(Contributing Editor: Peter Stamatis)
No Single Size Fits All. However, More Sizes Fit That Many More.
At a time when individualistic active lifestyle counts for a lot, automakers have become keen to this lesson. Narrow new segments are slotting above and below old ones like major stock splits. The tailoring trend is especially evident among crossover and sport utility vehicles.
Japanese luxury car brand Lexus, already had a pretty deep activity vehicle wardrobe with two SUVs, (GX, LX), two crossovers, (NX, RX) with another Cute Ute on the way (UX).
Previously, Lexus has locked itself out of the all important full size 3-Row crossover ute segment. While the brand’s best selling mid size RX has grown by 1/3 of its former self, it couldn’t convey tykes and their all important grandparents with.
The 2018 Lexus RX 350L finally fills that slot with 3rd Row seating.
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WHAT: 2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD-i 3 Row, mid-sized plus hybrid luxury crossover sport utility vehicle.
Standard Power: 3498 cc Atkinson cycle, dual VVT-i DOHC 24V V-6 cylinder gasoline engine: 290 hp/ 263 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm +8 -speed Automatic Torque Converter Planetary Transaxle;
(Optional) PTU to viscous multi-clutch differential; 100:0 – 50:50 torque split
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: 4.4″-inch lengthening of AL20 variant of K-platform, which also underpins Toyota Highlander ; Wheelbase and 2nd Row doors = standard RX.
Obsequiously Ostentatious = upper & lower multi horizontal bar “Spindle Grille.” Lower front fascia follow mold with chrome ringed “L” creases. High belt-line, creased door cheatline, with lower front to rear door valance creasing opening then folding up to rear quarter panel;
Now lengthened horizontal roof cascades down to gloss black short mid D-pillar, which slopes down from tinted post C-pillar window = Hearse’s rendition of the “Floating Roof”;
Upright rear backlight is outlined by arching roof and window spoiler; Upper middle liftgate is less radically creased; Tweezed wrap-around taillamps cinched by chrome bar; Monolithic bumper cover receives upper-indent chrome lower valance.
“L” for “Lexus” LED white Daytime Running Lights and rear parking lights;
WHY: An RX prescribed for families toting stragglers.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Late Fall 2017
WHERE: Lexus new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Kyushu, Japan
WHERE TO: PTU to viscous multi-clutch on demand all-wheel drive, E-coupling w/ E-locking rear differential; Locking front/ rear torque split from nominal 100/0% to maximum 50/50%; ABS torque vectoring; -1 No off-road modes ; 8″-inches clearance = Inclement weather survivor & graded gravel road treader;
HOW ROADWORTHY: The extra 200 lbs. mass feels a tick off the already hardly muscular RX 350. Smooth throttling this DOHC V-6 flows power like thick Canadian Maple. Ditto: the 8-speed automatic transaxle gear hand-offs. Motorway passing becomes adequate in upshift delaying Sport Mode. Not to be attempted in emasculating Eco Mode.
RX 350L is a paragon of chassis isolation. Road perturbances, that send other conveyances jouncing, register a faint occasional quiver. Raising a toast with flutes of sparkling water will result in nary a spillage. The concession: Grip which oversteers too soon, noticeable roll in hard corners, moderate rear squat on take-off and dive on slowing; Anesthetized steering deplores lane changes and curves. Brakes travel a pedal too far; +1 Wind buffeting is accomplished for an SUV; Road, wind and powertrain isolation compares to any mortuary.
HOW FAR: 23 combined miles per gallon = credit to Atkinson cycle displacement reduction
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ 6 Occupant seating = 2+2+2 pre-teens; Row 3 = a hasty afterthought of a perch for child seats or children seated cross legged; +1 Post 2nd Row cargo space bumped up 25% from standard RX;
Max Cargo Volume = 17% < Acura MDX; 23% < Infiniti QX60
HOW USEFUL: √ Power liftgate; √ Manual sliding 40/20/40% split 2nd Row seating; √ Flat folding 2nd Row tilting seatbacks; √ Power folding 50/50% split 3rd Row tilting seatbacks; √ Folding 2nd Row between seat tray; +1 Deep center armrest bin w/ power, connectivity; +1 2nd Row center armrest storage & power ports; +1 Forward view over sloped hood; -1 Two after rows worth of blindspots; -1 Tow Rating: 3500 lbs.
HOW SAFE: √ 10 airbags; √ IIHS Top Safety Pick; √ Rear camera; √ STANDARD Lexus Safety System Plus = Pedestrian detection braking; Forward collision avoidance braking; Lane Departure Warning, Keep Assist; Full adaptive cruise control, Automatic High beam LED headlamps;
√ Optional: Blind spot & Rear Cross-traffic warning, sonar front & rear park assist
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: √ Perforated Leather Rows 1, 2 seating, heated & cooled Row 1; √ Wide seat cushions √ Power 10-way front seats, w/ 3 position memory driver’s memory; √ Heated Leather & Wood power tilt, telescoping steering wheel with spoke integrated redundant controls; √ 3-Zone automatic climate control √ Keyless entry, push buttton ignition; √ Full express power windows x 4; √ 2nd & 3rd Row privacy window tint;+1 Generous steering wheel reach adjustment; -1 Minimal front seat bolstering.
Cool Gizmo(s): √ Row 3 digital automatic climate control; √ Sub cargo floor cargo shade storage slot ; √ Hinged front door pockets; √ Foot well & door panel ambient lighting; √ Front overhead gesture LCD map lights
Details Done Right: √ Contrasting stitched seat & soft panel surfaces; √ Walnut dashboard, center console & door accents; √ Matching grained plastic panels; √ Precision rotating control dials; √ Soft close power windows; √ Cabin pillar & ceiling velour fabric; √ Dense pile carpeting, including 3rd Row outboard walls; √ Foot well & door panel ambient lighting;
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Simulated matte metallic accents
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ center dashtop 12.0″ -inch HD LCD split pane infotainment screen; √ Infotainment center console remote control joystick w/ dedicated switches; √ Adaptive voice command hands-free communications; √ GPS HDD Navigation √ Enform wireless device apps = Pandora, Slacker, I-Heart, Destination search, Facebook, Open Table, Movie Tickets, Doppler weather, Traffic Updates, Sports, Fuel Prices, Stock values; √ Sirius XM (90 day complimentary subscription); √ Bassy, not brassy 525 watt, 12- speaker streaming audio, CD, HD-Radio; √ Siri Eyes; √ USB x 4, 12V x 2
HOW MUCH: $55,710 = 2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD (as tested)
WHAT’S MISSING: Less overboosted, more responsive steering; Even an extra inch 3rd Row seat pitch.
ANY COMPETITION: Acura MDX : +1 agility, cabin & cargo space; Infiniti QX60: +1 cabin & cargo space, Row 2 access.
BOTTOM LINE: Lexus should have Lexus-ified the more versatile Toyota Highlander.