2020 Lexus RX 350L Sports Luxury review in Australia, including price, specs, interior, ride and handling, safety and score.

Lexus’ popular prestige family SUV has received key updates this year to safety and technology, and on test we have the stretched RX 350L Sports Luxury.

Based on the Toyota Kluger platform, the normal Lexus RX features a 2790mm wheelbase with five seats; in L guise it retains the same wheelbase length and adds an additional 190mm to the rear. This gives the Japanese brand’s mid-size SUV enough space to cram in two more seats past the second row and offers a practical option for bigger families with small kids.

What does it cost?

Pricing starts at $84,636 plus on-road costs, with options pushing the price past $90k. Over the normal five-seat RX 350 you’re paying a three grand premium for sevens seats. For the substantial outlay, however, you do you get leather trim upholstery throughout, electrically adjustable seating (including on the stowaway third-row), triple-zone climate control, 12.3-inch infotainment system with sat-nav, DAB+, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging, 12-speaker sound system, tinted windows (rear), 20-inch alloys, automatic opening tailgate and keyless entry and push-start ignition.

The active safety suite is also comprehensive (and improved for 2020), with AEB and forward collision warning with night-time pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control and lane tracing assist (more on all of this later), lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert with braking assist, traffic sign recognition, automatic headlights and auto highbeams.

As per all Lexus models, the RX 350 is covered by a four-year, 100,000km factory warranty.

What’s the interior like?

It’s soft and comfortable inside, particularly the front seats. The leather feels plush, with perforations on the backrest and seat bottom. Along with 10-way electric adjustment on the driver’s seat with position memory is heating and ventilation. The seats get hot very quickly, and the ventilation was too effective to keep on during our wintery test.

Nice trim touches are found elsewhere too, such as the steering wheel (with electric tilt and reach adjustment), armrests and door panels, and the mix of trim elements is well put together. It’s very premium with a nice sense of luxury. The only minor niggle might be the centre console full of buttons, but they all serve a practical purpose.

Upfront, the dash sees the integration of a larger and smarter infotainment system. Measuring 12.3-inches across, it’s up there with the best units, and connectivity options such as Apple CarPlay are crisp and punchy with sharp graphics. If you’re not connecting a phone the inbuilt sat nav works quite well too.

Unfortunately, Lexus’ Remote Touch trackpad is the mainstay of navigating the system and it’s clunky to use when you’re driving. We find that after a week or two of use you can be more accurate with it, but it’s not as simple and foolproof as a rotary dial. Thankfully, the screen is also now touch-capacitive, so you can simply tap on a menu option rather than fiddling with the pad. (Voice recognition is quite good too, though limited in commands compared to something like Mercedes MBUX.)

The driver’s display is made of traditional dials, without a large digital screen inside, though there is a head up display (cost optional). It’s rather nice – big, clear and colourful – and displays useful information.

Storage is plentiful, with a nice slot for cradling a mobile phone, there’s space under the centre armrest and a good size glovebox. The second row is a simpler affair but the room is particularly spacious given the sliding second-row adjustment. Mind, you won’t want to put it back with passengers in the third row, given it’s a relatively tight space – the legroom isn’t great for adults and big kids. That said, its comfortable with quality seats and climate control, and the seats tuck themselves away with the touch of a button, leaving a 453-litre boot space (down on the five-seater’s 501L. With all seats up, the boot measures a pinch-hitting 211L.

What’s the engine like?

Like in the Kluger, we see a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine though it produces 216kW at 6300rpm and 358Nm at 4600-4700rpm. That’s 2kW down but 8Nm up on Toyota’s effort. Minutia aside, it’s a luscious and vibrant engine that’s keen to shift along when you need it to, but doesn’t feel unwieldy at all – even though it can hum along at a good click.

There’s a dial on the centre console to engage sport mode which makes the eight-speed auto engage quicker and let the engine rev higher. Paddle shifters are behind the steering wheel, but there’s never much reason to use those.

On the highway, it sits comfortably at a little over 1200rpm when cruising, with power on tap for overtaking, but it’s a thirsty engine in general. Lexus claims 10.2L/100km (about 1L over the Kluger given the added weight for luxury bits), and we managed around 12.5L driving normally.

Either way, for power and performance, it’s a good match to this size vehicle.

What’s it like to drive?

Lexus made some tweaks to ride and handling for 2020 and they’re likely small details over the tech upgrades. Suppleness is key to the RX350L’s ride and the dampening and springs are soft considering the weight on top. It works well to provide a compliant ride, and it glides over the smaller bumps in the road, but with a longer body and unavoidable weight, it can waft with pitch and roll when pushing on quickly. It’s not much of a sports SUV in the corners even if the engine is willing to go for it. The steering is on the lighter side, though with good accuracy and turn-in, and the brakes are also on the softer side for feedback, despite doing a good job of pulling up quickly.

Added to this year’s model is a more sophisticated lane tracing system, which should effectively riddle out the difference between tarmac and grass or gravel. In effect, this will bolster the lane-keeping system so that it doesn’t simply give up when it doesn’t understand Australia’s country roads and suburban streets. In real-world driving the system doesn’t seem groundbreaking and lane-keeping assist and cruise control was good but with some niggles – the cruise control will creep 5-6km/h over the set limit, and lane-keeping doesn’t keep middle of the lane around most corners. But for keeping a consistent distance to traffic and nudging you off the white line, they both work well.

Some other safety inclusions are automatic highbeam headlights, which we found worked well on our difficult test route with bends, bright signage and oncoming traffic, and Active Cornering Assist, which brakes the inside wheel to keep the vehicle tidy in a variety of road conditions. 

As far as an official rating, ANCAP scored the Lexus RX a full five-star rating in 2015.


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About Author

Alex Rae

Alex Rae brings almost two decades’ experience, previously working at publications including Wheels, WhichCar, Drive/Fairfax, Carsales.com.au, AMC, Just Cars, and more.

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