Lexus is trying to make up for lost time with the introduction of a stretched RX L model, which finally adds a third-row seat. The Lexus RX has continued to win the loyalty of its buyers by delivering a driving experience that accentuates comfort, tranquility, and luxury, topped by good reliability. But while the RX has long been the brand’s best seller, the lack of an available third row has forced buyers to shop elsewhere.
Unfortunately, this SUV comes up short with its extra set of seats. Squeezing anyone larger than a grade-schooler into the third row is a challenge. However, the added cargo space may be the best reason for some shoppers to choose the RX L.
The 3.5-liter V6 engine in the RX 350, which is coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission, has the smooth and ample power delivery that drivers expect in a premium SUV. The regular RX gets 22 mpg, while the extended-length version drops to 20 mpg overall, which is par for the midsize-SUV class. The hybrid version offers added power and better fuel economy, as it combines the one-two punch of the gas engine and electric drive while delivering 29 mpg overall, which is truly impressive.
Our drivers were disappointed with how the RX drove. The RX lumbers in corners thanks to its soft suspension, giving the impression that it doesn't hug the road well. It also feels clumsy when pushed to its limits going around sharp turns; on the positive side, the RX won’t do anything surprising or unsafe at those low speed limits.
The RX L has an interior that’s sitting-room quiet. It combines with a cushy, insulating ride that coddles passengers with calmness. The interior is tastefully done with elegant-looking trim, rich leather, and high-quality fabrics.
The front seats are comfortable, even though they only have a two-way lumbar adjustment, and the second row is roomy even for three adults. But if passengers move the second-row seat too far forward to help out those in the way back, legroom becomes cramped.
That third-row seat is not particularly useful. It’s best to consider the RX L as more of a 5+2 than a true seven seater. At best, the retractable third-row seat is useful only in a pinch, and then only for grade school-age children.
But that’s not the only sore spot in this SUV. Most of the controls, particularly with the infotainment system, are an ergonomic mess. Some controls can be managed with buttons and knobs, but many functions require fiddling with the fussy touchpad that works with the center screen. As soon as any jostling occurs in the car, drivers have a hard time placing the screen's cursor onto the desired task. It's unnecessarily distracting.
Finally, the RX L’s styling diminishes rearward visibility.
All versions of the RX get a suite of advanced safety features, including forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking.
While the avant garde styling may not be everyone's cup of tea, the new RX continues to be a genteel vehicle that's likely to provide years of reliable ownership.