The RX has been in the Lexus lineup since the late 1990s as one of the first SUVs not based on a truck platform. As the luxury SUV segment expanded, the RX grew into a midsize SUV and now consists of five models: RX, RX F Sport, RXL, RX Hybrid and RXL Hybrid. The extended length RXL adds a three-row seat variant to the RX lineup.
Pricing for the 2020 RX 350 FWD starts at $44,150, followed by the RX 350 F Sport ($47,950). The RX 350L FWD is about $3K higher at $47,300. At the top of the model range are the three hybrid AWD models: RX 450h AWD ($46,800), RX 450h F Sport AWD ($50,600), and RX 450hL ($50,510). All non-hybrid RX models are available in FWD or AWD variants, but the RX & RXL Hybrids are AWD only.
Our test vehicle was a RX 350L AWD ($54,700) loaded with options: blind spot monitor & other safety technologies ($1,865), second-row captain's chairs ($405), cold weather package ($315), color head-up display ($600), navigation & 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system ($3,365), door edge guards ($140), mudguards ($155), running boards ($640), and floor liners & cargo mat ($330). Including the $1,025 delivery fee added up to $63,540. Notable standard or optional equipment in the test vehicle included: Bi-LED headlamps, leather trimmed seats, heated/ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, 12-way power front seats, power folding third-row seats, power rear hatch, tri-zone climate control, sapele wood interior trim, moonroof, rear sunshades, heated steering wheel, Google Android Auto(TM), Apple CarPlay(R), and 12.3 in. infotainment screen. Safety technologies include panoramic view monitor, rear cross-traffic braking, and parking assist.
The extended length RXL shares the same 109.8 in. wheelbase as the RX, but overall length grows to 196.9 in. (RXL) vs. 192.5 in. (RX). Width is unchanged at 74.6 in., but height is 0.4 in. lower at 67.3 in. for the RXL. The extra inches behind the rear axle enables the RXL to accommodate two people in the third-row seats, for a total of seven passengers. Opting for the second-row captain's chairs reduces total seating capacity to six.
All RX models are powered by an all-aluminum 3.5L V-6 with dual overhead-cams and variable valve-timing (VVT-iW). The 2GR-FKS V-6 in the RXL is rated for 290-hp @ 6,300 RPM and 263 lb.-ft. @ 4,700 RPM (5 hp and 4 lb.-ft. less than in the RX 350). The V-6 drives all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic. Both seventh (0.808:1) and eighth (0.673:1) are overdrive ratios coupled to a 3.329:1 front axle ratio. The rear axle has a 2.277:1 ratio and is engaged by an active electronically-control differential. EPA fuel consumption estimates are 18/25 MPG (city/hwy.) for the AWD RXL. We averaged just under 20 MPG in mixed highway and urban driving. Lexus claims 0-60 MPH acceleration in 8.1 seconds with AWD and a top speed of 124 MPH.
The RXL front suspension consists of MacPherson struts and tubular stabilizer bar. At the rear is a double wishbone setup with coil springs, dampers and tubular stabilizer bar. Brakes are vented discs: 12.9 in. dia. front rotors and 13.3 in. dia. rear rotors. Standard fitment are 18-in. alloy wheels and 235/65R18 tires. Our test vehicle had the optional 20 in. dia. alloy wheels shod with 235/55R20 Michelin Premier LTX M+S rated tires. Steering is an electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion setup geared for 2.7 turns lock-to-lock. Curb weight for the tested AWD RX 350L is 4,597 lbs.; the FWD model is slightly lighter at 4,442 lbs.
As expected from Lexus, interior materials and build quality is superb. The test vehicle was trimmed in parchment leather and contrasting dark brown interior surfaces. Gray sapele wood with inlaid aluminum accents line the doors and dashboard. Front seat comfort is exceptional, and power adjustability enables occupants to find their preferred setting. Headroom is adequate for front passengers up to 6 ft. tall. The captain's chairs in the second row also provide excellent comfort and ample legroom; headroom is acceptable for occupants up to 5 ft. 10 in. tall. Third-row passengers are not as fortunate, as both headroom and legroom are compromised for adults. However, the second-row seats can be pushed forward to expand available legroom for the rearmost passengers. Cargo capacity with the third-row seats up is 176 liters (6.2 cu. ft.), or 652 liters (23.0 cu. ft.) folded down.
Instead of digital gauges, Lexus designers kept a conventional analog tachometer and speedometer, along with smaller coolant temperature and fuel level gauges. A central multi-function display monitors various vehicle functions and status. The leather and glossy wood-rimmed steering wheel has integrated controls for audio, phone, cruise and other vehicle settings. Paddles mounted on the steering wheel enable manual transmission shifts on demand. Instead of a touchscreen interface, Lexus fits a touchpad on the center console to control the infotainment system. The touchpad can be overly sensitive, often sliding the on-screen cursor past the intended menu selection, but is arguably less distracting than tapping and swiping the tablet-style touchscreen. The premium Mark Levinson audio system includes an increasingly rare CD player. Dual knobs and pushbuttons enable direct adjustment of commonly used audio settings. Likewise, the climate control system settings are readily accessible via pushbuttons on the center stack. Dual USB ports and a 12V power outlet on the center console can connect and charge mobile devices. Cupholders on the center console are located next to the gated transmission shift lever. Second-row passengers get separate climate control vents and dual USB ports.
The 3.5L V-6 delivers strong acceleration in city driving, and acceptable midrange response at highway speeds. Throughout the rev range, the V-6 is barely audible, even at full throttle. Torque steering is absent since power is transferred to the rear axle automatically. The 8-speed automatic shifts seamlessly, and is tuned to maximize engine throttle response. Although we rarely used the paddle shifters, the transmission responded promptly to shift commands.
Lexus has always intended the RX as a luxurious cruiser, hauling passengers in comfort and silence around town or across the country. As we expected, the RXL is exceptionally quiet, especially during highway cruising at 80 MPH. Subjective engine, tire and road noise are so unobtrusive that passengers can converse as if in their home living room. We expected superb ride comfort, yet we were impressed that even the most cratered roads barely perturbed the RXL. Like other tall SUVs, crosswinds require frequent minor steering inputs; reduced steering assist at highway speed would certainly enhance vehicle stability in windy conditions. The steering system is so isolated that it is difficult to judge available traction on wet roads. Although the RXL is equipped with vented discs front and rear, we noted long pedal travel and significant suspension dive under hard braking. Around curves, the suspension is tuned for moderate understeer, along with significant body roll. Lexus had no sporting intentions for the RXL, and we expect that the intended customer is unlikely to be dissatisfied with the ride vs. handling balance.
As other brands have entered the midsize luxury SUV segment, the larger RXL fills in the gap in the Lexus lineup between the RX and GX. Current RX customers looking for more passenger or cargo capacity should consider the RXL as the logical step up. Lexus knows what its customers want, so the RXL delivers the luxurious, yet uninvolving driving experience they expect in a more spacious package.