It’s time for a new Lexus RX. The compact luxury SUV is the company’s bestseller, but it’s had minimal changes since the fourth generation arrived in 2015. It nearly doubles sales of the smaller NX, which is new for 2022 and features an upgraded infotainment system and a sharper turbocharged engine. . Meanwhile, the RX is one of the only non-turbocharged vehicles among its closest luxury competitors, all of which offer a better driving experience than the RX350 F Sport AWD model tested here.
Lexus uses a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 in the RX350, which produces 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive models are available, as is an RX450h hybrid that pairs the V6 with three electric motors for 308 horsepower. While the hybrid is rated by the EPA at 30 mpg combined, the all-wheel-drive RX350 like the one tested here is rated at 22 mpg. The RX350’s free-breathing six lacks the urgency found in competitors with more powerful turbocharged engines. And there’s no extra grunt to be had in the F Sport model. In our tests, it hit 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, considerably slower than its German and Korean rivals. The RX also needed a languid 5.0 seconds to accelerate from 50 to 70 mph.
Our test car was equipped with the F Sport handling package, which adds 20-inch wheels and adaptive dampers, but it rides on the standard all-weather rubber. Lexus tweaked the RX’s suspension for the 2020 model year, stiffening the anti-roll bars and retuning the damping and spring rates, which resulted in 0.82g grip on the test track . On bumpy two-lane roads, however, we found the ride a little shocking and also noticed some unpleasant body roll. On the highway, however, we couldn’t fault the ride, which was calm and poised, as you’d expect from a luxury crossover. The RX also needed a long enough 178 feet to stop from 70 mph.
The lackluster performance of the RX350 is no match for its outgoing looks. That’s especially true for the F Sport, which adds unique bumper and grille designs, black door mirrors and F Sport badging, but still looks clunky and a bit like a minivan. And our test car had optional running boards which were annoying. The car’s subdued Nebula Gray Pearl paintwork didn’t attract too much attention (a vibrant Grecian Water Blue is newly available), unlike the bright red interior that greets you upon opening the door.
It feels like a broken record when you implore Lexus to get rid of the touchpad that controls the 12.3-inch infotainment screen. It was removed on the 2022 NX, which introduced Lexus’ new interface multimedia system, so we’d expect it to be gone when the new RX arrives. For now, however, using the touchpad to navigate menus and buttons in the Lexus and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto system is still far from intuitive. Lexus is aware, however, because the screen now has touch capability, but the way it protrudes from the top of the dash makes it impractical to select icons on the lower part of the screen.
The Lexus has ample rear seat space and a large cargo area compared to others in this segment. With the rear seats up, the RX swallows nine carry-on-sized boxes, two more than BMW’s X2 and one more than the Genesis GV70. If you’re looking for extra luggage space, Lexus offers a longer RX350L. Its third row of seats isn’t particularly spacious, as Lexus doesn’t stretch the wheelbase, but the extra length at the rear of the C-pillar adds a few cubic feet of cargo space over the standard model.
Lexus continues to dominate the luxury compact SUV segment with the RX, selling 115,320 units last year, but the competition is heating up. The latest addition to the fold is from Genesis with its new GV70. Those who value performance can even get into a base Porsche Macan for less than our RX350 F Sport’s $63,155 tested price. That doesn’t mean we’re not looking forward to the next-gen RX, though. We are, and we hope a more modern RX will provide a more compelling driving experience.
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