2018 Lexus RX 350L and Lexus RX 450hL Review

Bring your kids, but only little ones

Family becomes a driving factor for just about everything we do in life. Before having our own children, we live to please our elders and siblings, and when we do grow older and have kids of our own, the weight of that responsibility becomes the most important burden you’ll ever carry.

It’s family that drove Lexus to introduce a third row into the RX crossover, as dealers have been hearing from customers for years that they have more kids and family than their RXs can handle. Enter the 2018 Lexus RX 350L, with just enough space added to fit your kids or a lot more stuff. But not quite both.

The Storage Story

A total of 4.3 inches was added to the rear overhang of the L model to accommodate the new third row, offering a tight 23.5 inches of legroom that is enough for only the smallest of children to fit comfortably. A steeper angle on the rear window helps those third-row passengers with headroom, but it’s still not nearly enough to accommodate an adult.

With the third row in use, 16.3 cubic feet of storage room is available in the back, not enough to fit a big stroller and a couple of bags.

Folding the new third row down is as easy as holding a button located on the inside wall of the RX, accessible from the lifted rear hatch, a hatch that can now be opened by placing your hand over the Lexus emblem on the back of the RX. We’d prefer the kick-to-open feature that the smaller NX uses for hands-free hatch operation, but the RXs hand-over-emblem setup did work well when we tested it.

That easy-to-open hatch will be appreciated when it’s time to use the 33.4 cubic feet of storage the RX 350L offers when the third row is folded down, a 25 percent improvement over standard RX models and a generous amount of space.

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In the three-row Acura MDX, 15 cubic feet is available behind the third row while 38.4 cubic feet can be used when the third row is folded. And keep in mind that the MDX and RX 350L are separated by less than one inch in overall length. So if every inch of space is important to for your family, there might be better choices than the RX 350L.

But if a luxurious drive is what you’re after, few can compete with this Lexus crossover.

Drive, Serene

That little bit of extra heft and length isn’t nearly enough to upset the quiet calm that Lexus engineers have worked hard to achieve in the RX. Isolation from the outside is the name of the game and with effortless steering, a soft suspension that doesn’t feel sloppy, and the hush of the RX’s cabin, the outside world seems a little calmer from behind the wheel.

Power is delivered from either a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 in the standard 350L model or it can be paired with a hybrid setup in the RX450hL. Without electrification, the engine makes 290 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque, while the 450hL has a total system output of 308 hp when the three electric motors are added.

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Both of the powertrains embrace smooth operation as their mantra with subtle differences. The eight-speed automatic transmission found in the gas-powered model fires off quick upshifts and nearly imperceptible downshifts, exactly the combo that works to keep the RX feeling powerful without having to rev too high.

In the RX450hL the “shifts” are actually imperceptible, as the hybrid model uses an e-CVT to handle the ratio changes. Torque from the electric motors handles the low-end and gets the hybrid model moving with authority, while an optional Sport mode really opens that power tap. Under hard acceleration, some annoying drone sound comes through to the cabin, but it’s barely enough to care.

Extra power is appreciated, especially when it also brings better fuel economy. The government rates the front-wheel-drive 2018 RX 350L at 19 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway, and 22 combined, while the hybrid model significantly steps up those numbers to 29 in the city, 28 on the highway, and 29 mpg combined.

Insides

Despite the cramped third row, the inside of the RX is an especially pleasant place thanks to a fluid design that runs nicely from the dash into the doors and continues down the center console. Upgrades include a 12.3-inch split-screen multimedia display, which is controlled by the Remote Touch interface. The mouse-like touchpad takes a little getting used to, as it is different than what any other automaker uses, but it’s easy enough to learn.

Trimmed with the Luxury Package, the leather is supple while the analog clock in the center of the dash and the vertical lines running through the real wood finish add a touch of class, like a pocket watch and pinstriped suit. Luxury is in the details, and one that we really like is the height adjustable cupholder, which can be adjusted based on the height of your drink.

Heated and ventilated front seats are available to keep the front passengers comfortable, while tri-zone climate control even allows the kids in the back to choose their own temperature.

The Lexus Safety System + is standard on the RX L and includes things like pre-collision detection, lane keep assist, intelligent high beams and adaptive cruise control that will allow the vehicle to come to a complete stop and get started again without disengaging.

Pricing

A base model RX350L with front-wheel drive will cost $48,665, while adding all-wheel drive brings the price up to $50,065. Grabbing the available Luxury package and all-wheel drive brings the top price to $55,080 for the gas model.

Opt for the 450hL hybrid and things start at $51,615 and climb to $55,550 with the Luxury package. All-wheel drive is the only configuration for the hybrid, and when loaded the highest level, the hybrid powertrain ends up only being a less than $500 option.

It’s also worth noting that the three-row RX model will sell for about $4,400 more than the shorter version.

In Canada, pricing for the Lexus RX 350L starts at $68,095 while the hybrid RX450hL will start at $79645.

The Verdict: 2018 Lexus RX 350L and Lexus RX 450hL Review

It’s simple: If you’re looking for the most commodious three-row luxury crossover, the Lexus RX L is not your best choice. But if every last inch isn’t a factor and you’re in the market for a powerful, luxurious crossover with lots of style, the Lexus RX L will serve you well.

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