It's the kind of design that will either lure you into a showroom or keep you away, but we have to give normally conservative Lexus serious props for creating a crossover that truly stands out.
We've awarded it an extra point each for its interior and exterior, both of which are excellent for very different reasons. Overall, the RX scores a 7 out of 10 for styling. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
The RX starts with some familiar details, with an especially dramatic version of Lexus' now-signature spindle grille in front, with so-called "triple-L" headlights, LED fog lights, and LED daytime running lights. Its second most notable design cue is its "floating" roof line, which tapers near the rearmost roof pillar to provide a more coupe-like profile than its actual proportions reveal. There's some Nissan Murano to the RX's side profile, and that's not really a bad thing.
Inside, the look is comparatively normalizing—it’s a place of order, calm, and precision; it’s not too busy, and it lets you forget that you’re in a vehicle that’s so involved from the outside. The dash and door trims of the new RX follow the look established by the latest GS and IS sport sedans—thankfully much more than the somewhat over-the-top, edgy-and-layered look of the smaller NX crossover. Just like nearly every other vehicle in the Toyota and Lexus stable, the dash makes a move to follow more of a horizontal orientation, and some nicely drawn, asymmetrical curves frame the center stack (which is canted toward the driver) and the center console, which has its own unusual upkick and curve on the right side, angling it over toward the driver.
Altogether, this offers plenty of cues that the RX is focused a little more toward the driver this time around. Otherwise, the RX cabins feel neat and well-designed—definitely less cluttered than some of Lexus’s other interior efforts of the past few years—with subtle colors, matte-black and matte-metallic trims combining to have the intended effect of being luxurious, as well as a good deal sportier than before.
Both RX 350 and RX 450h lines are offered in performance-oriented F Sport. They add a special dark-mesh grille, a more aggressive lower front spoiler and rear bumper trim, 20-inch alloy wheels, and F Sport badging—as well as exclusive F Sport seats, a unique steering wheel with paddle shifters, aluminum pedals and scuff plates, and F Sport gauges. There’s also an F Sport-exclusive Rioja Red interior leather hue. For 2017, the F Sport range is offered with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, unlike last year when the package was all-wheel-drive only.
The Lexus RX is certainly controversial, but we have to admire Lexus for taking chances.
With its edgy looks and sporty marketing, you might expect that the Lexus RX is a highly sport-oriented crossover...but that's not quite the case.
While the RX is sportier than it has ever been, especially in F Sport guise, it's still aimed mostly at providing a cosseting ride that smothers out the outside world. We've given it an extra point for its ability to absorb big bumps with aplomb and for its strong engine lineup, bringing it to a 7 out of 10 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
There remain two engines in the RX lineup, but last year's front-wheel drive hybrid has bitten the dust. That means you'll have a choice between V-6-powered RX 350 in front- or all-wheel drive and hybrid RX 450h with all-wheel drive.
The V-6 in the RX 350 makes 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. It features a variable valve system that allows a wider range of intake-cam timing and the fuel-efficiency-enhancing Atkinson cycle, and there’s also direct injection. An 8-speed automatic transmission is augmented by paddle shifters on the steering wheel on F Sport models.
A pre-loaded front differential also helps with cornering stability and performance immediately off the line. And in RX 350 models with all-wheel drive, the system uses clutches to vary the torque distribution up to 50 percent to the rear wheels (or up to 100 percent to the front wheels).
While not rocket-fast, the RX 350 moves quickly and, perhaps more importantly, it's a quiet operator. The F Sport model pipes some intake noise into the cabin for a more muscular growl, but even it is still a nearly silent cruiser.
Then there's the RX 450h hybrid, which utilizes a different version of the 3.5-liter V-6, here making 259 hp and 247 pound-feet of torque, with a compression ratio bumped up to 13:1. With its planetary drive system and twin-motor hybrid assistance, it operates as a full hybrid, with the vehicle capable of taking off in low-speed, low-load conditions on electric power alone. The RX 450h's all-wheel-drive system differs from the RX 350 in that its rear wheels are powered by a separate electric motor drive unit that supplements the gas engine. It's a high tech solution to delivering more traction without using more gas.
That said, the RX 450h isn't sporty, even in F Sport guise, because it features a continuously variable transmission that, while largely unobtrusive, does little to instill the sense of sportiness that Lexus wants.
RX 350 and RX 450h models get Normal, Eco, and Sport modes—all affecting powertrain responsiveness, power steering effort, and the degree of air conditioning use. F Sport versions get additional Customized, Sport S, and Sport S+ modes. In Hybrid models, turning that controller over to Sport changes the gauge layout, with the "Power Meter" replaced by a tachometer.
Also, with the RX 450h, you now get an EV Mode that lets you (if the charge is adequate) run the RX in a quieter all-electric mode, for somewhat longer times than it would otherwise allow at low speeds.
