WHAT IT IS: The Lexus RX is the mid-sized SUV that Lexus has been making since the late ‘90s. It received a complete overhaul for the 2016 model year and as of two years ago, you can now get a stretched three-row version, which is designated by the L in the name. The wheelbase is the same, but they stretched the body to be 4.3 inches longer and added a third row of seats.
The desirability of an optional third row has been continuously increasing, and previously you had to step up to the Lexus GX to get the third row. The GX is a full-size SUV and leans much more akin to a Chevy Tahoe with its higher ride-height and V8 engine. It also starts at $11,000 more than an RX 350 and Lexus was able to deliver the new RX 350L with the third row for only $3,150 more, so there are significant cost savings.
The RX 350 is also much more refined and more in-tune with what most people want in a Lexus: refined luxury in a quiet cabin. The RX definitely delivers on those fronts. The current exterior design language features a large “spindle” front grille that I think looks extremely handsome. There are 13 different interior color combinations between seating and dash surfaces and a bevy of available options so you can really customize your RX. My favorites were the 12.3-inch infotainment system with 15-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system ($3,365) and the triple-beam LED headlamps ($1,775). My car was also equipped with the $6,000 luxury package which adds leather seats, 20-inch wheels, heated wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel, power moon roof, and many other little touches.
The RX 350L has the same engine as the RX 350, a 295-horsepower V6 which is certainly plenty of power. It’s not fast, but it’s more than enough to get the job done. The interior is ultra-quiet, and extremely plush when equipped with the luxury package. Also of note is that my test model was equipped with the $270 towing package which includes a heavy-duty radiator and an oil cooler and you get a full 3,500 pounds of towing capacity. Not bad.
So about that third row, the real reason to spend the extra $3,150 on the L trim, is really not a good situation. As you can imagine, a 4.3-inch extension to the length of the car is not enough to squeeze in another row of seats. Most of the room comes from a reduced size cargo area, which is not a big deal because the third row can be lowered when not in use. The real problem is that 7.1-inches of leg room from the second row is zapped, and owners are far more likely to use that space regularly. The legroom is still 30.1-inches, but on the RX350 it’s 38.0-inches.
MPG: 21 combined/18 city/25 highway
PRICE: $47,300 base price (for RX 350L). $63,505 as-tested.
UPSIDES: Refined luxury SUV.
DOWNSIDES: Tiny third row.
WRAP-UP: I really like the RX 350, but as mentioned above, the RX 350L doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you know that you will be frequently using the third row of seats (which also only fit children). This is the type of family hauler that balances overall size with driving easiness and ride height while providing the elevated SUV driving experience. It’s worth giving a shot.