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Lexus' seven-seat version of the ever-popular RX has received a facelift that raises its appeal as a motorway cruiser for the whole family.

26 Nov 2019


With every manufacturer competing for top handling honours, SUVs of all sizes have seen their rides become increasingly brittle in order to reign in their higher kerb weights and centres of gravity. The Lexus RX, however, has always stayed true to that original SUV design brief, providing a soft and cosseting magic carpet ride that has made it so popular around the world.

Every individual piece on the front grille has its own unique shape and design

So naturally, when the news of Lexus' updated RX hit our desks with the claim that agile handling and exhilarating driving pleasure was going to be one the biggest changes to the 2020 RX, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

Smooth operator

Thankfully, our beloved motorway cruiser has not been ruined with this latest facelift. With new, stiffened anti-roll bars, Lexus has also redesigned the RX350L's shocks to compensate, gracing them with a new Friction Control Device intended to allow the car to better absorb high-frequency vibrations. And in true Lexus fashion, the car's ride is still best described as silky smooth, even when those massive 20-inch Bridgestones are riding over the most pitted of road surfaces.

Massive 20-inch rims do not disturb the ride quality of the car

Also changed for the car is the use of new welding technology and increased use of high-strength adhesives, which enhance body rigidity and combine with the new suspension for faster response to steering inputs. And from the driver's seat, you will feel the improvements. The car is easy to place on the road despite its tall stance and sheer bulk, and it steers as well as any premium SUV, with only low-frequency undulations challenging the damping of the vehicle. 

While we're on the topic of suspensions, squat down behind the car when you get the chance, and note the massive wind deflectors covering the rear double-wishbones. Designed to cut down on wind noise on the go, it's the sort of thing that will never appear on any spec sheet, but offers reassuring confidence that Lexus' Kaizen philosophy is still going strong.

The 12.3-inch display is now a touchscreen, delivering more intuitive use of infotainment functions

Plush and lush

On the interior, there is more evidence of Lexus' attention to detail: The wood used on the centre console is from the same tree as those used to dress the doors in order to ensure that every car gets a matching veneer pattern.

As with the ride, the interior of the RX350L is of the highest quality, but in a very traditional way. No showy gesture control systems feature in the car, but everything feels solidly put together, while every surface that is covered in Lexus' Smooth Leather is plushily cushioned.

Interior build quality is impeccable and the surfaces covered with Lexus' Smooth Leather are all plushily cushioned

Unfortunately, being traditional doesn't pay when it comes to technology. The car's infotainment system sports an interface that looks like it belongs from a generation before. While it now features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, you best leave it permanently synced to your phone, given that the contrast in user interfaces is so stark it's almost painful to switch between either and the car's native system.

Lexus' notoriously difficult-to-use trackpad also makes an appearance in the RX350L, but thankfully, the 12.3-inch display now also acts as a touchscreen, so fiddling with the controls on the centre console is no longer necessary.

The Lexus touchpad is an improvement from the old trackpad, but it still cannot beat a scroll wheel for ease of use

Elsewhere in the interior, the car has one final failing: The Lexus Premium Audio System sports 12 total speakers and yet manages to achieve the peculiar combination of being both muddy and tinny sounding at the same time, even after extensive meddling with the equaliser. Audiophiles best take this car for a test drive to see if this is something they can live with.

Long and strong

Step away from the driver's seat and you will find space aplenty for second row occupants. The RX350L is 110mm longer than its five-seater brethren, but without a change in the wheelbase, third row passengers are unfortunately still woefully catered for in terms of knee and headroom.

It's a good thing, then, that you will be arriving at your destination in record time. The car's 289bhp 3.5-litre V6 pulls strongly all throughout its rev range, and is paired with an eight-speed automatic that makes the absence of turbocharging unnoticed with its eagerness to downshift.

Third-row passengers will find space at a premium

But the most impressive thing about the way the powertrain propels all 2,150kg of the car is the complete smoothness of its operation. Even the sloppiest footwork when accelerating is only met with a steady swell of torque and acceleration, with none of the lurching about that rivals still deliver.

Naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 is buttery smooth and mated to an eight-speed gearbox that is eager to downshift

And when you settle down to a comfortable cruising speed, the car rewards with supreme noise insulation and a drive that is akin to the luxo-barges of old. No adjustments for bumps or cambers on the road are necessary, you simply point the steering wheel in the direction of intended travel and focus on conserving momentum.

Speaking of which, my three days with the car yielded a final average fuel economy of 7.7km/L.

With 652 litres of boot space with the third-row folded, the RX350L's extra length means it can serve duty ferrying bulky items from the warehouse

The long and short of it

For those looking for a car to transfer five (and the occasional extra two) in supreme comfort and isolation, the Lexus RX350L is a top choice, eschewing the sporty emphaisis that many rivals have chosen in favour of delivering the more traditional qualities associated with a premium product.

Those that value a well-built interior with supreme ride comfort and cabin isolation will do well to opt for this car.



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Car Information

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Promotion
There's a promotion for Lexus 3-Row RX 350L

Price

: $292,800

Engine Type

:

V6 DOHC with Dual VVT-iW

Engine Cap

:

3456cc

Horsepower

:

216kW (290 bhp) / 6300 rpm

Torque

:

358 Nm / 4700 rpm

Transmission

:

8-Speed (A)

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)

:

8.1sec

Top Speed

:

200km/h

Fuel consumption

:

9.8 km/L

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