Test-Driving the SUV That's Changing the Game

The Lexus RX is a car Ryan Gosling would love.

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There is a scene in The Notebook in which Ryan Gosling is rowing Rachel McAdams in a boat across a wide estuary in torrential rain. The orchestral music swells, the thunder crashes, clothing sticks closer to bodies. He is taking them, slowly but surely, to a mooring just behind Boone Hall Plantation, outside Charleston, SC, where this writer is right now to review the brand-new 2016 Lexus RX.

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Dripping in Spanish moss, which hangs from oak trees centuries old along allées that are even older, the plantation is the most picturesque in the state, arguably the country. (In more celebrity news, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds got married here.) The Notebook was released 11 years ago, so Ryan didn't have the option of driving Rachel around in the 2016 Lexus RX, but one imagines that, given the option, he would have chosen it over his sad little wooden dinghy. Not only would Ryan and Rachel both have been a lot drier (the Lexus is, happily, leak-free, though some models have a vast panoramic moon roof—which Ryan would have kept shut in the rainstorm), but there is an all-new infotainment system on a huge touch screen. So instead of listening to the rain and—yawn—each other, they could have tuned into the Elvis station on Sirius.

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On the power train front, Ryan would have been in his element. Instead of oars, which require so much upper-body effort, he would have had the choice of either a 3.5-liter V6 engine (this one is updated with direct engine) or a hybrid (the planet's for sharing, Ryan!). And there are two models, the 350 and the 450—Ryan may well have chosen the smaller, more streamlined 350, and perhaps even opted for the F-Sport model. The torque's better—a fact Rachel would probably have appreciated—and acceleration is noticeably quicker than the regular version. (Is it worth the price increase? Jury's out.)

We know this because we waited for the plantation to close, then "accidentally" drove the wrong way down the driveway, around the back, to where we had the run of the fields that stretch along the estuary at dusk. White storks and egrets, white flecks in the gathering dusk, watched as we careened around corners (fortunately there is minimal body roll, especially on the F-sport model); they flew away when we put down the windows and tested out the 10-speaker, 835-watt Mark Levinson speaker system.

But what would have most likely appealed to aesthetically minded Ryan is the car's styling. Whereas his boat is small, white, and gently curved, the new-generation Lexus RX is angular and striking to the point of being futuristic. The lines start at the grill and cut along the sides so dramatically that you can almost picture the designer scoring them with his knife on the clay model. It's a radical departure for the company, clearly aimed at a newer, younger market. People like Ryan and Rachel simply don't want another boring SUV—or, for that matter, a boat, especially not a stupid little one without a roof or an infotainment system and with precisely zero heated seats! No, they want to be comfortable and look good doing it, and this car is the answer to their transportation needs.

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