2018 Lexus RX350L
“The RX 350L is the safest bet on a midsize luxury crossover, but with extra space for more things”
- Superbly comfortable, quiet, fuss-free driving experience
- Legendarily smooth V6 and well-matched eight-speed auto
- Loaded with tech and gizmos
- Just pleasant to drive and be in
- Every Tom, Dick, and Harry, and their wives has one
- Unexciting to the driving enthusiast
- No longer the affordable alternative
- Love it/hate it styling
Most of you reading already know Lexus’ RX crossover. One of your neighbors probably has one. As does someone within your family on at least one side. It’s so ubiquitous it essentially became the vehicle posterchild for middle- to upper-class suburbia. And, we were recently reminded why the Lexus RX has been the best-selling luxury crossover in America, ever, since its introduction in 1997.
Lexus began making a slightly longer version of the current fourth-generation model mainly in response to Chinese demand for long-wheelbase vehicles. Given that North America continues to be one of the RX’s strongest markets, the company began importing the “L” version in 2017. We explored Nashville proper in one.
The Lexus RX 350L continues as a more affordable alternatives to the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350, the Porsche Macan, the Volvo XC90, and the Audi Q5, just to name a few. But its competitive stablemates include the Acura MDX, the Infiniti QX60, the Jaguar F-Pace, the upper tiers of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Kia Sorento. Yet, the Lexus continues to shockingly fend off all of these competitors as the king of the hill. Does the Lexus RX continue to hold the trophy?
Interior and tech
The current-generation RX has been with us since 2016 and, when compared to previous renditions of the RX, the latest interior feels a lot more upscale. Then again, that’s partially explained by the $5,015 Luxury Package that our tester came with, adding unique gloss wood trim, special wheels, more comfortable seats, and higher-grade leather. Also equipped was the optional top-specification Mark Levinson surround stereo system with 15 speakers and a total output of 835 watts. It’s part of the Navigation and Mark Levinson Audio Package.
It’s also a Lexus, meaning it’s richly loaded with various connectivity features plus all the usual safety gear that you expect to find in a new luxury car these days. The wide, 12.3-inch Enform touchscreen for the infotainment and navigation functions is wonderfully vivid with a high definition. But its mouse-like trackball mockup controller interface is beginning to show its age and still takes some getting used to, even if you’ve used it before.
Since its introduction in 1997, the Lexus RX has been the best-selling luxury crossover in America.
On the safety front, the list includes but isn’t limited to radar-guided cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking and pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and adaptive headlights with automatic high beams.
The biggest change comes in the form of some extra length and interior space, thanks to the RX 350L’s 4.4 inches of additional sheet metal. The wheelbase remains unchanged, interestingly. Where does the extra length go? Mainly to the rear, where the trunk space also gains a third row of seating while the second row can be a traditional bench. Our tester’s second row checked the option box for two captain-style bucket chairs. Those extra set of seats in the far back only cater to the frames of small children, unless you find sitting with your knees in your chest comfortable. With the seats down, however, the rear trunk space becomes spacious at 23 cubic feet, up from the standard RX’s 18.4.
There are many things in this world that are as predictable as clockwork, the sun rising in the east, getting hungry for breakfast, and the handling of a Lexus RX. Like all other RXs of yonder years, Toyota’s equally ubiquitous naturally-aspirated V6 continues powering either the front wheels or all four. The newest change was the introduction of an eight-speed automatic transmission. With its smoothly-tuned ratios and buttery V6, the RX continues to provide one of the most predictably comfortable and fuss-free driving experience that millions have enjoyed over the span of the past two decades.
The RX 350L also exhibits a much smoother ride, which we attribute to the additional weight added by stretching the vehicle and adding a row of folding seats in the trunk space. Driving enthusiasts will certainly be better off looking elsewhere, particularly at the many European alternatives. But, as a statement for everyday usability and comfort, the RX remains impossible to ridicule. Which is why it lands itself into the driveways of millions of people each year: it’s as predictable and comfortable as no-frills luxury transportation gets. If you possess anything that resembles a pulse, there are many other alternatives to choose from.
All Lexus RX models get a four-year, 50,000-mile basic bumper-to-bumper warranty with six-year, 70,000-mile coverage for the engine and transmission.
How DT would configure this car
We would opt for nightfall mica blue for the closest match to Digital Trends blue, along with the stratus gray leather and espresso walnut trim. We’d save a couple grand and keep the checkbox next to the $5,015 luxury package vacant since the RX is already plenty nice inside. We’d instead save that for the $3,020 navigation and Mark Levinson premium package and the panoramic view camera and blind spot detection with rear-cross traffic and parking assist, since the RX 350L has huge blind spots. We found the panoramic view camera was very helpful with parallel parking.
The RX 350L manages to do everything that its original, smaller sibling does, but with extra space for either the trunk or another third row of seating. The third row is only useful for carrying younger individuals with small frames on quick trips to the park or the local ice cream parlor. With the seats down, the RX 350L allows you to take more home on the routine Costco run.
It won’t win the hearts of any driving enthusiasts anytime soon. And keep your eye on the invoice as you load up the options. With a starting price of $49,500 with all-wheel drive, optioning out our tester as we saw fit bumped the sticker to the mid-$50,000. That puts it up against some serious competition. But for the most popular and neutral option in the segment that you simply cannot go wrong with, look no further than the RX 350L.
Should you get one?
If the current selection of midsize luxury crossovers makes you dizzy, the RX 350L simplifies the decision-making process by being the reliable, dependable, and predictable choice. It does exactly what most people ask of it as a comfortable form of daily personal transportation.
But desire something with a little more pizzazz and you won’t be met with a shortage of options. Those who like a little more style and excitement behind the wheel will want to consider the Mercedes-Benz GLE 350, the Porsche Macan, and the Jaguar F-Pace. The Volvo XC90, the Acura MDX, and the Infiniti QX60 cater to those needing a true third row and extra space. And there are more affordable, value-driven alternatives that come close to being just as luxurious as the RX 350L such as upper tiers of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Kia Sorento.
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