Lexus practically invented the luxury crossover, debuting it at the Chicago Auto Show in 1997. Now in its 4th generation, the RX has been refreshed and reinvigorated with new technology and enhanced driving dynamics for 2020. We drove this gen RX in 2016, when we spent a week with an RX350 F Sport. This time around, we opted for the three-row RX350 L. Debuted in 2017 with more cargo and passenger room, the L adds 4 extra inches of Lexus with no change to wheelbase.
The 2020 RX wears revised front and rear fascias. The changes recontour the grille introduces a new grille design. Sleeker headlights and new fog lights help remove the visual complexities of the original design and eliminate the appearance of an under-bite. Our tester arrived fitted with attractive the 20-inch split-10-spoke wheels that are part of the Luxury Package. The bright wheels tie in well with the brightwork of the grille surround, window trim, mirror caps, and front and rear lower valences.
The aforementioned Luxury Package makes some big changes inside the RX350’s cabin. The surfaces are upgraded to semi-aniline leather with contrast stitching and unique wood trim with aluminum inlay. Our tester’s Noble Brown leather with red stitching and Gray Sapele wood elevates the interior experience to the best that Lexus has to offer. It’s exceptionally well crafted and a bold combination of colors. The pricey $6,000 package also includes heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, illuminated door sills, rear-door sunshades, and a power moonroof with aluminum roof rails. Our tester also benefited from the Mark Levinson premium audio system, color heads-up display, and jewel-like triple-beam LED headlights. Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 is now standard across the RX model range, but can be upgraded with a panoramic view monitor, blind spot monitoring, and park assist.
For 2020, the Lexus Media System has been revamped to make use of the Remote Touch interface and the massive screen is now touch enabled. This is also the first Lexus to to receive Android Auto integration and Amazon Alexa capability. The Lexus software isn’t any smarter, however. It’s actually impossible to browse a list of every satellite radio station. Instead, you have to select a specific category and then scroll down the list. This means instead of just tuning from 70s on 7 to Classic Vinyl, I had to back out of the Pop category, arrow over several times to get to the Rock category, and then scroll down to the correct station. It’s like the engineers knew the interface was so bad that they were forced to divide it up into chunks. After a few days, I discovered that the “All Genres” button appeared only when stationary. Why?! Another frustration comes when attempting to use the voice prompt button on the steering wheel which, when using Android Auto, activates the onboard Lexus system rather than the Google Assistant. It’s these small technical things that Lexus keeps getting wrong.
Beneath the RX350 L’s sumptuous interior, the 3.5L V6 and eight-speed automatic transmission remains unchanged. A silky smooth 290 horsepower and 263 lb-ft torque deliver an adequate performance. We average 20 MPG over the course of 337 miles, below the EPA combined estimate of 21 MPG likely due to the cold weather. But the 2020 RX feels different, and for good reason. Lexus has fitted thicker front and rear stabilizer bars and reinforced bushings to reduce body roll and improve steering response. They’ve also re-tuned the shock absorbers and upgraded the dampers to reduce noise and vibration. Finally, additional spot welds and adhesive improve chassis rigidity. There’s a contentedness here that we haven’t experienced in the RX before. It feels much less floaty without any loss of comfort.
With a simplified exterior design and a sophisticated cabin, the RX350 L continues to innovate in the segment it started all those years ago. What it gets wrong, the Lexus Media System and peripherals, are things the entire Lexus lineup get wrong. What it gets right are the revised ride and handling, the quietness of the cabin, and the large wide doors and flat rear cargo floor. We enjoyed the practicality and cold-weather conveniences in a week that turned markedly colder despite Punxsutawney Phil predicting an early spring.
|2020 Lexus RX350 L AWD
|Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package||$3,365|
|Panoramic View Monitor, Blind Spot Monitor w/ Rear Cross-Trafic Braking and Power-Folding, Auto-Dimming Outside Mirrors and Intuitive Parking Assist||$1,865|
|Premium Triple-Beam LED Headlamps and Taillamps||$1,775|
|Color Head-Up Display||$600|
|As Tested MSRP||$63,330|