2018 Lexus RX 350L Review

Jumping on the 3-row bandwagon a bit shortchanged


Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer



Positives: Plenty of power, smooth ride, comfortable first two rows of seats, large infotainment screen, more cargo space than the regular RX.
Negatives: Transmission gear hunts sometimes, horrible mouse infotainment controller, ridiculously small third row, some may not like the styling.
Bottom Line: A longer overall length doesn't transform the RX. The RX 350L's rear seat is too tight to be very usable, but it doesn't detract from the rest of the vehicle's high points. It's still a quality family crossover, and the third row does add a little bit more versatility.
A longer version of the Lexus RX for the 2018 model year makes a lot of sense. A seven-passenger RX would appeal to all the families who love their five-passenger Lexus but can’t fit everyone in there. With that in mind, the RX 350L seems to be the perfect vehicle. To find out if it’s the gem that Lexus wants it to be we spent a week with the vehicle. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

6.9

 

The Lexus RX 350L is a smooth and soft crossover. It’s not slow, but sporty endeavors are far from your mind while you drive this vehicle. Instead, you cruise along with ease and enjoy the strong V6 when it’s needed.

Ride Quality: Few crossovers are this smooth. The soft suspension and tall tires soak up every road imperfection easily.

Acceleration: The 3.5-liter V6 is strong and responsive. We did notice a bit of gear hunting from the 8-speed automatic, but otherwise we have no complaints. The RX 350L will do a 0-60 mph sprint in a respectable 7.9 seconds.

Braking: The brakes feel strong and progressive. We noticed no dead spots or sponginess, but the nose of the vehicle does dive considerably under heavy braking.

Steering: The electrically assisted steering is a little too light for our tastes, but it makes maneuvering around tight spaces at low speed simple. There’s some vagueness to the steering, but it’s not terrible.

Handling: The RX 350L likes to roll around a lot when you take corners. It holds the road pretty well, but this isn’t a vehicle to take on a twisty road.

Technology

7.9

 

Lexus struggles in the infotainment department. The system features a large, high-quality screen, but it lacks some features competitors have and it has horrible controls.

Infotainment System: The 12.3-inch screen should be excellent, but the screen graphics could be a little better. Its split screen function works very well, though. Also, the RX still lacks features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are a lot of other apps in the new Entune system, but Lexus is still behind the curve.

Controls: The mouse controller in the RX has to go. It’s horribly imprecise and takes your eyes off the road for too long. The buttons on the dash are much better, but you can’t do everything with them. Steering wheel controls also work well, but are limited, meaning you have to eventually use the crappy mouse controller.

Styling

6.8

 

The RX 350L keeps with the RX’s polarizing but still popular styling. It’s definitely not for everyone, but the people who like it will appreciate the fact that Lexus didn’t change up the styling when it decided to stretch the vehicle.

Front: The RX 350L sports the same large Spindle grille that the shorter model has. We're not huge fans the grille on the non-F Sport RX, but it's consistent with the brand.

Rear: The rear, too, hasn’t changed much. There’s still the same shaped taillights and horizontal lines as are on the regular wheelbase model. The elongated tail section hangs over the back wheels awkwardly, but otherwise, it’s the same modernly styled and creased sheet metal on the rear.

Profile: From the side is where you really see the change. The origami-like creases in the side of the RX are all slightly elongated and this makes them stand out more. The same goes for the rear floating roof element. It’s a little longer and more noticeable. It’s not a bad change, but if you didn’t like the RX before, there’s no chance this will change your mind.

Cabin: The interior is typical for Lexus. It features several different materials (leather, wood, black plastic or soft-touch rubber and gray or chrome trim) that all look great together. The dash is divided up into three basic areas, and is pretty attractive but on the busier side. Overall, it’s an attractive cabin.

Comfort

8.4

 

The RX is one of the more comfortable vehicles on the road, and we figured if Lexus could endow its third row with it’d have a real winner. Unfortunately, the third row is too tight to be of any real use.

Front Seats: The leather-clad front seats are excellent. They provide plenty of support and bolstering for both the driver and the passenger, and there’s more than enough room to get comfortable.

Rear Seats: The leather second-row seats also provides plenty of room, support, and bolstering. The third row is where it all falls apart. The third row in the RX gets far less-comfortable seats and practically any leg, hip, or headroom. You can slide the second-row seats forward to make leg room, but that kills the leg room for the second row.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The RX 350L is one of the sturdiest and quietest vehicles out there. It does a good job of isolating you from unwanted road noises. We noticed no creaks or rattles while driving.

Visibility: Seeing out of the RX 350L is easy and the optional 360-degree helps make parking simple.

Climate: The automatic tri-zone climate controls worked excellent cooling down the cabin quickly when needed. Surprisingly, there were no heated or cooled seat functions in any of the rows of seating.

Safety

8.9

 

The RX doesn’t disappoint when it comes to safety. We expected this because the previous model also received good marks in this area.

IIHS Rating: The RX achieved the IIHS Top Safety Pick rating. The only area of testing that kept the model from gaining the IIHS’s top honor was the headlights, which only got an acceptable rating.

NHTSA Rating: Different trim levels of the Lexus RX have different overall ratings, and the RX 350L has not yet been rated. Judging by the other trim level results, it should do well.

Standard Tech: Our tester came with quite a few standard safety features, including Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, all-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Intelligent High-Beam headlamps, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Keep Assist, ABS with EBD, and automatic Brake Assist.

Optional Tech: Our tester also came with some optional safety equipment, which included Blind Spot Monitor with Rear-Cross Traffic Braking, Intuitive Park Assist and Panoramic View Monitor.

Storage/Cargo

8.6

 

While the cargo area with the third row deployed isn't all that impressive, with that row folded, there’s actually a lot of space for baggage. If you plan to use the RX 350L as five-passenger vehicle most of the time, you’ll benefit from the stretched wheelbase in the cargo compartment.

Storage Space: The storage space inside the cabin is good. There’s a large storage bin underneath the air rest, two cup holders, and an open bin up in the dash in front of the shifter and cup holders. The door pockets actually tip towards the seat letting you more easily access the storage space.

Cargo Room: The longer wheelbase gives the RX 350L 7.45 cubic feet behind the third row, 23.03 cubic feet with the third row folded, and 58.48 cubic feet with the first and second row folded.

Fuel Economy

6.8

 

You don't expect amazing fuel economy results from a 3.5-liter V6, but Lexus does decently here. The myraid of 2.0-liter turbocharged engines in competitor' models will do better.

Observed: 21.9 mpg

Distance Driven: 403 miles

Driving Factors: We drove the majority of the time on the highway with about a third of our time spent on city streets.

Audio

8.8

 

Our tester came with the 15-speaker Mark Levinson upgraded sound system. It is a part of a $3,200 package that includes navigation. The system, along with the other features included, warrants the price. It provides rich and full-bodied sound to all areas of the cabin.



Final Thoughts

The Lexus RX 350L is without a doubt a good family vehicle, and the added length and third row does add some more utility and the ability to cram seven passengers if needed, but there’s no way you could use this as a seven-passenger vehicle all the time. What buyers need to ask themselves is if the tiny third row and marginally better cargo space are worth the roughly $4,000 price bump. If it is, you should be happy with the RX’s smooth ride and practical nature.

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