2018 Lexus RX-L Review
Dean Mellor’s 2018 Lexus RX-L Review With Pricing, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Safety, Verdict And Score.
In A Nutshell The RX-L is a seven-seat version of Lexus’ popular RX luxury SUV. It has a slightly longer body and redesigned tailgate to accommodate two third-row seats, and it’s available in Luxury and Sports Luxury trim levels with either petrol or hybrid drivelines.
2018 Lexus RX 350L/RX450hL
Pricing $84,700 (350L Luxury); $93,440 (450hL Luxury); $101,500 (350L Sports Luxury); $110,240, (450hL Sports Luxury) +ORC Warranty 4-years/100,000km Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Safety 5 star ANCAP Engine 3.5-litre V6 petrol/3.5-litre V6 petrol and electric motor Power 216kW at 6300rpm/230kW (combined) at 6000rpm Torque 358Nm at 4600-4700rpm/335Nm (petrol) at 4600rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic/six-step CVT Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 5000mm (L); 1895mm (W); 1700mm (H) Cargo Space 211L/432L/966L Turning Circle 11.8m Ground Clearance 200/195mm Towing Capacity 1500kg (braked) Spare Temporary Fuel Tank 72L/65L Thirst 10.6L/100km/6.0L/100km (combined)
WITH SEVEN-SEAT variants accounting for one in five luxury SUV sales in Australia, Lexus decided it was time to get in on the action by extending the body length of its existing RX, reshaping the tailgate and squeezing in a couple of third-row seats.
What is the 2018 Lexus RX-L?
The Lexus RX-L is essentially a seven-seat variant of the existing five-seat RX model. To squeeze in two third-row seats, Lexus has extended the RX’s body length by 110mm, raised the roof peak by 10mm and reshaped the tailgate. The second-row seats have also been raised slightly to provide enough foot room for third-row occupants. The wheelbase is the same as the five-seat RX.
At the recent launch of the RX-L range, Lexus Australia CEO Scott Thompson pointed out the importance of the RX in the local Lexus line-up. “In Australia, the Lexus RX has achieved a strong customer base with over 33,500 sold [since it was launched in 2006], accounting for more than a quarter of our cumulative volume,” he said. “While our customers love it, they tell us there is just one more thing that could make it better, and that’s more of it, so we’ve responded to their demands by creating the RX-L variants.”
The seven-seat RX-L is available in a choice of petrol or hybrid drivelines in Luxury and Sports Luxury model grades. Seven-seat Luxury models cost $3280 more than their five-seat counterparts, while the premium for the seven-seat Sports Luxury is just $1630 over its five-seat counterpart.
The RX 350L is powered by a 3.5-litre petrol V6 engine that makes a claimed 216kW of power at 6300rpm, while the RX 450hL runs the Lexus Hybrid Drive system consisting a 193kW 3.5-litre petrol V6 and a 123kW electric motor that combined provide a claimed peak power output of 230kW.
The RX 350L is slightly down on power compared with its five-seat sibling; the latter’s dual exhaust system has been replaced by a single exhaust in order to fit the extra seats. Other than that the powertrain is the same, with the V6 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and power delivered to all four wheels. The RX 450hL runs a six-step CVT and an active 4WD system with a 50kW electric rear-drive motor.
There’s an $8470 premium for the hybrid variant of the RX-L, which not only provides 30kW more than the petrol-only version, but also significantly better fuel economy, with a combined cycle of just 6.0L/100km (down from 10.6L/100km). More performance and better fuel economy? It’s little wonder that hybrids account for almost 30 per cent of all Lexus sales in Australia, despite their price premium.
“Since the RX and GS hybrids debuted in 2006, we’ve sold more than 22,000 hybrids in this country,” said Scott Thompson at the RX-L launch. “Last year hybrids accounted for almost 30 per cent of our sales; a higher proportion than the rest of the world. In fact, outside Japan, the United States and Western Europe, Australian customers have bought and impressive 11 per cent of all RX hybrids.”
Both the RX 350L and RX 450hL are available in Luxury and Sports Luxury model grades. Standard equipment on the Luxury includes LED headlights, DRLs and front fog lamps, an eight-inch audio display screen, satnav, 12 speaker sound system, 20-inch alloy wheels, smart entry and start, roof rails and rear privacy glass. The front seats have 10-way power adjustment, and front- and second-row seats are leather covered, while the third-row seats have a synthetic covering for durability, as they’ll likely be folded up and down regularly. An optional $3500 enhancement pack adds a colour head-up display, moon roof and smart key card, which are standard inclusions on the higher grade Sports Luxury.
Additional features on the Sports Luxury include adaptive variable suspension, 14-way power adjustment for the front seats, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, a huge 12.3-inch display screen and a panoramic view monitor.
The side curtain airbags have been extended on both RX-L model grades to protect third-row seat occupants and the climate control is a tri-zone system to provide ventilation for all three rows.
What’s the interior like?
If you’re seated in the front of the Lexus RX-L you won’t notice any discernible difference between it and the five-door RX, which means you’ll be well catered for with plenty of space, comfortable seats and lots of adjustability. And, as you’d expect of a Lexus, the interior trim, fittings and design are of a very high standard.
The colour screen sits atop the dash, and below it sits an analogue clock, vents and controls for the sound system and climate control. The centre console houses the gear lever, park brake switch, controls for seat heating and the audio display screen functions, switches for Eco, Normal and Sport modes, VSC off switch and centre diff lock. Some of this switchgear seems oddly placed but over time owners will no doubt become familiar with the location of the controls.
