The RX 350 exhibits a compelling combination of safety, reliability, and luxury for a few thousand less than many rivals. 2017 models gather Lexus’ Safety Suite+ driver assistance features standard. The only other luxury SUV to do this is the Acura MDX, which offers a third row, more space, and better performance for less than $1,000 more. The Acura can’t compete with the Lexus’ refinement. Its interior isn’t as nice and the ride quality isn’t as smooth. If you’re looking for a supremely cozy SUV without the hassles typically associated with luxury SUV ownership, the RX 350 should not be overlooked.
There are over 2 million Lexus RXs on the road worldwide. It is the best selling luxury vehicle of all time. There’s good reason. It boasts top safety technology and ratings, rock-solid reliability, strong resale value, and a meditative cabin. All for thousands less than a German rival. If you’re in the market for a luxury SUV and care more about comfort than performance, the RX 350 is tough to beat.
A 295 horsepower 3.5 Liter V6 powers the Lexus RX 350. It’s basically same engine that’s been used in the RX for years but now receives direct injection that increased the power figures quite a bit. It’s one of the smoothest V6s tested and it produces a pleasant soundtrack when pushed. Despite making ample power, the engine delivers excellent efficiency at an EPA rated 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, one less respectively for All Wheel Drive models. The eight-speed automatic transmission it’s paired with delivers smooth shifts. A selectable driving mode knob located on the center console changes throttle response and shifting patterns to better suit your driving. In Eco mode, the standard setting, it’s quick to grab higher gears to improve efficiency. It creates sluggish response when you get on the gas. Turn it to sport mode and the transmission will hold gears much longer, delivering power much quicker but decreases efficiency. It’s not quick but it isn’t slow either. Lexus claims a 7.4 second zero to sixty time, which is about a second slower than many top rivals and about half a second slower than the Toyota Highlander it’s based on. But that’s okay! Lexus has always prioritized comfort and the RX delivers in spades. The suspension is baby soft and the steering, light and crisp. Those may not be desirable characteristics in a sports car but they’re what make a Lexus a Lexus. It’s easy to drive but not necessarily fun to drive. You’d think the F Sport trim might be, with its aggressive spoilers, sport-tuned suspension, digital instrument cluster, paddle shifters, and SPORT+ setting. But it isn’t. It’s more of a fashion statement. That’s okay too because the RX shouldn’t try to be something it’s not. If you like the safety qualities and hassle-free ownership the Lexus affords but want something that delivers dynamic performance, the Acura MDX is worth cross-shopping. Otherwise, we think the RX 350 is perfectly tailored to meet the needs of most drivers and continues to represent exceptional value in the luxury SUV segment.
The Lexus RX has one of the classier cabins around. There’s bountiful stitching detail and padded panels throughout, with the exception of hard plastic panels below the steering wheel on either side. The inside of the console is padded as well which is good because the console is quite wide. Standard seat trim is Nuluxe synthetic leather which will leave little to be desired. If you want real leather, you’ll have to equip the premium package or luxury package, the latter receives semi-aniline perforated leather throughout and adds unique wood trim pieces. The F Sport model comes standard with Rioja red leather and sport seats that hug occupants tighter. The infotainment screen is 8 inches standard and features a mouse-like control that some testers found difficult to use. A 12.3-inch screen is available in various navigation and audio upgrade packages. The system affords split screen functionality as well to perform multiple tasks while driving. Enform App Suite supports apps like OpenTable and Pandora without the need to pull out your smartphone. An optional Head-Up Display will project navigation directions on the windshield in front of you so your eyes never leave the road. A backup camera is standard and a 360-degree camera is optional. Unfortunately, the Lexus Enform system still doesn’t authorize Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. if you fancy yourself an audiophile, the sublime Mark Levinson Surround Sound system will more than make up for it, if you’re willing to spend a few extra thousand. A dual screen rear seat entertainment system with wireless headphones is also available and supports different video sources on either screen. Rear row legroom is bountiful and the seats adjust to find a satisfying position. Cargo capacity lags behind many competitors with just 18.4 cubic feet behind the second row and 56.3 cubes overall.
