The Lexus RX series is built using a recipe that’s been refined for two decades, and has set the bar for what a mid-sized SUV should be. For 2018 Lexus sought to punch it up a little with the Lexus RX350L. What is the RX350L? Essentially, it’s a seven passenger version of the trusty RX. They added 4 inches to the car, a third row seat, and tacked an L to the end of the name. But is more always better?
The RX sports a hard-edged futuristic aesthetic thanks to a facelift in 2015. 20 inch wheels fill out the geometric wheel openings. This car was coated in Lexus’ Atomic Silver paint, a handsome color that allows sunlight to play on the hard lines of the RX body. A sculpted rear side window gives the illusion of a floating roofline that tapers toward the back of the car. The LED headlights peek around corners when you turn the steering wheel after dark. Love it or hate it, the car’s looks are cohesive from front to back. There are no mismatched design elements.
Even though the RX 350L grew by a little over four inches, legroom actually dwindled all around. Space in the front and second row was sacrificed for the addition of third row seating. In Lexus fashion, the interior materials and build quality are all high quality. I especially liked the treatment the console received. The inlaid wood curves up on the right side of the gear selector. It looks like something that you might see on an Italian yacht.
The driver is treated to a very clear heads up display projected on the windshield. In the dash, a large infotainment screen displays stereo, nav and vehicle information. The lovely console is home to a not-so-lovely, wholly Lexus tech interface. It’s a dead horse, but I’ll beat it again. It’s bizarre and impossible to use while driving. There are other, more practical ways to communicate with an infotainment system. That concludes this rant, if you’d like to read more you may do that here, here, here or here.
An armrest in the second row seats is home to charging ports and a pair of cup holders that unfold origami-style. Legroom in the second row is an issue. At the push of a button, the cargo floor transforms into the third row. Once unstowed, the seats offer zero legroom. The second row seats must be moved forward to allow the rearmost passengers any semblance of space for their lower extremities. Unfortunately, this compromises leg space for second row passengers. What you’re left with is not a solution for fitting more folks, but that a debacle of discomfort; a balancing act of constriction.
Acceleration is strong and smooth thanks to a 290 horsepower V6. An eight-speed automatic distributes power to all four wheels. Cornering is predictable and the ride quality is very good. Smallish windows and substantial sail panels make it difficult to see out when changing lanes or backing up. A $1,800 gaggle of sensors feed the driver information about what’s surrounding the car.
Since its inception in 1998, it’s been really good at being a midsize SUV. And up until now, it has set a precedent for what a luxury SUV ought to be. However, more and more brands are building excellent, comparably-optioned midsize SUVs, with a more approachable sticker price, I wonder how long Lexus will stay at the top of the stack.
Let’s face it, even when priced at $10,000 above similarly optioned non-luxury competitors, there will always be a market for this car. Under the flashy skin beats a venerable Toyota heart. Despite the leg room issues and silly infotainment interface, this is still a well-sorted, comfortable midsized SUV. People are willing to pay for that L on the front and back of their car. It’s been around long enough to become a staple in many driveways. For many folks, nothing else will do.