The instrument binnacle houses a colour screen that provides a wealth of information, accessed by scrolling through a menu using steering wheel buttons.
Storage spaces up the front of the RX-L include a decent-size bin under the armrest with 12V outlet and USB and auxiliary ports, a smallish glovebox but generous, expandable door pockets.
Move to the second-row seats and you soon notice the compromises that have been made to transform this once five-seat wagon into a seven-seater. The wheelbase of the RX-L is no longer than that of the five-seat RX, so to provide adequate foot room for third-row passengers the second-row seat base has been raised slightly. The second-row seat runners also offer 45mm more travel than the five-seat wagon, and while there’s plenty of second-row space when the seats are back as far as they’ll go, when moved forward to allow enough space for third-row occupants there’s not a lot of leg room left for those in the middle row. Outer seat passengers will be impressed by the shape and support provided by their seats, but if you draw the short straw you won’t want to spend too long in the centre position, which is anything but comfortable. If there are only two people in the second row, the centre armrest can be folded down to reveal a pair of cup holders, a storage bin and two USB power outlets. There are three child-seat anchors in the second row, and air vents, but no HVAC controls.
Now to the third row… if you can get in there, that is. Lexus reckons the third-row is suitable for occupants up to 160cm tall, with 47mm of headroom, so essentially that means tweens to early teens. While there’s one old-school tether-style child seat anchorage point in the third row, no one really puts littlies that far back where they can’t be tended to, and if your kids are into their later teens, chances are there won’t be enough room back there for them. So eight to 14 year olds will probably be happy in the third row, especially as they score their own air conditioning vents and controls, as well as a couple of cup holders. But even with the second-row seat pushed forwards, there’s not a lot of foot room in the back.
The manually operated second-row seats slide and fold forward using either a lever at the seat base or on top of the backrest (one on each side), while the third row seats are power operated via switches near the passenger-side rear door or in the cargo area. Getting in and out of the third row requires a certain amount of agility, and is best described as awkward.
Thanks to the RX-L’s extended body and redesigned tailgate, there’s a decent amount of luggage space in the cargo area, even when the third-row seats are in use. In fact, Lexus claims a class-leading 566mm cargo length in this configuration, which is enough space to fit a collapsed stroller. Fold the second- and third-row seats out of the way and there’s a handy, flat cargo floor, accessed via a powered tailgate and with a low load height. There are a couple of lights in the cargo area and four luggage tie-down points (two on the sides of the cargo area and two in the third-row backrests). There’s also a cargo blind that stows neatly under the floor when not in use.
What’s it like on the road?
Our time behind the wheel was somewhat limited on the recent RX-L launch program, but we did get to sample the RX-L on both crook back roads in the Byron Bay Hinterland as well as smooth freeway sections on the drive up to the Gold Coast.
No matter whether driving the RX 350L or the RX450hL, there’s more than enough performance on tap for a seven-seat luxury SUV. Lexus claims a 0-100km/h time of eight seconds for both drivelines, and a top speed of 200km/h. The eight-speed auto in the RX 350L offers almost imperceptibly smooth gear changes while the CVT in the RX 450hL is equally refined.
The RX 350L runs a Dynamic Torque Control AWD system that automatically apportions torque between front and rear axles; it’s predominantly front-wheel drive when cruising but switches to all-wheel drive when needed. The system in the RX 450hL is very different, and features the Lexus E-four intelligent on-demand all-wheel drive system that has a 50kW/139Nm electric motor on the rear axle. It’s virtually impossible to detect the variation in torque split between front and rear axles without glancing at the real-time information shown on the RX-L’s display screen.
Despite slightly different wheel designs, all RX-L models ride on 235/55R20 Dunlop SP Sportmax tyres. Ride quality on bumpy roads would no doubt be better with smaller diameter rims, and even the Sports Luxury model feels harsh over bumps and potholes, despite being equipped with Adaptive Variable Suspension, which automatically reduces damping force on rough roads to improve ride comfort. Body roll is well controlled when cornering at a reasonable touring pace, but the electrically assisted power steering feels a little light and vague as speeds increase.
Cruising along at freeway speeds highlights the RX-L’s impressive NVH suppression. Engine and wind noise are barely audible and other than a muffled drumming over expansion joints there’s not much in the way of road noise. It would be easy to cover long distances in comfort in either the RX 350L or the RX 450hL.
What safety features does it get?
Coinciding with the launch of the RX-L, all Lexus RX models have scored a safety upgrade to the Lexus Safety System+ (LSS+), with the pre-collision system (PCS) standard across the range and now able to detect pedestrians as well as vehicles on the road ahead. Other technologies that make up LSS+ include lane keeping assist, all-speed radar active cruise control and automatic high beam.
All RX models are fitted with 10 airbags; the side curtain airbags in RX-L variants have been extended to protect third-row seat occupants. All models have a reversing camera with back guide monitor, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
Additional safety features include ABS, traction control, stability control, EBD, BA, hill-start assist and tyre pressure warning.
So, what do we think of the 2018 Lexus RX-L?
The Lexus RX-L provides more versatility than the RX, but does adding a little length here and a little height there successfully transform a five-seat wagon into a seven-seater? Well, kind of. You can fit seven people in an RX-L, but not as comfortably as many of its competitors.