Lexus RX 350L Premium Review
Old School Kicks

Text by James Wong; Photos by James Wong and Ethan Choo
22 Nov 2019
 

In this day and age of downsizing, the RX350L is a rare contender that still gives the old school kicks.

If the Lexus RX you see in these photos is familiar, we wouldn’t fault you - although Lexus updated the car for the 2020 model year, with a fast glance you wouldn’t be able to tell the differences immediately. Most obvious are the ‘L’ pattern mesh on the Lexus spindle grille, as well as redesigned tail lamps. Otherwise, you’d miss the new front and rear bumper as well as new rocker panels beneath the front grille. 

Not that the RX is a bad car to begin with. The design still looks fresh, if a bit unusual with the C-pillar cascading down to the boot and leaving an oddly shaped glass area. The upside of this is that the long wheelbase version (11cm longer), as is the one tested here with 7 seats, does not look very much different to the standard car, an achievement in itself. 

Inside

The interior is a properly luxurious place to be. Although there are some obvious Toyota-derived parts, the thought soon ebbs away as you appreciate the quality materials. The factory-fitted smooth leather feels like something you’d pay 5 figures for as an option in a German car. The seats are comfortable and come ventilated. Proceedings are hushed as there is an unstressed 3.5-litre V6 hauling the SUV easily. 

Although looking similar to the previous version, there are a couple of updates. The infotainment system, as dated as it may seem, is now compatible with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Because it is a large 12.3” screen, whatever that is projected from your phone displays beautifully in high-resolution. You’d want to use it, because the in-built Lexus operating system is clunky. However, it’s definitely one of the larger screens we have seen around and does give a fresh air of modernity to the interior. There are also more than enough USB ports front and back to ensure everyone can get their overused phones charged. 

A thoughtful feature is a pouch that nestles your phone securely so that it won’t make clunking noises when you are accelerating or braking - very Lexus. The touchpad, though criticised a fair bit, is actually somewhat intuitive and helps when I didn’t want to stretch across to click on the touchscreen. 

The second row feels properly spacious, in no small measure due to the flat floor as well. A curious omission though are window blinds, which would be a welcome feature to have.  

The third row seats, having their own climate control panel as well as being electrically foldable as before, now have two different seating positions to allow more flexibility and comfort. They are still pretty cramped though and only good for short journeys. With the third row up, boot space is still good for groceries but perhaps not a pram. I also noticed that the automatic tailgate opens and closes a little too slowly. 

The Drive

Although Lexus does offer the smaller 2.0-litre turbocharged engine in the RX300, it resolutely stuck to old-school methods with the RX350L. Its 3.5-litre V6 is naturally aspirated, develops 289bhp / 358Nm (both figures slightly down from the standard RX350). 

It’s no bad thing, as long as you don’t mind the fuel consumption so much. The engine starts from cold with an expensive growl, something notable these days because I am so used to hearing four-cylinder engines instead! It settles into a hush which you can hardly hear when the car is stationary. 

When you get a move on, the engine offers plenty of power, although it likes to provide its torque a little higher in the rev range than I would prefer. That said, with all that smoothness it is actually the 8-speed gearbox that hampers progress slightly (in Normal mode), sometimes being confused which gear it should be in. The car actually feels more natural in Eco mode. 

What is surprising is how stiff the suspension can feel in certain situations, for example on uneven road. It is largely comfortable, but there are some road imperfections that do make their way to the cabin. I would have preferred an even softer suspension setup; after all, it is a Lexus SUV geared for comfort. 

What could possibly explain this is Lexus Chief Engineer Takeaki Kato’s brief for the 2020 RX - to make the handling more agile and driving more exhilarating. This has been done through several measures. Laser Screw Welding (LSW) and spot welding, together with 4.2 metres of high-strength adhesive and stiffening of stabiliser bars, have made the body more rigid. There is also Active Cornering Assist (ACA) that suppresses understeer, while a new Friction Control Device (FCD) enables flatter cornering. Whether a Lexus driver can appreciate all of these driver-focused engineering remains to be seen. 

Our Thoughts

I genuinely enjoyed driving the RX. Bringing the family out in it, they definitely appreciated the feel-good factor of the refined engine, soft and buttery leather and overall low NVH levels. The experience would have been further enhanced if the car rode more comfortably, however. 

The 7 seats also offered surprising practicality for the occasional big family gathering, although even with the last row unused it means that there is a bigger boot than the standard car. Another plus is that if you’re looking at the RX350, it is a no-brainer to go for the RX350L as both are priced the same at press time. 

In this day and age of downsizing, the RX350L is a rare contender that still gives the old school kicks.

In Summary

We Like

Smooth engine that somehow managed to soldier on - big lungs mean there is huge cruising ability especially on the highway for long distances. Interior feels good with the high-end smooth leather. 7 seats is practical and can be had for ‘free’ if you were getting the RX350 anyway.   

We Don't

Suspension can feel stiff on uneven roads. Infotainment is dated but saved by Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. High fuel consumption. Complex 8-speed gearbox is sophisticated but maybe the simpler 6-speeder in the lower-end models would be paired better.   

Verdict

The Lexus RX has always been popular and deservedly so; we are not sure how many out there can stomach the running costs of a 3.5-litre V6 these days, but if you want the ‘L’ version, there is only one choice.   

Car Loan Calculator - Lexus RX 350L Premium (A)

SGD 292,800 (6 Aug 2020)

This car is eligible for minimum 40% down payment

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Engine

Engine Capacity 3456cc
Engine Type V 6
Compression Ratio 11.8:1
Bore x Stroke (94.0 x 83.0)mm
Power 289bhp @ 6300rpm
Torque 358Nm @ 4600rpm
Power to Weight 138.3 bhp per ton

Performance

Acceleration 8.1s (0-100 km/h)
Top Speed 200 km/h
Fuel Consumption (combined) 9.8 km/L

Misc Technical Data

Transmission 8 -speed Auto
Drive Type F4
Steering Electric

Measurements

Body Type SUV
Dimension
(L x W x H)
(5000 x 1895 x 1690) mm
Wheelbase 2790 mm
Turning Circle 11.8 metres
Kerb Weight 2090 kg
Boot Capacity 453 L
Fuel Tank Capacity 72 L

Brakes

Brakes (Front) Ventilated Discs
Brakes (Rear) Ventilated Discs