2020 Lexus RX front

Lexus is updating the two-row RX and three-row RX L for the 2020 model year, with cosmetic updates to the front and rear, a tweaked suspension, and an upgraded interior. Most significant, these popular midsized luxury SUVs get a reworked infotainment system, something that has been a critical shortcoming for the automaker, especially in the tech-driven luxury SUV segment.

These changes should keep this popular model—known for its comfort, tranquility, and luxury—competitive.

Here's what we know so far:

What it competes with: Acura MDX, BMW X5, Infiniti QX60, Lincoln Nautilus, Mercedes-Benz GLE
What it looks like: Similar to the current RX, with a barely noticeable front and rear nip and tuck.
Powertrain: 295-hp, 3.5-liter V6 with an eight-speed automatic transmission and 308-hp, 3.5-liter hybrid V6 with a continuously variable transmission; front- and all-wheel drive
Price range: $44,000 to $55,000 (estimated)
On-sale date: Fall 2019

Outside

The current generation RX was introduced for the 2016 model year wearing a dramatic spindle-shaped grille and a “floating” rear roof design, a trendy styling cue that uses black trim to visually separate the roof from the rear pillar. This distinctive appearance continues, but it's accentuated with more dramatic sculpting for the front fog lamp insets and slimmer headlamps.

There are some minor changes to the rear tail lamps and corner reflectors. The power rear liftgate can now be opened with an optional kick sensor; drivers need only wave a foot under the bumper to raise it. This is a welcome convenience that we have seen on other vehicles for years.

2020 Lexus RX interior

Inside

The seats and trim elements are covered in new materials, and there are several different color options. But more significant is the upgraded infotainment system.

With this update, Lexus is now using touch screens in 8- or 12.3-inch sizes. The screens are also closer to the driver.

We described the system in the current RX as an “ergonomic mess.” It's operated by a fussy joystick controller that bounces from one selectable on-screen item to the next, and it's difficult to use while the vehicle is in motion.

For 2020, the joystick has been replaced by a touchpad, like those commonly used on laptops and some other Lexus cars. We're not enamored with this controller, either. Our Lexus ES and LS sedans both have touchpads, and we've found them distracting to use. It requires precise dexterity that makes using the infotainment system cumbersome. Further, the pulsation feedback while moving the cursor across the screen constantly annoys us.

And last, voice commands can be used to operate the system. Lexus claims that RX models with 12.3-inch screens will be able to recognize millions more phrases than their conventional systems through natural voice commands.

For 2020, the RX infotainment systems will have Android Auto and Apple Carplay compatibility, addressing a shortcoming that has been a major disadvantage for Lexus.

Drivers will now be able to connect their phones and use common applications right on the car’s screen, such as Apple Maps, Spotify, or Waze. The RX is also compatible with Amazon Alexa, which means you can use it to access the infotainment system and control other Alexa-enabled devices, including those at home.

What Drives It

The RX and RX L will continue to feature a 3.5-liter V6 engine. There's a traditional 295-hp version and a 308-hp hybrid. This is notable, because the upcoming redesigned Toyota Highlander, a midsized SUV that has long maintained a mechanical connection with the RX, will use a four-cylinder engine instead for its hybrid version.

Lexus has tweaked the RX suspension to reduce body roll and improve steering response. This sounds appropriate; we've noted that the current RX can feel ponderous in corners, where the soft suspension lets the SUV lean over, giving drivers the uncomfortable impression that the RX doesn't hug the road well.

Safety and Driver Assist Systems

As with the current model, all 2020 RX’s get Lexus Safety System+ as standard equipment, which includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. Blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are optional.

Lexus has expanded its suite of advanced safety and driver assist features for 2020 by adding low-light pedestrian detection, road sign recognition, and lane centering assist.

CR’s Take

The Lexus RX and RX L have been strong competitors, delivering good all-around performance backed by better-than-average reliability. This update aims to address several key shortcomings, namely handling and the infotainment system. We're interested to see whether those changes live up to their potential. If so, then a good SUV is about to get better. 

Read the current, complete Lexus RX and RX L road tests.

2020 Lexus RX rear