgrades for 2017.

Comfy: There's something about climbing into a Lexus and settling back into the seat that just makes me go, "Aaaahhh."  Sturgis Kid 4.0 agreed. It just feels right.

The leather seats are firm and supportive, yet supple and soft. Much time has been spent on how all the interior parts feel. Even the details like the seat-back pockets are well above average.

Most reliable: The brand – and parent company Toyota – have just won tops and second place in reliability from Consumer Reports for the fourth year running, and they've been high up for most of the last 20 or so years. Full disclosure: The Sturgis Family of Somewhat Fine Vehicles now features 75 percent Toyota-built automobiles (but, sadly, zero Lexii).

Beauty is skin deep: Sometimes I get the feeling that Toyota is testing buyers' allegiance. I find this RX butt ugly, especially from the front. The grille is all angles and fear, and the sides are heavy on angles as well.  Sturgis Kid 4.0 thought the profile was nice, but agreed the grille said growl.

Up to speed: Lexus is aiming to add performance to its reputation for comfort and premium luxury – that's what the F and F Sport designation are all about.

The RX350 meets this challenge, mostly.

Its 295-horsepower V-6 engine packs a punch, but in Normal and Comfort modes, it's a dawdler. The initial pullout exhibits a real hesitation.

So we switch into Sport or Sport+ modes, and voila! Hot rod all the way. A 7.7-second 0-60 time is touted, though it's a crossover, so feelings of sportiness can be fleeting.

Well tuned: Still, it sounds cool. Lexus has also learned to make a wonderful exhaust note for hot rodding.

On the road: In Sport or Sport+ mode, the curves could really be taken at great speeds, with only a little comfort sacrificed.

Attention, please: The gauge pod features a tachometer in the center circle and a digital speed readout inside it. Gauges on the right and trip information on the left. It's an attractive setup.

Friends and stuff: In addition to all the creature comforts in the Lexus crossover, space was also quite generous as well. Rear seat passengers should complain only if they're seated behind a pro basketball player.

The rear seat doesn't move front to back but it does recline. Cargo space – a not-so-generous 56.3 cubic feet – is compromised by the angled rear hatch. The movable rear seat could solve this issue.

Play some tunes: But Lexus wins for largest infotainment/navigation screen. There's room for a giant map plus song information as well. Naturally, this is part of a $2,180 navigation system package, which throws in a one-year subscription to Enform Destinations and free Enform apps. But that 12.3-inch screen alone is worth it.

Sound was high quality. It rates an A but too much treble – a Toyota tradition – means it falls short of truly awesome.

The joystick controller can take a bit of getting used to, and while it's not my favorite, I think Edmunds exaggerates how distracting it is.

Night shift: The RX350's headlights sat a little low for my tastes. This type of headlight has a very focused glow and can feel really dark outside that area.

Fuel economy: I averaged 21 mpg in some heavy use on highways and in the suburbs. Feed the Lexus premium, of course.

Where it's built: Cambridge, Ontario.

How it's built: Better than average, says Consumer Reports.

In the end: From the inside, everything is awesome. Just don't look too long at the outside, or you'll turn to stone.