Let’s talk about the big differentiator here, the third row. A standard Lexus RX features two rows and comfortable seating for 5 passengers. The RX 350L features seating for 7 with the third row (or 6 if you choose Captain’s Chairs in the second row). A switch controls the power-folding third-row seats, for ease of lowering and raising them.
You can also fold the second row of seats to increase storage room. With third row down, you get about 23 cubic feet of storage space (more than a standard RX). Putting second and third rows down nets you over 58 cubic feet for storage, also a small gain over standard RX.
In terms of size, first thing I noticed is that the third row is not very roomy or comfortable. On one hand, that’s disappointing to see after the long wait for this 7-seat version of the RX. But it’s also a bit expected, considering that none of the three-row luxury crossover options are particularly spacious back there.
If you do plan to use the third row a lot, make sure before buying that you test it out with people actually sitting back there to confirm it meets your needs. Otherwise you may be disappointed down the road.
If you decide to go with the RX 350L, look at it this way. The third row is for little ones only. Adults just aren’t going to be able to sit there comfortably. Maybe, wIth shorter adults in the first two rows, the seats can be pulled forward enough to make the third row comfy for an adult. But I would only do that for short rides, if at all.
Lexus also includes separate climate controls for the third row, another nice feature for those in the back.
Moving to the overall vehicle design, the RX 350L features welded-steel unibody construction, and a curb weight of 4,222 lbs.
You still get the bold, in-your-face Lexus grille that has been around a few years and continues to divide potential buyers (Some love the bold look and others wish it were more under-stated, but this is the strategy Lexus has chosen to pursue to stand out in the luxury crowd, where its competitors are much more conservative in their design.)
On the interior, Lexus delivers with quality materials including handcrafted trim, and seats that are very comfortable. The first two rows are very roomy regardless of your height (though second row legroom diminishes vs. standard RX once you add the third row).
The optional Luxury package features:Semi-aniline leather-trim seats, power-folding heated outside mirrors, a sharp-looking and smooth-to-hold wood and leather heated steering wheel, 20-inch super chrome alloy wheels with color inserts, manual rear sunshades, driver seat/steering/mirror memory, LED illuminated scuff plates, Sapele wood with aluminum trim, and LED ambient illumination.
Adding the Captain’s Chairs, if you’re OK with six total seats, will enhance your rear passengers’ comfort. They are an option on the RX 350L, and come standard if you opt for the hybrid version of the RX (dubbed the RX 450hL).
One other option, if you’re feeling racy, is to add on F Sport performance and styling to the RX.
The RX 350L comes standard with 18-inch seven-spoke alloy wheels with all-season tires. Optional tires include 20-inch split-five-spoke alloy wheels with Dark Silver and machined finish all-season tires, and 20-inch split-five-spoke alloy wheels with Super Chrome finish, interchangeable colored inserts and all-season tires.
HOW’S THE RIDE?
The RX 350L features a 3.5-liter, V6 engine; 8-speed automatic transmission. Output is a respectable 295 horsepower and 268 lb.-ft. of torque.
Depending on your driving situation, Drive Mode select lets you choose from Eco, Normal and Sport modes. While you are pulling a pretty hefty vehicle along, and you definitely can feel that, the performance is still strong compared to the other three-row luxury SUVs in the segment. It’s not the best or most powerful driving experience of the bunch, but it’s also far from the worst, offering a smooth ride and adequate insulation from road noise.
A large component of the ride quality comes courtesy of an independent front suspension featuring MacPherson struts with coil springs, gas-pressurized shock absorbers and stabilizer bar; and an independent double-wishbone-type rear suspension. The braking system also impresses with its responsiveness.
Getting the RX 350L from 0 to 60 takes less than 8 seconds, and its top track speed is listed at 124. It features Electronic Power Steering, and is a certified Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle.
The RX 350L comes standard with FWD, but AWD is an option that I would recommend. You can also opt for a hybrid version of the RX with three rows (called the RX 450hL) if you’re looking for a ride that’s a bit more green. (The hybrid system offers 308 total horsepower.)
Towing capability maxes out at 3,500 pounds on the RX 350L.
In terms of government safety ratings, the RX 350L comes in a 4 stars overall (out of five), with 4 or 5 stars on each individual test.
There are loads of tech and safety features on RX-L, and at the center of the tech setup is the infotainment system, which is controlled by a mouse-like control system that can be a bit touchy in terms of how you maneuver through the menus. While the system itself functions well, the quality level of the controlling mechanism is one area where Lexus still struggles vs. it’s luxury competitors and their more user-friendly systems.
I did, however, love the huge 12.3-inch rectangular screen on the RX 350L, which is among the best screens in the business and can split into three different segments, showing you several features at once (i.e. multiple rear camera views when you’re backing up).
The optional panoramic view monitor on the RX 350L is a very nice addition and lets you see many views from above, front, rear and sides of the vehicle. Also, you can opt for a color Head-Up Display to help you keep your eyes off the gauges and on the road.
Inside, you get USB inputs both up front (and in the second row if you choose bench seating). Rain-sensing wipers are included, and you get a nine-speaker multimedia system.
The Lexus Safety System comes standard on the RX 350L and features: Pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and lane keep assist. As an aside, I’ve always liked the setup of Lexus’ cruise control lever, which is very well-placed near the lower part of the steering wheel and easier to use than some rivals’ systems.
Another tech option aimed at convenience is Lexus Enform, which helps you avoid traffic congestion, as well as find other information from your vehicle (everything from finding a place to eat, to keeping track of your investments).
You can also get an app on your smartwatch that is connected to Lexus Enform that allows you to: Start and stop your engine, lock and unlock your vehicle doors, check your vehicle status, and locate your vehicle. And there is integration offered with Amazon’s Alexa.
Helpful safety/tech features include a Tire Pressure Monitoring System; Blind Spot Monitor and Intuitive Parking Assist with Auto Braking.
Audio fanatics can upgrade to a Mark Levinson 15-speaker premium audio package, and the optional navigation system performed very well in my experience.
For the FWD version of the RX 350L, official fuel mileage numbers are 20 city/27 highway/23 combined. My AWD tester was 18 city/25 highway/21 combined.
Compared to its rival three-row luxury crossovers (Audi Q7, M-B GLE class, Acura MDX, BMW X5), these are excellent fuel numbers that are close to best in class.
The RX 350L Luxury trim level that I tested was maxed out with features and priced just over $63,000. Starting price by trim level are as follows: RX350 FWD is $43,670, RX350 AWD is $45,070, RX 350L FWD is $47,870, RX 350L AWD is $49,270, RX 350 F Sport FWD is $49,320, RX 350 F Sport AWD is $50,720, RX 450h AWD is $46,095, RX 450hL AWD is $50,820, and RX 450h F Sport AWD is $51,455.
While no small amount, compared to its chief rivals in the segment, the RX 350L is less expensive, another factor that could help it compete.
By expanding the standard RX offerings to add a third row option, Lexus is likely to pick up some people who have passed on the model in the past. The RX is already a huge hit for many reasons, but the third row option (even with its limited space) should only boost its popularity in the busy luxury SUV segment.
Just make sure the third-row space is adequate for your needs before taking the plunge.
Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.