When most people think of luxury SUVs – or simply luxury cars in general – the first names that come to mind will inevitably European, and while people might think that having a more prestigious badge on the car in their driveway is a sign of exclusivity, they’d actually be mistaken.
That brings me quite nicely to the Lexus RX which, last year, was comfortably outsold by the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, and Range Rover Sport in the large SUVs above $70,000 segment, making this Lexus the more exclusive car to own.
And after a week behind the wheel of the freshly facelifted RX 350L Luxury you see here – which not only brings with it sharpened looks but more in the way of tech and ride refinement – I see no reason for this updated model to at least crack the top three in its segment, not least because of the value-for-money proposition it offers.
Right off the bat, I don’t actually mind the RX’s tweaked new looks, as while it wasn’t particularly fitting when it first came out, Lexus’ big grille has really started to work for me in recent years, and given the overall very angular styling of the RX with its harsh creases and strong lines, it certainly doesn’t look out of place here.
With that said, however, I’m not entirely sold on the looks of this longer seven-seat model, as while the 110mm of added length does make it look more imposing and luxurious, the fact that the wheelbase remains unchanged and all the extra length is simply added to the rear of the body does mean that from some angles in person it can look a bit oddly-proportioned.
The absolutely perfect spec of my tester with its Deep Blue paintwork over brown and ivory two-tone leather inside did mean that it looked particularly photogenic in the shots I managed to get of it.
Speaking of the interior, it’s absolutely sensational inside, as not only is the interior colour choice of this car perfectly fitting, but the quality of the materials themselves are absolutely superb. Even the carpets are softer and thicker than in anything else you’ll see this side of a Bentley.
Like with nearly all Lexus models, it features some of the softest and most supple leather you’ll come across, with every surface you’ll touch feeling totally befitting of something at this price point, if not above it.
There’s plenty in the way of gadgetry inside as well, with this 2020 update adding a 12.3-inch touchscreen with a trackpad controller on the centre console in place of the old joystick-style one which is better, but still admittedly tricky to use for tasks such as inputting navigation destinations. It also adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well, which we also saw recently on the updated Lexus ES 300h as well which uses the same system. My tester was also fitted with the optional Enhancement Pack that adds an excellent head-up display and electric moonroof, too.
Comfort in the front row is excellent with the heated and cooled front seats feeling supportive in the right places and soft in the rest, and there’s plenty of room for seat adjustment to allow you to get comfortable, along with three memory positions for the driver’s seat so you’ll never lose that ‘right’ spot.
The second row is also spacious enough and the seats themselves are equally as soft as up front, so there’s no sign of cheapening out in the rear.
When it comes to this L model, however, the additional electrically-deployed third row really does feel like a bit of an afterthought, as despite the length added to the RX’s body to accomodate it, and the fact that there are even dedicated climate controls for back there, it simply doesn’t offer even close to enough room to fit adults or a wide-enough door opening to make getting back there easy, so unless you’re only ever-so occasionally going to be using it to cart your kids’ friends around, you’re honestly better off not bothering with it and simply getting the regular five-seat model.
While three engine options are available in the normal RX including 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot, a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6, and a hybrid pairing that V6 with an electric motor, only the latter two are available in seven-seat variants as tested here.
This being the RX 350L, it features the V6 on it’s own which develops a healthy 221kW and 370Nm, which is channeled to all four wheels through an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission.
As you’d expect from a Lexus, it’s a beautifully smooth driveline, feeling unobtrusive and relaxed thanks to the way the big naturally aspirated engine revs up and how subtly its transmission shifts.
Also typical for a Lexus is the eight-speed’s fairly tall gearing, which, while not ideal for extracting the best out of the engine’s top-heavy power band, does allow you to slowly string each gear out while also allowing it to remain low down in the rev range when cruising at highway speeds.
With this facelift, Lexus has added what it claims to be ten engineering updates to improve ride quality and reduce body-roll, and certainly, on country roads like those I encountered on the drive to Victor Harbor – around 85km from Adelaide – for our photoshoot it rode fairly softly and smoothly on these undulating country roads.
However, around town there is still some bumpiness to its ride in places over potholes and the like, and on twisty roads there is still some body-roll to be detected.
That, however, I feel is due to the added length and weight past the rear axle of this L model as you can tell the suspension it working to try and keep it level, as the front remains, but the laws of physics do cause the rear to tend to lean.
But you can’t really hold not being a high-performance corner-carver against the RX 350L given it’s really intended to be a comfortable, relaxed, and relaxing cruiser, which the big engine and softened suspension compliment perfectly.
The only downside to the big engine is greater fuel consumption, as around town you’ll easily exceed 15L/100km, although after the course of 650km behind the wheel with some country driving thrown in that had at least dropped to an indicated 12.8L/100km – better, but not great by today’s standards.
So it feels properly luxurious both in terms of its well-equipped interior and the way it drives, yet despite this, as mentioned earlier, it significantly undercuts its European rivals at $88,500 as tested – a figure that only looks more impressive when you consider that it offers a third row at this price point, even if it is a tiny one.
Factor in a four-year/100,000km warranty that’s a year longer than what all luxury brands other than Genesis will give you here in Australia and the fact that it’ll likely be a lot more reliable and cheaper to maintain in the long run than anything European, and it only begins to make even more sense.
Save the three-odd grand and simply opt for the regular five-seat RX 350 Luxury would be my advice if the third-row isn’t a necessity, but either way, just know that what you’re getting with the RX is a true bargain of a luxury SUV, even if the $80k-plus price tag isn’t immediately indicative of it.
2020 Lexus RX 350L Luxury List Price: $85,000 | As Tested: $88,500
Pros: Interior feels incredibly luxurious, smooth V6 and eight-speed auto, good value for money compared to its European rivals, four-year warranty longer than what all direct rivals offer
Cons: Third-row is useless for anyone other than young children, still some body-roll in the rear with this extended-cab model, thirsty around town
In a nutshell: The 2020 RX is a much-refined package that offers class-leading value-for-money in the luxury SUV market… just save yourself the extra few grand and go for the regular five-seat model.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Lexus Australia for a week with fuel expenses covered. Additionally, our good friends at MPF Detailing gave it a complimentary Express Detail for us prior to our photoshoot.