The Lexus RX Cleans Up

The Lexus RX comes in three trims and offers available all-wheel drive.

The Lexus RX is a midsize, luxury SUV and the only model in its segment with an available full-hybrid drivetrain. For just over two decades, the RX has set the pace in the luxury sphere, delivering cutting-edge styling, efficiency, opulence, and value. For 2020, the Lexus RX 350 features a refresh with its updated exterior styling, expanded technologies, and new safety features.


2020 Lexus RX Review


Lexus markets the 2020 RX 350 in three trims: RX ($44,150), RX F Sport ($47,950), and RXL ($47,300). The first two trims offer seating for five; the RXL seats seven. Add $1,400 for all-wheel drive and $1,025 for the destination fee. You’ll also find a hybrid variant offered in 450h ($46,800), 450h F Sport ($50,600), and 450hL ($50,510) trims. For this review, we’ll feature the gas model primarily with a few mentions of the hybrid as appropriate.


 


Exterior

What’s the big change with the RX’s exterior? A few notable things, including a redesigned front fascia, deeper character lines, and more distinctive headlamps and taillamps. If you liked the design before, you’ll love the new look. Conversely, if you thought the previous style was over the top, this one may send you over the edge!

The standard features list includes 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, power-adjusted and heated side mirrors, and a power rear door. Choose the F Sport model and you’ll find such embellishments as a mesh grille, rear valance, and 20-inch wheels. Various packages bring in automatic-leveling headlamps, other wheel choices, a power moonroof and aluminum roof rails, and a panoramic glass roof. You can also choose a kick opening liftgate.


Pronounced body sculpting and strong character lines dominate the profile.

Interior

We like, no scratch that, we love Lexus’ interiors. The look and feel is exquisite with lots of high-end materials in place, including synthetic or real leather, wood, and metal trim. The dashboard features multiple layers with metal trim splitting various sections. Our test model included the available bamboo steering wheel with leather-wrapped grip points and a heating element ($450). The color schemes are soothing and visually pleasant. The front seats are plush and quite comfortable. Surprisingly, heated front seats ($440) are an upgrade; heated and ventilated front seats are available too ($640).

The second-row 40/20/40 split-folding and reclining bench seat holds two with ease and three for most people when needed. The RXL model adds a third row, but we don’t see its purpose other than for short trips to the store for youngsters. The area is cramped with limited legroom. It also takes away valuable storage space. If you absolutely need room for seven, the Lexus GX is a much better choice.

Among the standard features are full power accessories, a power tilt-and-telescopic steering column, power front seats, and zoned climate control. The list of options, exclusive of what was already mentioned, includes manual rear side door sunshades, power cushion extenders for the driver and front passenger seats, and heated outboard second-row seats. Choose the F Sport model and this trim adds a black headliner, aluminum pedals and doorsill scuff plates, performance-style instrumentation, and special badging.




Technology

In our book, the Lexus RX scores high in most departments. Technology, however, has not been its strong suit. Fortunately, things have improved this year.

The RX is the first Lexus model to offer both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility, which will soon spread across the product line. Other changes include six USB ports and a new interface with embedded apps, including Waze and Google. Apple Maps, Apple Music, and related apps are accessible with Apple devices. Further, the standard 8-inch touchscreen display is replaced by a split 12.3-inch display in some models. Bluetooth connectivity is standard.

We’re still not smitten with the scratchpad controller, however. Here, you need to learn how to manipulate the pad to access certain features, including the radio. It takes time to learn and can be quite distracting until you get there. We’re of a mind that infotainment systems should be simple and straightforward with recognizable app-like icons, touch-screen use, and voice control.

The standard audio package is a 9-speaker system or you can opt for a 12-speaker system, which is bundled with navigation ($2,285). An 835-watt, 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system is available and also comes bundled with navigation ($3,365). Another option to consider is a head-up display ($600).



Safety

Perhaps the strongest suit for this Lexus is with its safety features. This model already scores high with the IIHS and NHTSA, but it also scores with consumers.

The standard Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 features this marque’s latest driver-assist technologies. Here, Lexus bundles automatic high beams, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, stop sign assist, and adaptive cruise control. Bundled separately is blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, automatic braking, and parking assist.

Performance

The Lexus RX 350 sits on a front-wheel-drive platform with available all-wheel drive. Thus, it doesn’t have the handling acumen of competing rear-wheel-drive models, including the Mercedes-Benz GLE and the BMW X5. On the other hand, it finds its place among such models as the Cadillac XT5.

Powering every RX is a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. Lexus pairs this engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Choose the hybrid and the same engine is present, along with an electric motor, and a battery pack. The hybrid throws down 308 horsepower at full throttle.

We found the RX offers generous step-off acceleration and ample passing power. The transmission keeps up and it doesn’t slip nor does it fumble around as it searches for the right gear.

The RX delivers a comfortable ride with most road abrasions absorbed as it powers down the road. The steering is direct and the RX acquits itself as you navigate twisty roads. Pulling out of corners is another thing as this SUV tilts and rocks, much like any other high-profile vehicle. The F Sport’s adaptive suspension system would be nice here.

Fuel efficiency is so-so for the gas model, coming in around 23 mpg combined. Choose the hybrid and it’s much more efficient, averaging about 30 mpg. What’s especially noteworthy is that the hybrid also has the power edge. If you need to tow, the RX is rated to pull up to 3,500 pounds.



Competitive Set

Besides the models already mentioned, the Lexus RX competes with the Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60, Audi Q7, Jaguar F-Pace, and the Volvo XC90. The price range for most competing models starts in the low-to-mid 40s and pushes near or above $60,000.


Our Recommendation


Stick with the base model, then add the packages you want to customize your vehicle. The F Sport has unique styling features and the adaptive suspension system, but it doesn’t add a performance upgrade. We’re still intrigued by the hybrid, which carries a $2,650 price differential over the comparably equipped gas model. Make it your choice if you have long-term ownership in mind.


2020 Lexus RX Specifications


Lexus 2020 RX
Segment Midsize SUV
Price Range $44,150 to $49,350
Destination Charge $1,025
Standard Engine 3.5-liter, V6
Horsepower 295 hp @ 6,300 rpm
Torque (lb.-ft.) 267 lb.-ft. @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Seating 5
Curb Weight (pounds) 4,222 to 4,387
Wheelbase (inches) 109.8
Length (inches) 192.5
Width (inches) 74.6
Height (inches) 67.7
Headroom (f,r…inches) 39.4, 39.1
Legroom (f,r…inches) 44.1, 38.0
Shoulder room (f,r…inches) 57.8, 57.6
Hip room (f,r…inches) 56.6, 56.1
Storage (cubic feet) 18.4, 56.3
Gross vehicle weight (pounds) 5,666 to 5,864
Towing (pounds) 3,500
Payload (pounds) NR
Fuel regular
Fuel Tank (gallons) 19.2
EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined) 19/26/22(AWD); 20/28/23(FWD)
Manufacturing Plant Cambridge, Ontario Canada

Data compiled by Tom Keegan. Specifications supplied by the manufacturer.


See AlsoShould I Buy a Lexus RX or a Lexus NX?

Photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.