The grandfather of luxury crossovers

The Lexus RX has been around since 1998 and basically invented the luxury crossover segment. It’s even appropriate to credit the RX with the boom in popularity for all crossover niches. But things have changed, of course, and the competition is fierce. Lexus brought its latest RX iteration to life for 2015, complete with the aggressive styling seen elsewhere in Lexus’ lineup.

Now as 2018 rolls on, the Lexus RX gets a new three-row version called the RX L. it’s available in the RX350 and RX450 configurations, meaning you can haul seven people with a standard V-6 or one connected to a hybrid system. If that’s not enough choice, Lexus will also let you have the F Sport package – and that’s all before getting into the optional features available within the cabin. Needleless to say, the RX offers customers plenty of choices.

But we’re testing the old standard – the RX350 in FWD without the appearance package or hybrid powertrain. This is the type of RX you’d find at any Lexus dealership without having to special order something. Let’s have a look.

Continue reading for more information.

  • 2018 Lexus RX350 - Driven
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V6
  • Transmission:
    eight-speed automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    295 @ 6300
  • Torque @ RPM:
    267 @ 4700
  • Displacement:
    3.5 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7.7 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    124 mph
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:
  • Overall:
    8.7/10

Exterior

- * Aggressively designed
- * 20-inch wheels
- * Rain-sensing wipers
- * Hands-free tailgate

2018 Lexus RX350 - Driven
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Lexus’ current design language is nearly as polarizing as politics

Lexus’ current design language is nearly as polarizing as politics. Some love the aggressive design while others thing the Spindle Grille should have been left in the Predator movies. Subjectively, I like it. It’s different and exciting without being overly flashy. It’s not elegant, but it’s hardly ugly, either. Looks are a matter of personal taste, so you’ll have to come to your own conclusion.

On the more objective side, the Lexus RX offers some great features. The front includes triple-beam LED headlights and LED fog lights. 20-inch alloy wheels fill the fenders and black plastic helps give the RX a more SUV-like appearance. All four door handles include passive entry sensors, including the tailgate. Rain-sensing wipers and headlight washers keep forward vision intact.

Around back, the taillights are LED, too, and have an aggressive light signature at night. The tailgate has a cool hands-free feature that responds to a hand or elbow being held over the Lexus emblem for a couple seconds. The tailgate’s push-to-close button also doubles as a door lock button, making it easy to walk away after closing the tailgate without having to touch a door handle or fumble for the key fob.

2018 Lexus RX350 - Driven
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Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase 109.8 in.
Overall Length 192.5 in.
Overall Width 74.6 in.
Overall Height (unloaded) 67.7 in. (without roof rack)
Tread Width Front/Rear 64.4/64.0 in.
Ground Clearance 8.2 in.
Approach Angle 17.0 deg.
Departure Angle 24.9 deg.
Breakover Angle 16.8 deg.

Interior

- * Seating for five, respectable room for four
- * 12.3-inch Enform infotainment system
- * 10-way power front seats
- * Reclining second-row seatbacks
- * Nine-speaker audio system
- * 18.4 cubic feet of storage in cargo area
- * 56.3 cubic feet of storage with seats folded

2018 Lexus RX350 - Driven
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Lexus is fantastic at making comfortable, ergonomic interiors and the RX 350 is no different

Lexus is fantastic at making comfortable, ergonomic interiors and the RX 350 is no different. The buttons and controls are logically placed and comfy leather seats aid in long road trips. The Enform infotainment system has plenty of features and the 12.3-inch screen is pleasant to look at.

The RX has room for five people, though adults in the back seat will be more comfortable without a middle passenger. They enjoy an impressive 38 inches of legroom and enough headroom for someone over six-foot. A folding center armrest and reclining seatbacks pump up the RX’s comfort game.

The front seats are even more comfortable with 10-way power adjustment. The driver’s seat also has a three-position memory feature that remembers the positions of the power tilt and telescoping steering column and power-adjustable side mirrors.

The Lexus Enform infotainment includes all the standard barrage of features, including satellite radio, GPS navigation, a backup camera, traffic and weather information, gas prices, and vehicle maintenance scheduling. It does not, however, have Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or any Wi-Fi connectivity system. That puts the Lexus at a disadvantage to many of its competitors.

2018 Lexus RX350 - Driven
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I’m not a fan of Enform’s joystick controller.