There’s nothing traditional about this SUV’s design. Bold lines and angles are everywhere on the RX, starting with the prominent “spindle” shaped oversized grille now found across the Lexus lineup. On the base RX350, the grille is composed of horizontal vents, while F Sport models receive a black mesh grille. On either side, narrow trapezoidal LED headlamps fill the space created by the grille’s shape. Below, there are fog lamps on both sides. The F sport model gets a front lip spoiler as well. Perhaps the most distinctive quality of the side profile is the partially blacked out C pillar that makes the roof appear as if it is floating. This impression carries to the rear, where LED taillamps are connected via a single chrome molding. Below, there are chrome finished dual exhaust tips. On F Sport models, there’s also a roof spoiler and a rear bumper spoiler, enhancing the masculine stance.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awards the RX 350 a 5-star overall safety rating despite 4-star frontal crash and rollover ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is even more enthusiastic about this SUV’s safety performance and bestows the esteemed “Top Safety Pick+” title upon the 2017 Lexus RX. This means the RX received “GOOD” crashworthiness valuation across the board as well as additional features like the headlights and front crash prevention earning top ratings. Though the front collision prevention system collects “SUPERIOR” classification, we’re aware of at least two reports of the system failing to function, causing a rear-end collision. No technology can replace safe driving habits so you don’t expect these features to prevent all collisions. It’s simply an aid that reduces the likelihood you’ll rear-end someone while driving distracted. We still commend Lexus for including their advanced safety technology standard. Overall, we’d rate the Lexus RX one of safest SUVs available.
JD Power allocates 4 out of 5 power circles for the RX 350’s predicted reliability rating, making it “better than most” in terms of dependability. Consumer Reports likewise grants a 4 out of 5 predicted reliability rating for the Lexus RX., noting issues with the fuel system and little else. The 2018 and 2017 model RX 350s have no NHTSA recalls but the 2016 has two. The first affects 5,072 RX 350 and RX450h models.
The gas that fills the driver knee airbag may leak out due to a mistake in the welding process. The second pertains to certain RX 350s manufactured between October 26, 2016, and February 8, 2016. A possibly damaged O-ring could cause poor brake fluid pressure control and cause the ABS, Traction Control, and Stability Control systems to malfunction. As always, Lexus dealers are required to resolve these issues at no cost to owners. To check if your vehicle or the one you’re considering purchasing is subject to the recall, run the VIN through the NHTSA website. They will tell you whether the recall has been resolved or not. The NHTSA record for the latest generation RX 350 is quite clean, with just 29 total complaints and 41 total manufacturer communications at the time of this writing. Most of the complaints are rather benign but a few are cause for concern. There were multiple complaints concerning both the 2016 and 2017 models for unintended acceleration when shifting from park.
The most common complaint is for brakes failing to work properly, which may be a result of the recall but has also occurred in at least one 2017 model not covered by the recall. Still, that doesn’t mean all models suffer these issues and there are over 200,000 RXs on the road, which dwarfs the number of complaints. Technical Service Bulletins tend to be more reliable indicators of a known issue since the manufacturer acknowledges there’s a problem and instructs technicians on how to resolve them.
Some known issues are an inoperative hands-free power liftgate, difficulty programming the HomeLink transceiver, and Bluetooth pairing issues. That’s it! The RX 350 appears to be mechanically sound but is not without minor technology issues, which many modern SUVs suffer. We think the RX 350 is more reliable than most other luxury SUVs.
If you’re looking for a comfy luxury cruiser, consider the brand that’s legendary for producing smooth chauffeur mobiles: Lincoln. The Lincoln MKX offers comparable features and refinement for about $5,000 dollars less at each trim level, sans Black Label. There are two engine options in the MKX: a 3.7 Liter V6 and a twin-turbocharged 2.7 Liter V6, both are more powerful than that in the Lexus.
As a result, the MKX is quicker than the RX 350, with a 7 second or 6 second zero to sixty. The EcoBoost engine has a more usable power band due to the high amount of torque available at lower revs. If you’re considering the RX 350, you’re probably more concerned with comfort and practicality than performance.
The Lincoln delivers, its interior is one of the best we’ve reviewed this year. You can’t get rain-sensing wipers in the MKX and you have to pay extra for a higher trim to receive advanced safety features, which are standard in the RX.
However, a nicer interior will cost you less money in the MKX. There are 22-way power adjustable massaging front seats available that are well worth the cash. They deliver Bentley quality comfort at a budget price. The standard SYNC 3 infotainment system is one of the simplest on the market and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, not available in the Lexus. Like the Lexus, there is a myriad of premium audio systems available, though they are more accessible in the Lincoln.
A dual screen rear seat entertainment system is available in the Lincoln too but the screens aren’t as large as that found in the RX. The MKX packs significantly more cargo space than the RX, with 37.2 cubic feet behind the rear row and 68.8 with them folded. Active noise cancellation keeps the cabin as quiet as the Lexus.
