2018 Lexus RX 350L Review: Outstanding Comfort, Unless You’re in the Third Row

For 2018, Lexus went ahead and finally added a 3rd row to its most popular vehicle here in the US. Thus the 2018 Lexus RX 350L was born. Lexus kindly sent us an RX 350L for a week to review and see how the addition of a 3rd row has helped the best-selling luxury SUV in the US. You can watch the whole video above to see what it is that makes the Lexus RX the best-selling Lexus here in the states, and also what makes it the best-selling luxury SUV.

Styling

The current body style on the RX has been around since 2016. Certainly, this is a much more emotional design than previous generations of the RX, which were much more conservative. This design is full of bold lines and hard angles. Styling is subjective, but I do like the look of the RX. Where the old designs were conservative and subdued, this latest generation makes a statement, and a rather handsome one at that.

Performance

The 2018 Lexus RX 350L is powered by an engine very familiar to the RX at this point. There is still a 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V6 under the hood. It makes 290 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque, sending power to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Up here at altitude, the 3.5-liter V6 is no track star. While it doesn’t feel dismally slow, there is a noticeable lack of oomph when you put your foot down. Fortunately, what the RX 350L lacks in performance, it more than makes up for in smoothness. Lexus beautifully paired this V6 with its eight-speed transmission. Power delivery is exceptionally smooth, albeit rather slow.

As for fuel economy, the EPA estimates the RX 350L will get 18 City / 25 Highway / 21 Combined mpg. Do remember, the RX is available as a hybrid. In that case, MPG jumps to nearly 30 combined, which is an insanely good number for an SUV of this size.

Ride & Handling

Fortunately, the smoothness does not stop with the powertrain. Lexus ensured that the ride is just as smooth as the engine. During my time with the RX, I took it on a number of different pavement surfaces. Much to my satisfaction, the RX met any and every road condition I could throw at it with a smooth ride and a quiet cabin.

Obviously, the handling characteristics are not particularly sporty. The steering feel is numb and there is noticeable body roll. However, I am not expecting the RX to perform like a sports car. I expect it to ride comfortably and quietly and it does just that.

Utility

This is an important category for the RX, and even more important for the RX 350L in particular. The ‘L’ in 350L indicates that this is the slightly longer version of the RX that features a 3rd row of seats. Lexus stretched the regular RX by about 4-inches overall, though wheelbase is exactly the same as before.

Having a 3rd row available is certainly nice. However, this third row in particular is lacking in usability. I am 6’2″, and therefore pretty much the worst candidate for the type of person you should put in the 3rd row. But, if I can fit comfortably in a seat, pretty much anybody can. Unfortunately, the third row on this Lexus left me wishing I didn’t have legs. I think you could get away with putting some small children in those far back seats. However, pretty much any adult with all four limbs is going to have a hard time being comfortable back there for any stretch of time.

While the seats are not amazing, there is one notable upside to buying the extended RX. That being the fact that you get an extra two cubic feet of storage space, bringing the grand total to 58 cubic feet with all the seats folded. I know that is not a mind boggling jump in storage space, but it does add extra utility if you need it.

Competition

The RX lives in a hyper competitive segment, the midsize luxury SUV. Its main competition includes the Audi Q7, Mercedes GLE, BMW X5, Volvo XC60, Acura MDX, Infiniti QX50, Lincoln MKX, and the Cadillac XT5.

The Lexus RX consistently manages to outsell all of those by a landslide. It offers a lot of the same luxury feel and build quality. However, compared to the Germans in particular, the price-point is noticeably lower. In fact, the RX starts out about $7,000 cheaper than the Q7, which is the least expensive German offering. As a result, it is no surprise the RX does so well in this class.

Technology

We are getting used to having lots of tech in our cars today. As such, this category is becoming increasingly important for new buyers. Unfortunately for the Lexus RX, I feel this is an area where Lexus has left room for improvement. Their infotainment system feels old, clunky, and imprecise. None of which is aided by the joystick used to operate their system. Furthermore, Android Auto and Apple Car Play are not available on the 2018 Lexus RX, meaning you are always stuck using the less-than-ideal Lexus system.

Fortunately, the RX does still come with a comprehensive driver enhancement and safety suite. You get pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, intelligent high beams, blind spot monitoring and park assist.

Value

The 2018 Lexus RX 350L starts at $49,070, which is a fairly competitive price for a three-row SUV. However, our tester came equipped with almost $10,000 in options. The MSRP came out to $58,190 after $995 destination fee. That is certainly a lot of money considering we were missing the heads-up display, LED headlights, and a number of other features available in this class. Though, the luxury feel and premium materials did make up for the lack in tech, somewhat.

There are better values in this segment, like the Volvo XC60, for example. However, the Lexus certainly makes a compelling argument with its base price of $43,570 for the two-row version.

Overall

The Lexus RX has been a sales leader for so many years for a good reason. Lexus has found a way to make an incredibly comfortable car, with a luxurious interior, that has a reputation for reliability unlike anything else in its segment. If comfort and quality feel is what you want, look no further than the Lexus RX.

If we are talking specifically about the RX 350L, well that third row is a bit of a joke. There are plenty of vehicles that offer a much better third row. But the extra space in the rear makes up for that in my mind. I would probably skip the ‘L’ model if it were my money though.

The lack of technology is probably a bigger deal to me than it is to most of the people who buy an RX, but it is good to keep in mind if you are considering one for yourself.

Stay tuned to TFLcar.com for the latest news, views & real-world reviews and more on the 2018 Lexus RX 350L.

SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Lexus RX 350L

On Sale: Now
Base MSRP: $47,770
Price as Tested: $58,190
Engine: 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V6 with VVT
Drivetrain (Layout): Front engine, all-wheel drive
Horsepower: 290 hp @ 6,300 RPM
Torque: 263 lb-ft @ 4,700 RPM
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Suspension: Front: MacPherson strut, coil springs

Rear: Double wishbone, coil springs

Brakes: Front: 12.9-inch ventilated front discs

Rear: 13.3-inch ventilated rear discs

Tires: Michelin Premier LTX 235/55 R20 102V all-season
Fuel capacity: 19.2 gallons
Fuel economy (EPA): 18 City / 25 Highway / 21 Combined mpg

Dimensions:

Wheelbase: 109.8 inches
Length:  196.9 inches
Width: 74.6 inches
Height:  67.3 inches
Ground clearance: 8.1 inches
Turning Circle: 38.2 feet
Curb Weight: 4,619 pounds

 

Michael Curtis
Michael has always had a passion for things with four wheels and an engine. His parents often joked that his first word was "Porsche." He currently works for TFL full time as an editor, videographer, presenter & writer. In his spare time, he stays plugged into the car community through meets and other events.