Review: 2020 Lexus RX 350

If you’re a fan of mid-size luxury SUV’s you should probably thank Lexus.

They were they ones that essentially created the segment back in 1998 when the first-generation RX debuted. But they had their eye on creating this new segment as early as 1993.

Today, the RX remains one of the most recognizable products in Lexus’ portfolio and continues to be a strong seller for the Japanese luxury brand.

But like any free market, just because you had first dibbs on the segment, doesn’t mean that you will hold the crown forever. In fact, there is no luxury nameplate that does not have an RX-sized SUV in their lineup today.

Lexus Canada was kind enough to loan me the recently refreshed version of the RX in the form of the RX 350. Also available is a hybrid version called the RX 450h.

In terms of styling, new for 2020 is a revised spindle grille and sleeker headlights. There are also redesigned taillights which I’m happy to say, continue to feature attractive amber LED turn signals.

Inside you’ll find typical Lexus fit and finish. A fair amount of craftmanship goes into each Lexus and it certainly shows. My tester was the luxury trim, but if you are looking for a sportier interior, you can always opt for the F-sport package.

All RX’s come standard with smart phone connectivity and what I love the most is a dedicated slot to put your phone in. It coddles it nicely and prevents it from sliding around (it also keeps your cupholders free). My only wish is that the cell phone slot was also a cordless charging dock.  An 8-inch display screen is standard and there’s an optional 12.3-inch display screen which was fitted to my tester. It presents clear and crisp icons, but to operate it you still need to use the cumbersome mousepad. I’m not as enraged about this mousepad as my automotive writer colleagues appear to be, but there are definitely easier ways to interact with infotainment systems.

Powering the RX 350 is a naturally aspirated V6 which produces 295 horsepower and 268 pound feet of torque. If you want fast, you should probably get the hybrid. No seriously. The hybrid has more power coming in at 308. But there’s something charming about the V6. It’s jarringly quick, but it gets the job done when you need it to. There’s something indescribably satisfying about a V6 that’s allowed to do its job without the help of supercharging or turbocharging. It feels raw and in a good way. But for regular driving, it largely minds its own business making sure to deliver a quiet and refined experience. The 8-speed automatic, on the other hand, seemed a bit un-Lexus-like as gears shifts felt sluggish downright jerky at times.

On the highway, the RX is a pleasure to drive. It is supremely comfortable and has all the safety gadgets you could think such as blind spot monitoring, lane tracing assist, and adaptive cruise control. It also comes with daytime bicyclist detection and low-light pedestrian detection. Based on the name alone, I’m assuming the system does not quite work at night, but at least you have standard and very bright LED headlights in that case.

Nobody buys an RX for corner carving pleasure, but Lexus still did a but of tuning to help it feel more stable for 2020 including hollowing out the front and rear stabilizers to reduce weight while simultaneously reinforcing them along with the  bushings to reduce body roll.

While that naturally aspirated V6 is charming, the RX 450h has another advantage aside from more power and that’s more efficiency. It gets a 7.5 L/100 kms city rating and a 8.4 highway rating. Compare that to the RX 350’s 12.2 city and 9.0 highway rating. After a week of mixed highway/city driving I landed at 11.6 L/100 kms. That’s not out of line for the segment it’s in, but if you can get a more powerful and efficient RX, why wouldn’t you?

And indeed, if you are in the market, why wouldn’t you test the vehicle that created the whole segment in the first place? It’s comfortable, luxurious, stylish and has a modicum of sportiness if you need it. It will hold its value well and Lexus continues to top initial quality surveys.

The RX is the exact opposite of what I look for in a car. I hate SUVs/crossovers and will take bone jarring performance suspension over comfort any day.

And yet, when I returned the RX 350 I found myself missing it. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older? Maybe I’m getting wiser? Maybe the RX is one of those inexplicable cars that you just like but don’t know why.

Regardless, the RX continues to fulfill its main purpose in life and will likely continue to be one of Lexus’ best-sellers for years to come.   

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