It’s about time for a new Lexus RX. The compact luxury SUV is the company’s bestseller, but it has received only minimal changes since the fourth generation arrived in 2015. It nearly doubles the sales of the smaller NX, which is new for 2022 and boasts an improved infotainment system and a peppier turbocharged engine. Meanwhile, the RX is one of the only vehicles without a turbo engine among its closest luxury competitors, all of which offer a better driving experience than the RX350 F Sport AWD model tested here.
Lexus uses a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 in the RX350, which makes 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque and is paired with an eight-speed automatic. Front- and all-wheel-drive models are available, as is an RX450h hybrid that pairs the V-6 with three electric motors for 308 horsepower. While the hybrid is EPA rated at 30 mpg combined, the all-wheel-drive RX350 like the one tested here is estimated at 22 mpg. The RX350’s free-breathing six lacks the urgency found in competitors with more powerful turbocharged engines. And there’s no additional grunt to be had in the F Sport model. In our testing it reached 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, considerably slower than its German—and Korean—rivals. The RX also needed a languid 5.0 seconds to accelerate from 50 to 70 mph.
Our test car came equipped with the F Sport handling package, which adds 20-inch wheels and adaptive dampers, but it rides on the standard all-season rubber. Lexus adjusted the RX’s suspension for the 2020 model year, stiffening the anti-roll bars and retuning the damping and spring rates, which resulted in 0.82 g of grip at the test track. On lumpy two-lane roads, though, we found the ride to be a bit jarring and also noticed some unpleasant body roll. On the highway, however, we had no complaints with the ride, which was calm and composed, just as we expect from a luxury crossover. The RX also needed a fairly long 178 feet to stop from 70 mph.
The RX350’s middling performance does not live up to its extroverted looks. That’s especially true of the F Sport, which adds unique bumper and grille designs, black mirrors, and F Sport badging, but still looks awkward and somewhat minivan-like. And our test car had optional running boards that were obtrusive. The car’s subdued Nebula Grey Pearl paint didn’t attract too much attention (a vibrant Grecian Water blue is newly available), in contrast to the bright red interior that greets you when opening door.
We feel like a broken record when we implore Lexus to get rid of the touchpad that controls the 12.3-inch infotainment screen. It’s been removed on the 2022 NX, which introduced Lexus’s new Interface Multimedia system, so we expect it will be gone when the new RX rolls around. For now, though, using the touchpad to navigate the menus and buttons of the Lexus system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is still far from intuitive. Lexus is aware, though, because the screen now has touch capability, but the way it protrudes out the top of the dashboard makes it inconvenient to select icons on the lower part of the display.
The Lexus has ample rear seat space and a large cargo area compared to some others in this segment. With the rear seats up the RX swallows nine carry-on sized boxes, two more than BMW’s X2 and one more than the Genesis GV70. If you’re looking for additional luggage space, Lexus offers a longer RX350L. Its third row of seats isn’t particularly roomy, since Lexus doesn’t stretch the wheelbase, but the additional length aft of the C-pillar adds a few more cubic feet of cargo space over the standard model.
Lexus continues to dominate the compact luxury SUV segment with the RX, moving a whopping 115,320 units last year, but the competition is heating up. The latest addition to the fold is from Genesis with its new GV70. Those who appreciate performance can even get into a base Porsche Macan for less our RX350 F Sport’s as-tested price of $63,155. That doesn’t mean we’re not looking forward to the next-generation RX, though. We are, and we hope that a more modern RX will offer a more compelling driving experience.
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