Underneath the RX
The RX models keep their layout entirely car-like, with a MacPherson strut front suspension with lower control arms and a double-wishbone rear suspension. Lexus has softened the front suspension somewhat while aiming for a firmer rear-suspension tune—balancing that out with a larger anti-roll bar in front. All versions of the RX include four-wheel ventilated disc brakes.
Lexus' engineers shot for improved steering feedback with the latest RX—and while they achieved that goal, there's actually more road feel when the system is in its lightest (comfort) setting. Though the sport mode in the F Sport features firm steering, it's not actually delivering any additional feel to the driver. Still, major strides have been made here toward making the RX a more composed and confident-feeling crossover—something we didn't say about its predecessor.
F Sport models add the Adaptive Variable Suspension system that adjusts the damping force at all four wheels depending on the driving and road conditions. The Sport S and Sport S+ modes provide even firmer control, while the system has a rugged-surface sensing system that will aid ride comfort when you do get to a particularly rough surface.
Wheels are 18-inch, seven-spoke alloys in base models, upgradeable to 20-inch high-gloss machined alloys or super chrome alloys with color inserts. The RX uses a special Michelin Premier LTX tire that’s designed to improve its characteristics for wet-road performance somewhat as it wears.
A strong powertrain and a nice ride quality elevate the RX.
Lexus' reputation for comfortable, upscale interiors remains intact with the 2017 RX lineup.
We've scored the RX an 8 out of 10 for comfort and quality, giving it extra points for excellent front and rear seat comfort as well as its high-quality feel. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
Easy ingress and egress comes courtesy of a ride height that's neither too high nor too low. Once inside, passengers will find fantastic front seats and excellent room in the second row especially for those at the outboard spots. F Sport models feature more deeply-bolstered seats up front that straddle the line between sporty and comfortable, while the Luxury Package adds 10-way adjustable thrones and a convenient thigh cushion extender, in addition to cooling fans.
In the rear, there's a fold-down armrest with retractable cupholders. All models feature a 60/40-split backrest that reclines, but it's worth noting that the RX 450h actually seats passengers about an inch higher in the rear due to the placement of their battery. Taller passengers in the back may find that their heads will brush the ceiling if they're wearing a hat.
A heated steering wheel is optional, and the climate control uses a some smart temperature and flow systems that take into account more variables than ever—and should result in better comfort for all. Luxury Package models also get pull-down rear sunshades.
There's little wind or road noise, although RX 350 F Sport models feature piped-in intake noise that's really only audible under hard acceleration.
The base RX features a synthetic upholstery that does a pretty good job of imitating leather. Opt for the Premium Package and you're sitting on real hide, while the Luxury Package brings with it even nicer semi-aniline leather. We really like the choices Lexus has made for the RX's interior trim, especially the matte bamboo and gray sapele wood offerings on higher-spec models. They convey a more upmarket, bespoke feel than the RX's price suggests.
With its daring, premium-feeling interior, the RX stands apart from the crowd.
For 2017, Lexus has made standard important active-safety systems, a commendable move—but a surprising four out of five star assessment by the NHTSA this year prevents this crossover from scoring higher.
The RX earns points for automatic emergency braking and Top Safety Pick+ status from the IIHS, but it loses one for the NHTSA score, bringing it to 7 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
That said, the four-star rating from the NHTSA technically only applies to front-drive models, all-wheel-drive versions are rated at five stars overall. This year, the RX earned four stars for rollover resistance (which is typical for tall-riding crossovers) and five for side impact, but only four for frontal impact.
The RX family earned a place on the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ list based on its top "Good" ratings in all areas of crash-testing, and including a top "Superior" rating for front crash prevention, with the now-standard Lexus Safety Sense package and its pre-collision system.
Importantly, Lexus has made the top active-safety systems—adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist and departure warning, and automatic high beam headlamps—standard equipment for 2017. Blind-spot monitors and a rear cross-traffic alert system is also available. Those items aren't factored into the NHTSA rating, however.
All the expected occupant-safety items are also included—10 standard airbags, including a driver knee bag and a passenger-side cushion-mounted anti-submarine airbag. A rearview camera is included and features dynamic sight lines, while the available panoramic view monitor combines camera views around the vehicle, to help spot nearby bicyclists, pedestrians, objects, or other vehicles.
Outward visibility is decent, a surprise given the tapered profile and chunky rearmost roof pillar. However, Lexus lowered the model's belt line with its 2016 redesign and made the other roof pillars narrower thanks to more extensive use of high-strength steel.
The RX boasts surprisingly mixed crash-test results.
|Overall Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:||(4/5)|
|Overall Side Crash Rating:||(5/5)|
|Overall Side Barrier Rating:||Not Rated|
|NHTSA Roll-over Resistance Rating:||(4/5)|
|Side Impact Test||Good|
|Roof Strength Test||Good|
|Rear Crash Protection/Head Restraint||Good|
|IIHS Small Overlap Front Test Results||Good|
|IIHS Moderate Overlap Front Test Results||Good|
At a hair under $44,000 to start, even the base Lexus RX 350 comes well-equipped—but range-topping models feel downright decadent.
