Good, but better is coming.
THE GOOD
  • Good balance between power and fuel economy
  • Roomy and comfortable, even in the standard length
  • Desirable safety features are standard equipment
THE BAD
  • Styling doesn’t feel especially modern
  • Infotainment an exercise in frustration
  • Bouncy ride and vague steering
2019 Lexus RX 350 Review

The Lexus RX is a perennial favourite among midsize luxury two-row SUVs in Canada – and since it’s built in Cambridge, Ontario, that gives the local economy a nice boost. But if you’re looking at one now, it’s worth knowing that a mid-cycle refresh for 2020 will bring some significant updates.

Styling: 7/10

Lexus likes to use a highly angular look for its exteriors. My own taste leads me to find it more appealing on smaller models than on this larger RX, where there might be a little too much canvas to work with. That said, the way that some of the details echo in these upgraded premium headlamps and taillights is tastefully done.

I’ve never been an especially enthusiastic fan of the RX’s interior aesthetic either, and I like this brown, red, and black motif least of all. There’s something about this colour combination and the pinstriping on the cupholder surround that feels like an attempt to be classic that comes off as dated.

Safety: 9/10

The Lexus Safety System+ package – which includes forward collision mitigation, lane-departure alert, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beams – is standard equipment on the RX. Blind-spot monitoring is included as well. The RX’s ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are very good, apart from those pretty headlamps, which aren’t rated especially well.

Practicality: 8/10

There’s a reason people are snapping up SUVs: They offer plenty of interior space, good ground clearance, and all-wheel drive. When it comes to the RX, those included safety technologies make it an upscale yet affordable and very practical ride – though admittedly more so if you don’t add on the Executive Package, which bolts more than $13,000 onto the price.

User Friendliness: 6/10

That pricey package includes an upgraded 12.3-inch infotainment screen that looks very nice perched high on the dashboard. However, the 2019 model still doesn’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto – though both come equipped on the 2020 model. Worse still, the touchpad is difficult to use while driving to the point of being a distraction. This will also be addressed next year with a touchscreen. For many people, these things will be worth waiting for.

Features: 8/10

Without any add-ons, the RX has a nice set of standard equipment, including heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel and exterior mirrors. The really good stuff is in the Executive Package: 20-inch wheels (upgraded from 18-inch), a 15-speaker surround sound audio system, wireless charger, head-up display, power adjustable front seats with lumbar support, power-folding rear seats, and that 12.3-inch infotainment display, among others.

Power: 8.5/10

The 295 hp that this naturally aspirated 3.5L V6 makes feels stout in the RX, and its 268 lb-ft of torque keeps up by coming in at 4,700 rpm, which is low enough to make a noticeable difference under heavier acceleration versus several competitors. The throttle response feels in-character for a midsize SUV; it’s not at all head-snapping, but is composed and smooth.

Comfort: 8/10

Although there’s also a longer version of the RX available – adding 112 mm to the length and a third row of seats – the standard version’s 4,890 mm feels spacious and accommodating, assuming you don’t need the extra seats. I had a 6'4" passenger for a portion of my time testing the RX, and he didn’t complain in the slightest. There is, however, one thing that takes away from the comfort level.

Driving Feel: 7/10

That’s the bouncy ride provided by this suspension, which travels with the road’s undulations and transfers them into the cabin. Steering feel is also not especially direct. Lexus says that updates to these components will also be included in the 2020 refresh.

Fuel Economy: 7.5/10

At 12.2 L/100 km in city driving, 9.0 on the highway, and 10.8 combined, the Lexus RX 350’s fuel figures are just about on par for the segment. If being more fuel-efficient is important to you, the hybrid version might be worth the premium. I spent a week with the RX 350 and finished it with an average of 11.9 L/100 km after a 60–40 mix of city and highway driving (although that was mostly stop-and-go highway driving, so that figure’s not bad, all things considered). It is, however, important to note that the non-hybrid RX runs on regular gasoline, while the hybrid requests premium.

Value: 7/10

This RX would seem like a good value if not for the fact that the 2020 RX looks like it will be a significantly better one, depending on your list of priorities.

The Verdict

If you’re looking for decent fuel economy and included safety features to go with your premium SUV, then now’s a good time to pick one of these up. But if you value a smooth ride and the latest in-vehicle technology, then the sorely needed infotainment upgrades might make the 2020 RX worth the wait.

Good, but better is coming. 12/23/2019 10:00:00 AM

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 3.5L   Model Tested 2019 Lexus RX 350
Engine Cylinders V6   Base Price $55,350
Peak Horsepower 295 hp @ 6,300 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 268 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm   Destination Fee $2,075
Fuel Economy 12.2/9.0/10.8 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $70,775
Cargo Space 695/1,579 L  
Optional Equipment
$13,250 – Executive Package, $13,250