LOS ANGELES, California — There are a few cars that come to mind when the topic of grocery store parking lot stalwarts comes up, but few are as deeply entrenched in affluent suburban culture as the Lexus RX. The mid-size SUV has been on sale since 1998 and was one of the progenitors of the crossover wave. Its bulbous rear is so ubiquitous that I didn’t realize how many of these leather-lined family haulers were out there until I was driving an example of the new three-row RX, the 2018 Lexus RX350L AWD, myself.
To test its central ethos of people moving, I loaded all three rows with adults for a lunch run on the weekend to get an idea of how comfortable the rear seats are. Both occupants in the final row were about five feet tall and said that while the ride quality was good, they still felt that head and leg room was cramped. Adults can fit in the back, but long journeys should be avoided.
Lexus estimates 0-60 mph acceleration to arrive in 8.1 seconds, more than half a second slower than the front-wheel drive model. The 3.5-liter V-6 is good for 290 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque, which is sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Still, the 4,619-lb family hauler showed some hustle during highway pulls. The transmission is a bit slow to react and takes some time to think before kicking down into the proper gear, however.
While acceleration feels adequate, I was let down by the handling and body control. Enter a turn and the RX350L pitches. Exit and it rebounds. The body sloshes with the same flaccidness under braking. The RX has no pretensions to be a sports SUV, but these shortcomings make maneuvering around town more of a hassle than they ought to be. I found the Atomic Silver paint on our tester to be striking, almost Technicolor in direct sunlight. Body sculpting is clean and tight, especially from the side profile. As with many other Lexus models, the garish spindle grill is the weakest styling element.
Build quality is excellent inside and out. Soft-touch materials are everywhere, even in the door handles. Ergonomics are good and the interior design is a lot more cohesive than last-generation Lexus models.
The onboard infotainment system uses a high-resolution 12.3-inch screen controlled through a joystick-like controller. Navigating the multimedia system is no easy feat; the toggle that guides the on-screen cursor offers vague inputs and tends to leap beyond desired menu items. The track pad system in the LS and LC models is a lot more precise and would vastly improve user experience here. User interface graphics are poor and the the technology suite is further hindered by the absence of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The 2018 Lexus RX350L AWD comes standard with Lexus Safety System+, a suite that includes vehicle and pedestrian pre-collision, lane departure alert and lane keep assist, radar cruise control, and high-beam headlamps that disable when there are vehicles ahead. These systems are really well calibrated this vehicle and I found them to provide warning without intervening at inopportune moments. They allow for a natural driving experience that offers the driver a sense of security and confidence.
Expect to cough up at least $49,070 for an all-wheel drive model, $1,400 more than the front-wheel drive variant’s base price. For one with a similar spec to our tester, expect a premium of at least $5,000 over the initial cost including delivery charges.
This brings us back to the aforementioned grocery-getting champions. The 2018 Lexus RX350L AWD comes in about $10,000 cheaper than the BMW X5, but is at least $5,000 more expensive than competitors like the Infiniti QX60 or Acura MDX.
Among this field, the RX350L will offer its buyers the comfort, safety, and prestige expected of a modern Lexus. Just don’t expect it to arrive at the supermarket parking lot with any semblance of athleticism.
2018 Lexus RX350L AWD Specifications
|ENGINE||3.5L DOHC 24-valve V-6/290 hp @ 6300 rpm, 268 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 7-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||18/25 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||196.9 x 74.6 x 67.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.1 sec|
|TOP SPEED||124 mph|