"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is a strategy Lexus has simultaneously ignored and embraced in the 2020 refresh of their best-selling crossover. Sales of the Lexus RX indicate that the crossover is far from "broke". It tops both the Lexus and overall luxury crossover sales charts with 111,636 units sold in 2018 (over 40,000 more than the second-place Audi Q5).
Although the RX wins the popular vote, some of its features presented an opportunity for improvement. The 2020 refresh offers shoppers the same model they've known and loved, but with some key improvements. The aesthetic changes are minor, but the improvements to the infotainment and safety tech are more drastic. We joined the Lexus team at their regional headquarters to learn about the updated RX lineup and take a short test drive in the hybrid-powered Lexus RX 450hL.
The front fascia of the 2020 RX gets an updated grille and thinner headlights with 3 beam high beams for a sleeker look. Additionally, both the front and rear bumpers are updated and the vehicle gets new standard 18-inch wheels and optional 20-inch wheels. The updates are minor improvements which means if you liked the previous styling, you'll be pleased and if you didn't, you will likely not be converted. Lexus also added some functional improvements including a kick sensor for the power liftgate and more laser screw welds and structural adhesive for increased body rigidity and stability.
The interior gets updates including standard paddle shifters on all trims and standard NuLuxe (leather alternative) seats in the Premium trim. Higher trims offer a genuine leather interior which we found to be visually and texturally attractive in our RX 450hL tester. After spending 30 minutes in the driver's seat, we found it to be comfortable with ample support and cushioning. Our tester came with heated and ventilated front seats, but it's good to note the 2nd and 3rd-row passengers will not get the same luxury treatment as those in the front row. Our vehicle did not have a heated 2nd row, and the 3rd row only has space for small children (barely). Adults shouldn't even attempt to stuff themselves into the tight space. 6 USB ports can now be found throughout the cabin to keep everyone connected, but there is no wireless charging which is a feature offered by many luxury competitors.
Infotainment and Safety Tech
The most valuable updates can be found in the crossover's infotainment system. The 2020 RX lineup sports a new multimedia system with the addition of a touchscreen that gives the driver an alternative to the often finicky touchpad. An 8-inch screen is standard and it can be upgraded to a 12.3-inch screen, both with touchscreen capability. We found the screen to be responsive with a clear and user-friendly layout. Our only complaint was that some of the lower icons were awkward to reach from the driver's seat. For the first time, drivers of the RX can stay connected to their devices through Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa, all while keeping their smartphone tucked away in the new center console cellphone pocket. With all these new features, Lexus has created over 100 instructional videos that can be accessed on YouTube to better understand the vehicle's tech.
Several important safety upgrades accompany the infotainment overhaul. Lexus added the Safety System+ 2.0 as standard tech. This safety suite now includes daytime bicyclist detection and low-light pedestrian detection along with Road Sign Assist (RSA) and Lane Tracing Assist (LTA). Lane Tracing Assist is different from traditional Lane Leep Assist because it guides the driver into their lane even when the lane line isn't clearly marked. This system works by tracking the vehicle in front of the driver.
On the Road
We were able to take the 2020 RX 450hL for a short drive around the neighborhood from the Lexus headquarters. The powertrains for the Lexus RX carry over from 2019. Our RX 450hL has a 3.5L V6 hybrid engine for 308 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. The Lexus RX 350 gas engine is a 3.5L V6 good for 295 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque. The hybrid engine made our tester feel quick, powerful and quiet (as we expected from a hybrid).
We would describe the driving experience as effortless. Our drive was comfortable and the changes to the vehicle's rigidity along with the standard AWD on the 450hL provided us stability for a composed ride. Although we didn't get a chance to hit the highway, the RX has no problem finding the power to accelerate from a stop and to pass vehicles on our route. We tried out the new Lane Tracing Assist technology by intentionally drifting out of our lane. As a result, the steering wheel vibration alert and a visual alert got us back in line. This feature can be valuable for anyone who drives long distances and is susceptible to driver's fatigue as well as new drivers.
The extensive RX lineup provides an opportunity for shoppers to choose a vehicle that best fits their needs. The 2-row RX is the more popular choice than the 3-row RX L and looking at the passenger space in the 3rd row of the RX L, it's not hard to see why. The 2020 lineup offers shoppers the choice of the gas-powered RX 350 and hybrid-powered RX 450h in both 3-row and 2-row configurations. The gas models are available with AWD or FWD and the hybrid can only be had with AWD. The F Sport package can be added to any trim for an enhanced suspension and a more dynamic driving experience. If fuel efficiency tops your list, the hybrid gets an impressive 31 city/28 highway/30 combined mpg while the gas-powered RX 350 gets 20 city/27 highway/23 combined mpg.