We will say that the Lexus’ ride is just a touch smoother, most likely due to the larger standard wheels with low profile tires on the Lincoln. That doesn’t mean the Lincoln isn’t smooth. It is, yet retains more responsive handling, especially in models equipped with the active dampers. The MKX is an IIHS “Top Safety Pick,” one notch below the RX 350, a “Top Safety Pick+.” Probably a result of the advanced safety technology being rated higher in the Lexus. Both SUVs have strong reputations for reliability, though we’d give the edge to the Lexus. Whichever you choose, you can’t really go wrong. Both SUVs are sure to coddle their occupants and provide fuss-free ownership for years to come.
The RX 350 starts at $43,220 for FWD or $44,620 for AWD with a 295 horsepower 3.5 Liter V6 with four cams, four valves per cylinder, and dual variable valve timing with intelligence that makes 268 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm. It’s mated to an eight-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission that powers either the front or all wheels. The chassis is a welded steel unibody design, supported by independent MacPherson struts with coil springs, gas-pressurized shock absorbers, and a stabilizer bar at the front and independent double-wishbone rear suspension with coil springs, gas-pressurized shock absorbers, and stabilizer bar. To stop, there’s a four-channel Anti-lock Braking System with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist. Front brakes are 12.9 inch ventilated discs and rear brakes are 13.3 inch solid discs. The RX350 rides on 18-inch seven-spoke alloy wheels with 235/65R18 all-season tires. Standard features include voice command, Lexus Enform service connect, Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel mounted controls, Smartaccess key fob, Lexus Enform remote app, subscription-free traffic and weather provided by HD radio, Siri Eyes Free, HD Radio with iTunes tagging, a HomeLink transceiver system, dual-zone climate control, power adjustable front seats, self gripping cupholders, exterior glass with UV reduction, and SiriusXM satellite radio. On the safety front, a 10-airbag system senses occupants to provide optimal injury prevention in the event of a collision. A backup camera with dynamic gridlines help you park easier. A $960 Premium Package provides a rear armrest storage compartment, rain sensing wipers, leather interior trim, electrochromic outside mirrors, roof rails, and Lexus memory system. A Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package installs a 15 speaker Premium Surround Sound Audio system with 8-inch color multimedia display, Enform App Suite, in-dash DVD player, climate control smog sensor, and Lexus Enform Destinations navigation system for $2,770, another version with a 12.3-inch color multimedia display costs $3,200. Without the Mark Levinson system, the navigation with 12.3-inch display costs $2,120. A Rear-Seat Entertainment System equips Dual Screens with wireless headphones for $2,095. The Navigation Package supplies Lexus Enform Destinations, Lexus Enform App Suite, Remote Touch, climate control smog sensor, in-dash DVD player, and a Lexus 12-speaker premium sound system for $1,690. The $4,485 Luxury Package furnishes 20 inch split 5-spoke alloy wheels with SuperChrome machined finish and interchangeable painted inserts, driver’s seat power cushion extender and four-way power lumbar support, semi-aniline perforated leather-trimmed interior, rear armrest storage compartment, rain-sensing wipers, manual rear door sunshades, illuminated door sills, heated wood and leather trimmed steering wheel, Gray Sapele Wood with aluminum interior trim, roof rails, ambient lighting, and Lexus memory system. Lastly, a $315 Cold Weather Package affixes a windshield wiper de-icer, fast-response interior heater, headlamp washers, rain-sensing wipers, and auto-leveling headlamps.
The RX350 F Sport starts at $49,120 for FWD or $50,520 for AWD. The F Sport trim equips F Sport-Tuned Suspension that’s “exclusively tuned for exceptional performance,” according to Lexus. This includes an Adaptive Variable Suspension system and a SPORT S+ mode that adjusts settings for optimal handling. This model also receives performance inspired electronic instrumentation “that provides real-time information such as G-force metrics, navigation information, and power distribution.” The F Sport also receives unique, more aggressive fascias and an exclusive RIoja Red interior. In addition, RX F Sport receives enhanced high-back bolstered sport seats, a heated steering wheel trimmed with perforated leather, aluminum pedals, and exclusive paddles shifters. A Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package installs a 15 speaker Premium Surround Sound Audio system with 8-inch color multimedia display, Enform App Suite, in-dash DVD player, climate control smog sensor, and Lexus Enform Destinations navigation system for $2,770, another version with a 12.3-inch color multimedia display costs $3,200. Without the Mark Levinson system, the navigation with 12.3-inch display costs $2,120. The Navigation Package supplies Lexus Enform Destinations, Lexus Enform App Suite, Remote Touch, climate control smog sensor, in-dash DVD player, and a Lexus 12-speaker premium sound system for $1,690. Finally, a $315 Cold Weather Package supplies a windshield wiper de-icer, fast-response interior heater, headlamp washers, rain-sensing wipers, and auto-leveling headlamps.