Lexus has been around for 30 years and in that time, the brand has built a steady reputation for its high quality, luxury cars. First-generation Lexuses are still on the road today, soaking up the miles with nary a squeak and a rattle.
Engine: 3.5L V6 (RX 350), 3.5L V6 w/Hybrid Powertrain (RX 450h)
Output: 295 hp and 263 lb-ft of torque (RX 350), 308 hp total system output (RX 450h)
Transmission: 8-speed auto (RX 350), E-CVT (RX 450h)
US Fuel Economy (MPG for RX 350 AWD): 19 city, 26 hwy, 22 combined
US Fuel Economy (MPG for RX 450h): 30 city, 28 hwy, 30 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100km for RX 350 AWD): 12.2 city, 9.0 highway, 10.8 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100km for RX 450 AWD): 7.5 city, 8.4 highway, 7.9 combined
And while those early Lexus models were well received, it’s the Lexus RX that turned into one of the most popular vehicles. This comes thanks to the RX’s just-right size and cushy driving dynamics, not to mention the fact that back in 2008 it offered a hybrid powertrain when none of its competitors did. The competition has since caught up and even surpassed the Lexus RX in many ways, but buyers are still favoring the Japanese luxury crossover. For 2020, it’s getting an update that ensures it stays on top of its segment for good.
It’s worth pointing out though, that this update is rather mild, as the Lexus RX has not received a new platform or powertrain. Under the hood, you’ll find the same 3.5-liter V6 engine, either on its own, or augmented by a hybrid gas-electric setup. The RX 400h hybrid model uses a CVT while the RX 350 gas model uses a traditional eight-speed automatic. You can get the gas model with front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive but the hybrid comes only with AWD.
That hybrid earns a combined 30 MPG (or 7.9 l/100 KMs), which isn’t too bad for a car with 308 combined horsepower. The 295 horsepower RX 350 can earn 23 MPG (10.8 l/100 KMs) combined if equipped with front-wheel-drive, the AWD model earns one fewer MPG.
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Buyers can also opt for the RXL which features a third row of seating. This too can be both a hybrid or gas model although they are more spacious model will be slightly less fuel-efficient, due to the added weight.
Lexus describes the changes to the RX as being minor, but one important adjustment has happened with the way they make the chassis. Now it is done with many (frickin’) “laser screws” which is a form of laser augmented welding that ensures that the structure is even more rigid. Also, it might be inspired by Dr. Evil.
Visually, the difference between 2019 and 2020 is extremely slight. However, Lexus has given the RX a very distinct design, one that you won’t confuse with an Audi or Mercedes. This year Lexus followed the obvious trends. The grille seems larger and more aggressive while the headlights are slimmer. There are two new paint finishes offered including a metallic beige (has beige reached Metal status now?) and pearl green.
See Also: Where is Lexus made?
There is a sporty looking set of dual exhaust tips out back and now there are new designs for the wheels in 18-inch and 20-inch sizes. Lexus has added a gimmicky foot-activated power liftgate feature now.
Jump into the RX and you’ll see the more important updates: namely, the addition of a touch screen and support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play. This is a huge deal because infotainment has been a significant issue for Lexus in the past. There are two screens available with an eight-inch screen found in the more basic models and an upgraded 12.3-inch, split-screen display in the higher trims. Both have smartphone support. There are six USB ports found throughout the cabin, which adds to the family-friendly appeal of the Lexus, and you’ll also find a wireless charging pad for your phone.
See Also: Acura MDX vs Lexus RX
The design of the interior is eye-catching and with a good blend of materials and fancy trim. For 2020 you can get more interior colors with the Birch accents.
However, after sampling other Lexus vehicles, I kind of wish that there was more influence from the specially crafted Lexus LS and LC interiors which has cool pleated door panels and wood paper dash and slick wood trim. There’s nothing like that in the RX, but the crossover is plenty spacious.
But it’s almost expected to call a Lexus plush and high tech now. However, the driving feel in various Lexus models is much less consistent. While some enthusiasts imagine Lexus to be the Japanese Buick, the reality is actually very far from that. This Lexus has heavy steering that responds like a car, which is commendable when you think about how large and heavy the RX is.
This year the automaker beefed up the size of the front and rear sway bars, but also hollowed them out to cut weight. The bushings have also been reinforced to reduce body roll and improve steering response. Simply put, calling Lexus a ‘Japanese Buick’ is an unfounded stereotype parroted by haters.
In redesigning the suspension, some might worry about the vehicle being too stiff, which can increase road noise and make the car feel harsh. This isn’t the case here as Lexus upgraded the dampers to prevent uncomfortable and loud vibrations.
The V6 engine is barely powerful enough. Sprints to highway speeds take almost 8 seconds. Naturally, I wish there was a more powerful option, because many other luxury crossovers have high output optional engines, somewhere up in the 400 to 500 pony range. But still, the V6 in the Lexus RX sounds great. It’s smooth and it feels luxurious. Maybe the theory is that you don’t have to get anywhere in a hurry when the ride is this smooth.
The hybrid model is a bit more refined feeling. It’s also much quieter if you can imagine, as the gas model is very quiet as well. It’s the attention to detail in making a luxury car all the way through that makes the RX leave a strong impression.
There are available F Sport models that have active suspension, a louder engine note, special air intake and differently tuned steering and suspension.
Finally, the car comes with a thorough standard safety suite. This system includes cyclist and pedestrian detection in addition to road sign recognition and lane-keep assistance, which works well with the adaptive cruise control.
The Verdict: 2020 Lexus RX Review
The Lexus RX nameplate is an unquestionable success. Due to its popularity, almost every new luxury crossover is compared with the Lexus RX. With its excellent quality, plentiful space and car-like driving manners this trend will continue going forward, but it’s fair to say that Lexus won’t be surpassed in terms of features and technology.