Mid-size luxury crossover
The Lexus RX is one of the most popular luxury crossovers on the scene, thanks in no small part to the promise of reliability, safety, owner satisfaction, and high residual values that come along with the Lexus badge.
The latest-generation RX, launched for model year 2016, came with a dramatic new look, lengthier wheelbase, more safety and connectivity, and a knockout cabin. With ample room for four adults or a family of five, the RX packed standard all-wheel drive on all models, and no shortage of model grades and equipment options to help offer enhanced selection.
Look for high-grade feature content including a head-up display (HUD), 12.3-inch central display screen, climate-controlled seats, adaptive suspension, and enhanced camera-based parking support. A reconfigurable digital instrument cluster was available, as was a mighty Mark Levinson stereo system for the audiophiles out there.
For a well-honed blend of luxury, confidence and comfort, many owners say the RX hits the mark. Sportier drivers may gravitate towards the more athletic RX F-Sport, which featured an array of enhancements to dial up the machine’s performance appeal.
Most RX models from this generation in the used market will offer a 3.5L V6 with about 300 hp, teamed with an eight-speed automatic transmission and a fully automatic AWD system. The RX was also available with a hybrid engine for improved mileage and responsiveness.
What Owners Like
Most owners rave about the RX’s stunning cabin and high-tech features, and build quality is highly rated too. On all aspects of thrifty performance and driving comfort, the RX seems to satisfy, and some repeat owners say that the latest RX is the first that’s eager to be driven spiritedly. Flexible cargo room and confident operation in slippery conditions help round out the package. Note that some owners describe the drive as “serene and comfortable,” even on units with up-sized wheels.
What Owners Dislike
Common gripes are few and far between, with most centring around some difficulty for some drivers fitting the heavily bolstered sport seats, as well as some fussiness from the central command system’s track-pad interface – especially while learning how it works.
Pro Tip: Standard Checks
Before highlighting some possible trouble areas reported by owners of this generation of RX, let’s focus on three simple steps a shopper can take to ensure maximum enjoyment of their second-hand Lexus.
First, work with a dealer service advisor to make sure any applicable software updates have been installed to the vehicle. Updated software can fix latent defects and prevent possible software glitches in vehicle systems from causing irritating problems.
Second, have the battery tested professionally before you buy, and replace it if it doesn’t pass the test with flying colours. A weak or dying battery can cause many problems with vehicle features and systems.
Finally, have the RX you’re considering treated to a pre-purchase inspection by a Lexus dealer. This quick and affordable check-up is your best defence against buying a used car that could be concealing problems.
Pro Tip: Is the Extended Warranty for You?
Carefully consider any extended warranty coverage offered at the time of your purchase. Usually, you’ll be able to take relevant information away with you for perusal, and make a decision later. Some owners opt for extended warranty coverage, citing added confidence. Be sure to read all the available literature and make a decision based on your own tastes.
The Test Drive
At several points on your test drive, while driving or parked, run the RX’s air conditioner at all settings and fan speeds. Let the AC run a few minutes, turn it off for a few minutes, and repeat. You’re on the lookout for gurgling and gargling sounds, which may originate from just behind the dashboard.
Many owners have reported this problem, though some aren’t bothered by it as the noise isn’t excessively loud. Most owners say that dealers tell them the noise is a normal part of the air conditioning system, though some owners have had success in having dealers replace various hoses and valves in the AC system under warranty.
Be on the lookout, and have the system inspected professionally if you have any concerns. Note that this issue does not seem to affect air conditioner performance, and is most common on non-hybrid-powered models.
Here’s some more information.
Some owners have reported sluggish performance from their RX, possibly in the form of a very “lazy” feel to the throttle pedal, early upshifting from the transmission, and a hesitation to gear down when heavier throttle is applied.
To some degree, this is normal, as the RX is programmed to smooth out driver throttle inputs to help save fuel. Engaging the “Sport” drive mode can help, here.
Make your assessment of the RX’s responsiveness using each available drive mode.
If the RX you’re test-driving feels excessively sluggish, have a diagnostic scan performed to detect any possible issues with engine and transmission management electronics, and ask a dealer service advisor if a software update might be available to help optimize the operation of the transmission.
Here’s some more reading.
Look for This Warning
Numerous owners have reported the appearance of a “Low Brake Power” warning message on the instrument cluster of their RX, accompanied by difficulty or failure to start the engine. The cause of this problem seems to be the result of a vacuum leak affecting the braking system, and may be exacerbated by a weak battery. Here’s some more reading.
At any sign of issue or warning messages relating to the brake system, have the vehicle inspected by a Lexus technician as soon as possible. Some owners have reported the need for replacement braking system components, usually under warranty, to correct this irritating problem.
In the unlikely event you notice this issue on your pre-purchase test drive, it may be best to move to another unit.
Rear Suspension Noise
Quiet the RX’s cabin and drive over several bumpy surfaces, at a variety of speeds. You’re on the lookout for a squeaking sound from the rear suspension, which may indicate the need for additional attention and inspection by a professional. Some owners say the sound is more prominent at lower speeds – perhaps over speed-bumps – though it’s possible in other settings, too.
Dealers may be able to address the issue with lubrication of some rear suspension components, though some owners have had dealers replace the RX’s rear trailing arms to quell the sound, possibly referencing Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) #L-SB-0030-19.
As with any trouble you detect on a used vehicle that’s still under warranty, have this problem investigated and documented promptly to help speed future warranty claims.
Where appropriate, drive the RX at a higher rate of speed (perhaps 100 km/h), and brake with light pedal pressure to reduce the vehicle’s speed by about half. Repeat the test again with moderate brake pedal pressure as well. Be on the lookout for a dull vibration or wobble felt through the brake pedal, as well as the floor and seating of the vehicle.
Vibrations like this are often caused by warped brake rotors, which will need professional attention and replacement. Some owners have reported issues. If the RX you’re considering exhibits this possible trouble sign, have the braking system cleared by a professional before your purchase.
Note that some specific Lexus RX models from this generation were subjected to two brake-related recalls to correct possible latent safety problems with the braking system.
You can see the full list of recalls here.
Check All Features
The best time to confirm that all of the RX’s fancy bits are in proper working order is before you fork over your hard-earned cash.
Spend a few minutes working methodically through all on-board features, systems and interfaces. If it runs on electricity, you’ll want to triple-check that it’s working properly. This includes the climate control, seat adjustments, windows, locks, sunroof, steering-wheel mounted controls, wiper stalks, Bluetooth capability, and more.
The RX has been enjoyed by the majority of its owners, though test-driving shoppers should consider performing each test above for maximum peace of mind.
A used model sold through the Lexus certified pre-owned (CPO) program, or a privately sold unit that’s been cleared for good health by a Lexus technician ahead of your purchase, is your safest bet.
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars (2017)
IIHS: Top Safety Pick + (2016)