I’m not a fan of Enform’s joystick controller. It works, but its learning curve is steep and it requires extra attention than the driver should be dividing from driving. As I wrote in my close look at the Lexus Enform system, moving away from the joystick and adopting a touchscreen would serve Lexus well.

Another downside of the RX is cargo space. Compared to crossovers like the Audi Q5, Cadillac XT5, and Lincoln MKX, the RX falls way short. However, for those not needed to move massive amounts of cargo, the RX’s 18.4 cubic feet in the cargo area and 56.3 cubic feet with seats folded should be plenty.

All told, the Lexus RX’s interior is a wonderful place to spend time and affords a great view of the road and surrounding scenery. That’s especially true with the optional panoramic moonroof.

2018 Lexus RX350 - Driven
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Interior Dimensions

Seating Capacity 5
Headroom - Front (with moonroof)/Rear 39.4/39.1 in.
Legroom - Front/Rear 44.1/38.0 in.
Shoulder Room - Front/Rear 57.8/57.6 in.
Hip Room - Front/Rear 56.6/56.1 in.
Total Interior Volume 139.7 cu. ft.
Cargo Volume - Cargo area/ Rear seats folded down 18.4/56.3 cu. ft.

Drivetrain

- * 3.5-liter V-6
- * 295 horsepower & 267 pound-feet of torque
- * Eight-speed automatic transmission
- * 20 mpg city, 27 mpg hwy, 23 mpg comb
- * FWD & available AWD
- * Available hybrid powertrain

2018 Lexus RX350 - Driven
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Behind that Spindle Grille is Lexus’ familiar 3.5-liter V-6

Behind that Spindle Grille is Lexus’ familiar 3.5-liter V-6. The all-aluminum engine features dual overhead camshafts with variable valve timing. Unlike Toyota’s latest technology, this engine still relies on port fuel injection. It will, however, switch between the fuel-sipping Atkinson combustion cycle and the power-production Otto cycle. Power is rated at 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque.

An eight-speed automatic transmission sends power to the front wheels. AWD is an option on all RX variants. Fuel economy on the FWD model is a relatively respectable 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined.

The V-6 and eight-speed combo do a great job moving the RX. The sprint to 60 mph takes only 7.7 seconds and the top speed maxes out at 124 mph. Of course, the RX is far more adept at comfortable cruising than autobahn burning. The suspension utilizes MacPherson struts up front and an independent coil spring arrangement in back, but it’s tuned for comfort over performance. Bumps are soaked up with ease and send very little harshness into the cabin.

2018 Lexus RX350 - Driven
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The downside to the soft ride is body roll in the corners and nosedive during hard braking.

The downside to the soft ride is body roll in the corners and nosedive during hard braking. It’s not terrible, but the RX is no sports car. For those wanting a more athletic driving experience, the RX F Sport is a great choice. Its suspension is firmer in the twisties thanks to adaptive dampers that coordinate with the drive modes.

Drive modes are also present in the standard RX. They include Eco, Normal, and Sport. Each provides different tuning to the engine and transmission computers, making the driving experience very different in each mode. I’ve expounded more on the driving experience here.

2018 Lexus RX350 - Driven
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Drivetrain Specifications

Engine Type, Materials V6, aluminum block and heads
Designation 2GR-FKS
Valvetrain DOHC 24-valve with VVT-iW
Displacement 3.5 liter
Bore x Stroke 3.70 in. x 3.27 in.
Compression Ratio 11.8:1
Horsepower 295 HP @ 6,300 RPM
Torque 267 LB-FT@ 4,700 RPM
Maximum Engine Speed (redline) 6,300 rpm
Fuel System Sequential Multiport Fuel Injection (EFI, D-4S)
Fuel Requirement Performance Numbers achieved with 87-octane Unleaded fuel
Layout Front engine, full-time all-weather drive (AWD), or front engine, front-wheel drive (FWD)
Transmission Type 8-speed Automatic Electronically Controlled Transmission (ECT)
0-60 mph Acceleration (mfg. results) 7.9 sec. (AWD) 7.7 sec. (FWD)
Top Track Speed 124 mph – electronically limited
Estimated Fuel Economy (City/Hwy/Combined) 19/26/22(AWD) 20/28/23(FWD)
Coefficient of Drag (Cd) 0.34

Pricing

2018 Lexus RX350 - Driven
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Though my tester is a 2017 model, most consumers will find dealership lots filled with 2018 models by this time. That doesn’t make much difference, though, prices haven’t changed between the years.

