Just as minivans overtook station wagons through the 1980s and 1990s, crossover SUVs are taking over for minivans. Leading the charge in the luxury crossover segment are the Lexus RX 350 and the BMW X5. Both models have been around for plenty of time, and each has garnered a loyal following.
The RX 350's image has struggled, however, with a close association to the non-premium Toyota Highlander. Has Lexus managed to shed this slight stigma, allowing the RX 350 to overtake the X5?
What the RX 350 Gets Right
Right off the top, the RX 350 lays a nasty blow to the X5 with a base price that makes it much more affordable. The refreshed exterior of the RX 350 also gives it an edge over the classic -- though relatively bland -- styling from BMW. Additionally, the RX 350 offers the utility of 40 cubic feet of cargo room without folding any seats flat.
Under the hood, the Lexus loses the power race -- but with a Toyota-sourced engine, buyers can rely on reliability, great fuel economy and low maintenance costs.
What the X5 Gets Right
When you buy an X5 you are first and foremost buying the high-end cachet of a BMW. The X5 also provides a driving experience that you wouldn't expect from an SUV with a combination of superior handling and a comfortable ride.
Under the hood, the X5 leads the way in terms of engine selections. It all starts off with a base 3-liter turbocharged six-cylinder with 300 horses that mates to an eight-speed automatic transmission. From there, you can move up to a 3-liter diesel V6 with 265 horsepower and up to 26 mpg highway, or the range-topping twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 with 400 horsepower.
Why Opt for the X5?
Despite being far more expensive and not as family friendly as the Lexus, the X5 still has a huge market. For buyers who want a sharp-performing SUV that affords top-level luxury, tons of powertrain options and high towing capacity, the X5 is for you.
Verdict: Lexus RX 350
Yes, the X5 is still king of the hill in terms of luxury and performance, but the Lexus RX 350 offers up better packaging for the average luxury SUV buyer. It is priced much lower with the option to make it just as luxurious as the X5 and its cargo- and family-hauling capabilities simply outmatch the X5.