2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD

2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD

The RX has been the most popular luxury crossover in the U.S. since its introduction 20 years ago. For the 2018 model year, Lexus is out with a new three-row version, the 350L. It offers more space with the comfort, luxury and reliability consumers have enjoyed in the two-row model.

 

The 350L is 4.3 inches longer and weighs about 230 pounds more than its smaller two-row sibling. The 350L seats six or seven passengers, depending on whether you choose a 40/20/40 split bench or captain’s chairs for the second row.

 

It’s available in three trims. Starting prices are $47,670 for front-wheel-drive, $49,070 for all-wheel-drive and $50,620 for the hybrid, the 450hL.

 

The engine is a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission with Drive Mode Select.

 

It drives, well, like a Lexus and is very similar to the 350, despite its larger size. It’s smooth, quiet and comfortable and even stays composed on rough or gravel roads. There’s a fair amount of body lean when cornering, which just adds to the feeling that the 350L is more about comfort, not athleticism. If you prefer more exhilarating performance, the 350 and 350L are probably not the best vehicles for you.

 

EPA ratings for my tester are 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway with a combined rating of 21. I got 21 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.

 

The interior is upscale as you’d expect in a Lexus with a nice fit and finish. Materials are high quality. The cabin is very quiet.

 

The second row seats slide forward and back on tracks so it’s easy to adjust them to provide more legroom to either the second or third row. As is usually the case, the third row is cramped and best suited for small kids. On top of that, the third row passengers get only tiny windows which can make the space feel even smaller than it is.

 

The standard display audio system includes an eight-inch screen, HD Radio, Bluetooth, voice recognition, an AUX mini jack, two USB ports and nine speakers. Middle-row USB ports enable passengers to use and charge their own multimedia devices.

 

My tester has the Navigation Package with a 12.3-inch high-resolution split-screen multimedia display and a 12-speaker premium audio system which includes the Remote Touch Interface. The larger screen looks good but the interface is not user-friendly. The Remote Touch interface is a mouse-like control that takes time to figure out and is very distracting to use while driving. Frankly, I found it so cumbersome that I didn’t use that control while driving and instead relied on the buttons, knobs and voice controls to do things like adjust volume and make phone calls.

 

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not available on the 350L, but Toyota has announced that 2019 ES will be the first Lexus product to offer Apple CarPlay.  The ES is also Amazon Alexa-enabled, so drivers with Android phones can use natural language commands to control a variety of functions.

 

Standard on all 350L models are a power sunroof; auto-dimming sideview mirrors; UV reducing windows; power-folding third row seats with 50/50 split; multi-zone climate control; power front seats; power tilt and telescoping steering wheel; and USB ports in center console.

 

Several safety features are also standard in the Lexus Safety System+ which includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keep Assist, Intelligent High Beams and All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Blind Spot Monitor with Intuitive Parking Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Braking are also available. Panoramic View Monitor is an optional feature.

 

The 350L has 7.5 cubic feet of cargo space with all rows of seating in place, 23 cubes with the third row folded, and 58.5 cubes with both rows folded down. A power-folding third row and power liftgate are standard.

 

The good:

First 350 with three rows of seating

Comfortable, smooth ride

Attractive interior

Competitive price for a three-row luxury SUV

 

The not-so-good:

Price can climb in a hurry with packages and options

Meh driving dynamics

Cramped third row

Clunky mouse interface with infotainment system

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay not available yet

 

Pricing info:

My tester starts at $49,070. Blind spot monitor with rear-cross traffic braking, intuitive park assist and panoramic view monitor are $1,865. 20-inch split five-spoke dark silver Alloy with machined finish wheels are $1,170. Heated and ventilated front seats and heated rear seats are $1,080. 12.3-inch Navigation System with Mark Levinson 15-speaker Premium Audio Package, and Lexus Enform Destinations are $3,200. Premium Package is $810 and includes wood interior trim and power tilt and slide moonroof. Delivery fee is $995 bringing the grand total to $58,190.

 

Bottom line:

The RX 350L has a very well-mannered ride that’s similar to its two-row sibling, but has more room for passengers and/or cargo. It’s comfortable and reliable for hauling kids around, going on family road trips, and picking up stuff at Costco or the big box store. Just don’t expect sporty driving dynamics or a user-friendly infotainment system interface.

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