Interested in a new Lexus SUV? Don’t do what I did. Don’t drive the best one first.

Lexus has done exceedingly well with its utility vehicle line, four models that include the brand’s top-selling vehicle – the Lexus RX, which far outsells the most popular Lexus sedan.

The premium Toyota-owned car division sold more than 100,000 of the RX SUVs last year – twice as many as NXs sold, four times as many as GXs and many multiples more than the super-luxury LXs.

On the road, the RX feels plush and purpose-built, very good for getting around town but also extremely pleasant on the highway.

It’s powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 295 horsepower and 267 pound feet of torque, which provide plenty of get-around grunt. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, this engine felt effortless hopping up the hills where I live and merging into traffic on the way to and from work.

Driving modes enable fine-tuning the experience. Sport and Sport+ offer sprightlier drives, while Normal and Eco conserve fuel. Suspension choices, through the vehicle’s “adaptive variable suspension” system, allow the driver to dial in maximum feel or comfort.

Even in standard modes, the handling was so light and limber that I often forgot I was driving a five-passenger SUV, with large headroom and legroom and plenty of storage space. It felt more like a midsize sedan. Scooting around town after hours was made easier by headlamps that swivel with the turn of the steering wheel, illuminating corners as they approach.

On the open road, the luxury crossover was even more impressive. Smooth and quiet, with minimal tire and wind noise and almost no engine noise, the RX was just the prescription for an extended road trip. Even above the speed limit, even on a rough patch of pavement, it was a gentle giant.

The interior space has a bright, airy feel. Lots of glass means lots of light and good visibility. The heated and ventilated leather front seats offered excellent comfort. After several hours behind the wheel I felt like I’d just been in the car briefly. The very good sound system required some navigation, and so did the navigation system.

The RX has many, many buttons, and it took me half a day of driving before I mastered basic skills like changing the SiriusXM channel.

Lexus calls this “intuitive technology,” which I’ve come to understand means that it feels intuitive to the engineers, but might not to the user.

The 2016 RX is being advertised by Lexus as all-new. The exterior design includes a “larger, more aggressively sculpted body.” The overall length has grown by almost 5 inches and the wheelbase by 2 inches, and ground clearance has increased.

The RX is available for the first time with 20-inch wheels –18-inch is standard – that heighten its muscularity. Also new this year are the paint colors Caviar, Autumn Shimmer and Nightfall Mica. I can’t imagine how those colors would actually look, but don’t they sound delicious?

The changes in exterior dimensions create more space inside. The seats have been dropped slightly to create more headroom. The storage spaces are bigger. The rear seats have been improved to the level of the flagship LS sedan, and they recline.

Lexus also describes its new interior as “futuristic.” But some of the electronics are pretty futuristic too. The effective head-up display will show, depending on operator selection, speed, speed limit, tachometer, compass and other things.

In retrospect, I wish I’d driven the Lexus NX before the new RX. I would have been that much more impressed with the higher-grade SUV, and probably would have liked the lesser vehicle just fine.

Instead, I spent a week in the sumptuous, futuristic RX, which starts at $50,075, and then got into its little brother, which starts at $40,670.


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