2019 Lexus RX 350: Still the top dog in the midsize luxury crossover segmentAug 27th, 2019
There’s a sweet spot in the luxury crossover segment shaped just like the midsize Lexus RX 350.
It’s a sizable sweet spot and Lexus populates it with four distinct models: the bread-and-butter five-passenger RX 350 ($43,820); the RX 450h ($46,245) hybrid; the three-row RX 350L ($48,020); and the three-row RX 450h hybrid ($50,970).
To date, the RXs have accounted for 53,208 sales in 2019, trouncing the nearest competitor by nearly 20,000 units.
That, dear reader, is a serious sweet spot.
World’s first luxury crossover
The RX debuted in 1998 as the world’s first luxury crossover. A rather bland compact originally, it has evolved into a larger and more compelling vehicle.
Today, the RX sheet metal is a mix of sharp creases and curves set into a coupe-like silhouette. It’s edgy and dramatic and bears no resemblance to its 1998 predecessor.
Its popularity can be read as a vote-with-your-pocketbook endorsement of Lexus’s energetic new design language, and especially its oft-maligned spindle grille.
Inside, an asymmetric instrument control panel and large dash-top display screen signal a bold and contemporary vibe.
As it has always been, comfort is a prime motivator for RX buyers. And it delivers with a tranquil and well-equipped cabin dripping with creature comforts. Its contoured and deeply cushioned seats are built to provide support for long turns behind the wheel.
Four adults ride comfortably.
Terrific look and feel
Clearly marked buttons and knobs simplify climate and audio operations. An awkward infotainment controller remains a bugaboo, but hundreds of thousands of happy Lexus owners have made their peace with it.
Overall, the look and feel are terrific. Materials are top-shelf and fit-and-finish is impeccable
The 2019 RX 350 is available in two trims, base and F Sport ($50,830). We tested a 2019 RX 350 fitted with AWD, the F Sport package and a batch of attractive options (not least of them a $3,225 package that brought in-dash navigation and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system). Total damages: $61,315.
Standard gear includes keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, simulated leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, automatic LED headlights with automatic high beams, a 40/20/40-split rear seat, rear privacy glass, a cargo cover and a power liftgate. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard.
Silken smooth powertrain
Every RX also comes with a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control and Safety Connect emergency communications. Standard safety features include lane-departure warning and intervention and forward-collision warning and mitigation.
Other features, like blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors and a surround-view rearview camera, are available as upgrades.
On the upper F Sport trim, the seats are covered in soft and fragrant leather, and the satin brushed-aluminum (or, alternatively, genuine wood) trim that frames the control panel is the real item.
Both trims are powered by a 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine that’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, with AWD available.
The engine/transmission combo is an RX high point. The V-6 powerplant is silken smooth and dishes out a wide band of torque. The transmission makes good, clean shifts, without hesitating on the downshift.
The RX runs the 0-60 sprint in the low 7-second range. Tow capacity maxes out at 1,477 pounds.
The RX’s ride-and-handling package could be described as relaxed responsiveness.
Steering feel is light and incommunicative, but the system responds accurately to inputs. It feels vague on center but the RX tracks well.
It doesn’t respond with the zeal of its German competitors, but neither does it wallow like it once did. Driven with moderation, the RX slips through corners with more body lean than its performance-tuned competitors but remains unruffled unless pushed too hard.
The F Sport adds an active anti-roll bar and adaptive dampers that adjust in real-time to changing conditions. Our tester was fluid and compliant on our bumpy and twisty rural roads.
At speed, it felt stable and securely planted and its triple-beam LED headlights lit a bright, intensive path through the dark.