The RX receives more standard tech features for the latest model year.
When it debuted back in 1998, the Lexus RX was the first luxury crossover to hit the market, providing a then-revolutionary blend of the cargo space and elevated seating position offered by traditional SUVs with driving dynamics and fuel economy similar to that of a car.
Now in its fourth generation, the latest RX continues to build on the virtues of the original. The latest redesign puts the new Lexus corporate "spindle" grille front and center, topping off a new styling direction that gives the RX a far more aggressive look than in years past.
Previous RX models have featured premium cabins and solid materials, but the redesign takes that up yet another notch. The dash is laid out much like the rest of the Lexus lineup, with a tiered "T" shape trimmed with various upscale options--including aluminum and wood. A number of desirable options can be selected to heighten the level of opulence further, including a truly impressive Mark Levinson stereo and an available Enform App suite that lets users search the internet through Bing, make restaurant reservations with OpenTable, check in on Facebook places, listen to internet radio and more.
When equipped with the optional Display Audio or navigation packages, the features Lexus' Remote Touch system. This mouse-like device allows users to navigate through icons and menus on a dashboard-mounted display screen; some love it and find it easy to use, while others have criticized it as an unnecessary distraction that diverts attention from the road.
Those looking to put their luxury crossover to work as a pack mule will find much to like in the RX : 18.4 cubic feet of cargo space is available behind the rear seats, and 56.3 cubes can be had by folding the rear seats down. Those numbers drop to 18 and 55.9 cubic feet, respectively, in hybrid models, owing to the extra space demands of the battery pack.
Thanks to a spacious rear passenger area, the story is similar if people hauling is a priority. However, unlike some rivals, no third-row seat is available.
The RX is offered in two forms: the conventionally-powered RX 350 and the hybrid RX 450h.
The RX 350 is motivated by a 3.5-liter that teams with an eight-speed automatic and produces 295 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is estimated at 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway for the front-wheel drive model, or 19/26 mpg if the optional all-wheel-drive system is equipped.
For efficiency-focused buyers, the RX 450h marries a version of the RX 350's 3.5-liter running the thrifty Atkinson cycle with an electric motor to produce a total system output of 308 horsepower. With the help of a planetary CVT, the setup is good for mileage of 31 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
Notably, the RX 450's optional AWD system doesn't use a transfer case and driveshaft to send output to the rear wheels - instead, an electric motor powers the rear axle to provide extra traction when wheel slippage is detected. Selecting AWD lowers fuel economy to 30/28 mpg.
Standard and Optional Features
As a luxury offering, the RX350 and 450h both come with quite a fairly robust standard equipment list.
With the RX350, you get standard 18-inch wheels, auto on/off headlamps, heated side mirrors, Siri Eyes Free, a smart key, acoustic windshield glass, an electronic parking brake, auto start/stop technology, a contrast-stitched center console, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, a 40/20/40-split and reclining rear seat, an OLED cluster display, 4 12-volt power outlets, 2 USB ports, dual-zone climate control, adjustable front seatbelt height anchors, and an AM/FM/HD/MP3/USB/Bluetooth audio system with 9 speakers and an 8" display screen with an integrated rear camera monitor.
Standalone options include 20-inch wheels, a blind spot monitoring system, a heads-up display, a 15-speaker sound system, a moon roof, and a panoramic-view monitor.
A Luxury package adds, among others, leather upholstery, 20-inch wheels, a powered thigh extension for the driver's seat, ambient lighting, a heated wood-and-leather trimmed steering wheel, rear-door sunshades, rain-sensing wipers and various other interior and exterior trim upgrades.
A slimmed-down variant of this is the Premium package, which withholds the leather upholstery and must be selected alongside either a power moonroof or a panorama glass roof.
There are two navigation packages available. The first utilizes the standard 8-inch screen but adds a 15-speaker Mark Levinson Audio system along with Lexus Enform apps. A second package upgrades that to a 12.3-inch touchscreen. A rear-seat entertainment system is also available as an add-on.
The base 450h adds a couple of features that require packages on the 350, such as leather upholstery (vs. NuLuxe in the base model) and heated and ventilated front seats. Variants of the packages above are also available on the 450h (less the equipment that comes standard on this higher-priced trim).
For the first time, Lexus is offering both the RX 350 and 450h models in F-Sport trim. These models are intended for those who want sporty handling and aggressive styling without sacrificing too much in the way of comfort or convenience.
Performance upgrades for F Sport models include a sportier suspension tune with adaptive dampers (paired to a more aggressive Sport + drive mode), 20-inch wheels with more aggressive tires and a vehicle dynamics management module tuned for more aggressive driving.
Inside, F Sport models get paddle shifters, a perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear selector, scored aluminum trim and pedal covers and heated/ventilated leather-trimmed seats with unique stitching.
Outside, the aforementioned 20" wheels are matched to black side mirrors, unique front and rear bumpers and F Sport badging.
The RX comes standard with dual front, front knee, front and rear side, and full-length side-curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control system, electronic brake-force distribution and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
The Lexus Safety System + adds a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, dynamic cruise control, and a lane departure warning system with steering assist.
Hybrid competition for the RX 450h is limited to the Infiniti QX60 hybrid, which can't match the Lexus' fuel efficient but does boast an additional row of seating. Buyers who place an emphasis on fuel efficiency but don't want a vehicle with a stylized "L" badge on the front grille should consider the diesel-powered version of the BMW X5.