My RX350 boasts a slew of optional extras that add a whopping $10,254 to the base price of $43,020. In reality, the RX isn’t offered in dedicated trim levels with set prices and lists of included features. Rather, Lexus allows customers to pick what option packages and stand-alone features they want. It could make the shopping experience potentially more frustrating with trying to refine search results by options rather than a well-defined trim level.

2018 Lexus RX350 - Driven
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Options on my tester include:

Blind Spot Monitoring w/ Intuitive Parking Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, & Auto Braking $1,065
Matte Linear Dark Mocha Interior Trim $400
20-inch Gray Alloy wheels $1,170
Touch Free Power Rear Door $200
Triple-Beam LED Headlights $1,615
Panorama Moonroof $1,600
Enform w/ Navigation & 12.3-inch display 2,120
Premium Package w/ Leather seats, folding mirrors, driver memory $960
Heated Matte Linear Dark Mocha Wood Steering Wheel $450
Illuminated Door Sill $375
Cargo Net, Cargo Mat, Wheel Locks & Key Glove $299

2018 Lexus RX

RX 350 FWD $43,270
RX 350 AWD $44,670
RX 350L FWD $47,670
RX 350L AWD $49,070
RX 350 F SPORT FWD $48,920
RX 350 F SPORT AWD $50,320
RX 450h AWD $45,695
RX 450h F SPORT AWD $51,055

The Competition

2018 Cadillac XT5

2017 Cadillac XT5 – Driven
- image 745026
All-new design but with familiar cues

The XT5 is Cadillac’s newest vehicle and a replacement for the SRX. It rides on the same C1XX platform as the GMC Acadia but shares no exterior or interior components. The interior is lined with leather and suede with room for five people, the CUE infotainment system is improved over other iterations in Caddy’ older models, and it includes welcomed features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and 4G LTE Wi-FI hotspot.

Power comes from GM’s familiar 3.6-liter V-6. Here it makes 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque sent to an eight-speed automatic transmission. FWD is standard, but the optional AWD is worth every penny since it has active torque vectoring for more control in both wet and dry driving.

Pricing for the 2018 XT5 starts at $41,590. Cadillac thankfully has trim levels to choose from, with the Luxury costing $47,590; the Premium Luxury costing $54,090; and the Platinum starting at $64,390.

Read our full review on the 2018 Cadillac XT5.

2018 Audi Q5

2017 Audi Q5 High Resolution Exterior
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The Q5 just underwent a massive update for 2018 and sports a sharpened, fresh appearance and a more high-tech interior. The dash now includes Audi’s lovely Digital Cockpit with Google Maps and various reconfigurable screens. The updated MMI system operates through a laptop-like mouse pad or via the touchscreen. High-end materials abound and the Audi’s German flair remains a big part of the Q5’s nature.

Under the hood of the Q5 resides a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Thanks to torque arriving at only 1,600 rpm, the Q5 feels very quick. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic turns all four wheels via Audi’s legendary Quattro AWD system.

Prices for the 2018 Q5 start at $41,500 for the Premium trim. The Premium Plus starts at $45,500 and the range-topping Prestige at $50,800. Check all the option boxes and the Q5 will nearly reach $60,000.

Read our full review on the 2018 Audi Q5.

Conclusion

2018 Lexus RX350 - Driven
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The Lexus RX350 might not be perfect, but it is an incredibly smooth and comfortable luxury crossover that’s completely competent doing daily life and fully able to hit the road on a cross-country road trip. Add to that Lexus and Toyota’s legacy of reliability, and it’s easy to see why the RX finds nearly 110,000 homes in the U.S. every year.

Improvements to the Enform infotainment system and standard heated and vented front seats would make me appreciate the RX even more, but even still, it’s hard to complain about Lexus’ all-star crossover.

  • Leave it
    • * Frustrating infotainment system
    • * Pricy Options
    • * Super competitive segment

References

Lexus RX

2018 Lexus RX350 - Driven
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What it’s Like to Daily Drive the Lexus RX350

2016 Lexus RX
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Read our full review on the 2017 Lexus RX.

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Read more Lexus news.

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