2018 Lexus RX 350L Review

2018 Lexus RX 350L - Lexus stretches the limits of popular RX

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Automotive
brands more often than not include one vehicle of distinction, a product
serving as a bell weather of the family. For Lexus, the luxury arm of Toyota,
that honor's bestowed upon the RX crossover.

While
seemingly ubiquitous today, a luxury-minded mid-size crossover containing more
car-like nuances in place of heavy-duty truck underpinnings (found in
conventional Sport Utility Vehicles) was rare at the tail end of the 1990s.

The
five-passenger Lexus RX redirected storage capabilities and driver-friendly
elevated seating positions found in truck-based sport utility vehicles of the
day into a car-based unibody underbelly for a smoother ride and increased fuel
economy. All this cocooned inside luxury-appointed materials and Lexus' well
documented whisper-quiet interior. Lexus self describes this category of upper
crust comfort as 'luxury utility vehicle.'

The Patriarchal
mid-size RX has spawned several offshoots since its birth twenty years ago. In
addition to front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive, a gas-electric
hybrid joined the family in 2005. The 2018 model year brings a couple new
additions into the fold in the form of extended length versions with third-row
seating.

Powering the extended-length RX is the same engine
motivating the five-passenger version: a 3.5-liter V6- delivering 290
horsepower and connected to a standard smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic
transmission. The 2018 five-passenger RX350 owes its numeric suffix designate
in part to the 3.5-liter engine (but foregoing the decimal point). Our
extended-length three row version gets coined as the RX350L with 'L' signifying
'long.'

The sizable 19.2-gallon fuel tank accepts regular,
87-octane fuel. Expect 18 miles per gallon city and 25 mpg highway with
all-wheel drive, add one mile in each category if selecting front-drive,
average for the segment.

The ride experience prioritizes a
luxury experience over a gritty sport type thanks to electric power steering
providing a light steering feel and a rear double-wishbone suspension system.

Lexus
smartly markets returning and newer RX offerings into the "RX family of
Vehicles," in the same vain parent company Toyota distinguishes its
"Prius Family of Vehicles" containing a buffet of alternative power
offerings.

Since the first generation launch in 1998, more
than 2.3 million units have been sold, marking RX as the best-selling Lexus
vehicle in the division's 28-year history. In calendar year 2017, 108,307 RX
units sold besting the next closest runner up, the compact NX crossover by some
50,000 units.

The 2016 model year welcomed a
fourth-generation LX variant. Our 2018 tester returns with many of these noted
upgrades.

Extended-length RX 350Ls include the choice of
six or seven-passenger seating thanks in part to an extended body length of 4.3
inches. This is on top of 4.7 inches Lexus added to the five-passenger RX
during the 2016 redesign.

As with all 2018 Lexus models the
front gets centered by a can't-miss, vertically-inspired 'Spindle Grille,'
resembling a truncated hourglass. It's a polarizing design that set off plenty
of on-line and off-line chatter when introduced in the GS sedan some five years
ago, but has become an accepted look of dignity for the upmarket brand.

Our
tester included available premium LED headlights with three unique and diminutive
LED elements per side housed in very narrow housing. The 'L's' extended upper
rear sides get blacked out via a glass composite material that narrows in a
wave fashion approaching the rear region accented atop with chrome stripping.

The
bi-level hood includes an upper region slightly elevated from the base of front
'A pillars' and traveling down towards the upper corners of the spindle top
edges. Three distinct non-intersecting side character lines contrast for an
artistic like swath.

The 2018 RX350L includes two trims,
Base and Luxury each available with front-wheel or Midwest-friendly all-wheel
drive. Our all-wheel drive Luxury tester started at $54,085 and added extras
including a $1,065 blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic braking ($1,065),
triple-beam headlights with front LED turn lamps ($1,515), headlamp cleaner
($200), heads-up front windshield display ($600) and premium audio package with
huge 12.3-inch multi-function screen ($3,200). The bottom line reached $61,560
with $895 destination charge. The lowest-priced 'L,' a two-wheel drive base
checks in at $47,670.

During the 2018 Chicago Auto Show
this past February, Lexus broke news concerning pricing of the new-for-2018
gas-electric hybrid extended-length version dubbed the RX 450hL. Pricing begins
at $50,620 with standard all-wheel drive and standard six-row seating (two
middle-row captain's chairs).

How will families utilize row
three? As with most mid-size crossovers, the way-back row (with seating for
two) is best left for pre-teens and tweens. I maneuvered my tired, 50-something
bones through the rather snug entry way into the back cavern. While dedicated
ventilation controls and two beverage holders await, leg room must be
negotiated with row-two folks and their manually sliding seats. Those whose
vertical measurements stretch past six feet will hit the roof literally, not
figuratively.

Lexus does position the second row slightly
higher than the third, allowing extra foot room for third-row passengers.

Fifty-fifty-split
third-row backrests power fold flat via buttons found inside the power hatch's
left-side area (a hands-free operated tailgate is optional). Seven-seat
configurations (standard in the gas-powered RX350L) include a second row with
40-20-40 split backrests. Available six-row seating swaps in

second-row
Captain's chairs. With backrests folded flat in both back rows, 58.9 cubic feet
of room is available for storage.

Drivers encounter a
rather busy-looking dashboard/instrument panel chuck full of information, a
near duplicate of a standard-sized RX. The center high-definition flat screen
monitor rests distinctly within the center dash. Our tester added the optional
12.3-inch rectangular split-screen. A smaller eight-inch size comes standard.
Both are of non-touch variety, utilizing 'remote touch interface,' located
between front buckets to interact with the screen and requiring some playtime
to master.

A wrist rest helps minimize finger fatigue as
digits navigate screen selections via a square, slightly elevated wiggle-pad.
Three quick keys near the pad (map, home, return) help speed the process.
Narrow, long push bars aside the wrist rest also act as selection buttons.
Available nearby directly aft of inline dual beverage holders, a circular chrome
twist knob, commanding three drive modes: normal, sport and eco.

Below
the screen resides a distinguished circular, analog clock, that this scribe
foresees never going out of fashion.

The extended RX, as
with most Lexus offerings, includes a comprehensive array of standard safety
equipment including radar-enhanced cruise control (automatically accelerating
and slowing highway speeds based on the distance of the vehicle ahead), lane
keep assist and a pre-collision system with pedestrian protection.

2018
Lexus RX 350L

Price as tested: $61560

Engine:
3.5-liter V-6

Horsepower: 290

Fuel
estimates: 18 mpg city/ 25 mpg highway

Length: 196.9 inches


Wheelbase: 109.8 inches

Height: 67.3
inches

Width: 74.6 inches

Curb weight:
4,619 pounds

Assembly: Japan




Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.