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Rx For Lush Family Transport

October 6, 2018

The ballooning midsize luxury crossover segment arguably saw its genesis with the introduction of the Lexus RX back in the waning days of the dot-com boom. Sporting an unorthodox shape, leather-lined luxury, the brand’s smooth-riding rep for reliability, and optional foul-weather-friendly AWD, the RX has evolved over the course of four major redesigns to become a best seller in a very crowded, competitive and pricey field. But there’s always room for improvement, which in the RX’s case means the addition of a foldable third-row bench seat for 2018 models. Measuring 4.4 inches longer than the garden-variety five-passenger model, the resulting RX 350L offers room (such as it is) for two more in back. This improved people-carrying capacity makes Lexus’ bread-and-butter crossover more competitive with other luxury mid- and full-sizers from other premium brands. The newfound length was added entirely aft of the rear wheels (both the regular and stretch versions ride on the same wheelbase), allowing the addition of a powered flat- and split-folding third-row bench. A split-folding second row is standard; an optional pair of captain’s chairs reduce the passenger count to six. Legroom is scant in the third row, even with the second-row seating slid forward on its tracks, making the space a little-kids-and-dogs-only proposition. Headroom is aided by a more steeply sloped rear glass area. Otherwise, the RX 350L is basically identical to its shorter sibling. There are two trim levels offered — Premium and Luxury — both of which are powered by a 3.5-liter normally aspirated V-6 (290 horsepower and 267 foot-pounds of torque) that drives the front wheel (all-wheel drive is a $1,400 option) via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Pricing starts at $47,670, roughly $4,200 more than the shorter RX, and includes a laundry list of upmarket standard equipment. Premium models feature 18-inch alloy wheels, rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power-folding sideview mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, LED automatic headlights, eight-way power-adjustable front seats, powered rear liftgate and more. As the name suggests, the Luxury trim package lays on the standard goodies for a price roughly five grand north of the base model. Included are a set of 20-inch alloy wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, auto-dimming sideview mirrors, upgraded leather upholstery, heated second-row seats and more. The myriad selection of options and option packages is too long to list in this space. Suffice it to say that asking prices rise as options lists lengthen, which explains the $10,615 jump in our Premium test driver’s base price ($49,070) and bottom line ($59,685). Most notable among said options were the $3,200 Navigation/Mark Levinson 15-speaker audio system with 12.3-inch interface and center-console controller, the $1,865 blind-spot monitoring system with intuitive parking assist and 360-degree external camera, and the $1,515 premium triple-beam self-leveling headlight package with headlamp washers and cornering lamps. As one expects from the brand, the RX 350L delivers a comfortable and quiet driving experience. The choice to go with a shorter wheelbase yields handling that doesn’t feel as ponderous as some larger, three-row crossovers. The additional length makes the stretch RX about 240 pounds heavier than the two-row model, but that doesn’t seem to affect the vehicle’s overall acceleration. The smooth-spinning V-6 delivers better-than-adequate oomph for the daily errand-running exercises, with 60 mph arriving in roughly 7.5 seconds. The EPA estimates an AWD-equipped model will get 21 mpg in combined driving. Front- and second-row passengers are treated to an attractively designed and efficiently organized cabin featuring plenty of cubbies and cup holders as well as lots of high-quality materials pleasant to the touch. As mentioned earlier, the third row’s cramped accommodations mean that anyone sitting back there will demand that folks up front slide their seats forward, meaning everyone will wind up losing a little legroom. There’s a midsize-sedan-like 17.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row; volume swells to 58.5 cubic feet with the third and second rows folded. 2019 Lexus RX 350L Vehicle type: Four-door, seven-passenger midsize luxury crossover. Base/as-tested prices: $49,070/$59,685 Engine and transmission: 3.5-liter V-6 (290 horsepower, 267 foot-pounds torque), eight-speed automatic. EPA estimates: 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, 21 mpg combined. The good: Smooth and unflustered ride quality; top-drawer cabin appointments; stretched version of an already popular luxury model now offers seating for seven; decent fuel economy; attractive base price for this segment; ample cargo capacity. The bad: Lack of third-row legroom; engine sounds stressed at high revs and could use another 30 or so horses; love-it-or-hate-it exterior styling; price skyrockets with options. Bottom line: Lexus takes what’s made the RX 350 the luxury crossover segment’s best-selling model and offers the world more of it.

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