Add in Lexus' pampering dealership experience and it's easy to see how we wound up with a 9 out of 10 score for the Lexus RX's features. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
There's a big price jump from the base RX 350 to the RX 450h, but that's due in part to the fact that the 450h comes standard with many of the features that are optional on the RX 350.
The base RX 350 is available with either front- or all-wheel drive, and it includes leatherette upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, automatic windshield wipers, a proximity key, power front seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, and an 8.0-inch infotainment system that now includes a Scout GPS Link app that uses a paired smartphone's data network to provide turn-by-turn directions.
Additional features now standard on all RX 350s include automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and a system that nudges the RX back into its lane if it begins to drift.
Add in the Premium Package and you'll get leather seats, a choice of wood trims, memory for the driver's seat, and roof rails. The Luxury Package adds to that upgraded leather, special wood trim with aluminum inlays, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and unique 20-inch alloy wheels.
Navigation is also available and it's paired with either the standard 8.0-inch screen or an optional 12.3-inch widescreen monitor. High-spec RX 350s can also be ordered with a trick extra-wide rear entertainment screen that can display two videos at once for each side of the vehicle (they're not both visible from the same seat).
The F Sport package can now be ordered on either front- or all-wheel-drive RXs and it brings with it an adaptive suspension, special steering tuning, unique front and rear fascias, sports seats, and 20-inch alloy wheels.
A few stand-alone options like a power panoramic moonroof, a Mark Levinson-branded audio system, and a heads-up display are available, but it's worth noting that Lexus tends to group options and packages together when filling dealer lots. So, if you want an RX with a specific option set, you'll need to find a dealer willing to place a special order for you.
The RX 450h, meanwhile, is all-wheel drive-only and essentially builds on the RX 350 with the Premium Package and moonroof, which means it's really only around $7,000 more than an equivalent non-hybrid RX.
Audio and infotainment
Audio and infotainment systems leave you with a few choices. In base models, an 8.0-inch Display Audio system adds a new single-panel home-screen layout, and you can toggle between navigation, audio, air conditioning, and fuel economy displays. The base audio setup includes a nine-speaker system with HD Radio with iTunes tagging, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, an in-dash CD player, two USB ports, an aux input, Bluetooth hands-free operation and audio, and a 15-minute audio cache. Mark Levinson surround-sound audio is available and it includes 15 speakers, 835 watts over 10 channels, a 12-channel amp, and Clari-Fi Music Restoration Technology to make MP3s sound better.
The display that the new RX’s dash feels designed to host is the 12.3-inch widescreen, with the Lexus Remote Touch interface, a mechanical controller that’s partway between a mouse and trackpad. For this latest version Lexus has added "Enter" buttons to either side of the controller.
We still aren’t in love with Remote Touch, as even with its haptic feedback it requires looking at the screen while making selections. Likewise, the horizontal orientation to the expanded map view is counterintuitive, as most people want to see what’s along the road ahead. We can't help but wonder aloud: Wouldn’t a vertical orientation be better?
The Lexus telematics suite and apps-based services—some of them subscription-based—include a feature that shares vehicle diagnostics with nearby service centers. The safety system also includes automatic collision notification or stolen vehicle location, as well as new remote functions such as remote start, locking and unlocking, and climate pre-conditioning (all through an app). Through the Navigation Package you get an expanded app suite with which you can also take advantage of Bing search; Pandora, iHeart Radio, or Pandora streaming audio; or Yelp, among others.
The power rear hatch operates with just a swipe over the Lexus logo in back, provided the keyfob is in your pocket. That’s better, we think, than systems that require temporarily standing on one foot.
You'll be pampered in a Lexus RX from the moment you walk into the dealership.
While the higher-volume RX 350 achieves decent enough fuel economy on its own, the real star of the show here is the RX 450h that comes in at an impressive 30 mpg combined.
Still, the RX 350 outsells its hybrid cousin by a wide margin, so we've rated this lineup based on its figures—and it earns a 6 out of 10 for its greenness. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
The RX 350 is rated at 20 mpg city, 28 highway, 23 combined with front-wheel drive, or 19/26/22 mpg with optional all-wheel drive.
Meanwhile, RX 450h hybrid models achieve 30/28/30 mpg with all-wheel drive, according to the EPA.
In either model, the Drive Mode Select knob at the center console can be switched over to Eco mode for softer throttle response, reduced climate control output, and dialed back airflow, which should eke out slightly better efficiency.
We’ve seen high real-world mileage in hybrid models if you can use a lot of restraint; it’s a system that responds well to smooth inputs and lower speeds (there’s an EV mode for quiet, short-distance electric-only operation, too).
The RX 350 is competitive, while the RX 450h is at the top of its game.