The Lexus RX series has become the definitive example of the kind since its introduction spawned the luxury crossover market twenty years ago. Throughout that time, the RX has been seen as a benchmark for many other automakers due to its reliability, comfort, and upscale interiors. While it's not exactly the most exciting choice for a luxury crossover, it is predictable and dependable, two qualities that bring back Lexus RX buyers year after year.
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2018 Lexus RX Overview
What's New for 2018
The biggest change to the 2018 Lexus RX line was the inclusion of new longer "L" models to the RX 350 and RX 450h. The L models extend the length of the RX by 4.3 inches, which is enough to add a third row of seating comfortably in the back. Additionally, the Lexus RX now comes with a 10 year complimentary subscription to Lexus Enform Safety Connect and Enform Service Connect services, which offer niceties like roadside assistance and vehicle health monitoring reports.
Choosing Your Lexus RX
Lexus offers two flavors for the RX: the conventionally powered RX 350 and the hybrid RX 450h. The RX 350 receives a 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 295 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque alongside an eight-speed automatic transmission, and is available in both front wheel-drive or all wheel-drive for an extra $1,400. The RX 450h pairs the same 3.5-liter V6 with an electric motor, boosting the power to 308 horsepower and the fuel economy to 31 mpg city/28 mpg highway/30 mpg combined. The hybrid RX also gets a CVT transmission, and all wheel-drive comes standard.
Both the RX 350 and the RX 450h have the same three different trim packages available, including the well equipped Base trim level, the aforementioned longer L model, and the the sporty looking F-Sport. Base and L trims of both variants come similarly equipped at the basic level and have access the Premium Package and the Luxury Package, which cost $1,100 and $4,180 respectively in the base model and $810 and $5,015 in the L trim levels. The Premium Package adds the choice of several leather interior trim configurations, memory functions for the driver's seat and folding door mirrors. The Luxury Package ups the ante with 20-inch wheels, exquisite semi-aniline leather, rear-door sunshades, ambient lighting a unique wood and leather heated steering wheel, and ventilated front seats. Additonally, the Base and L trims of both RX models have access to the $315 Cold Weather Package which adds wiper de-icers and a fast response heater, and the self-descriptive $2,120 Navigation Package and $3,200 Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Sound Package. If you need to tow something with your RX, be sure to equip the $210 Towing Package that adds additional engine cooling.
The F-Sport trim is a unique design package offered on both the RX 350 and RX 450h standard wheelbase models. This package is heavy on the style, and light on the actual performance upgrades; the only changes in the latter category are an active suspension and an additional Sport S+ Drive mode, while the engine remains the same, albeit with an artificial sound enhancer. Instead, your money goes into more aggressive-looking design choices inside and out, with unique interior options. The F-Sport trim gets the goodies from the Premium Package as standard, but doesn't have access to the Luxury Package. However, it does receive access to the Navigation, Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Sound, and Cold Weather packages, and all options from the base vehicle save for the panoramic moonroof.
Believe it or not, the RX 450h is the best selling hybrid that Lexus sells, and for good reason. People love crossovers, but the extra power and greatly increased fuel economy is a great selling point for a fairly minor premium. We'd forgo the F-Sport trim, as the design looks and active suspension of the F-Sport aren't enough to make it worth the premium. However, we would go with the Luxury Package as it can make the interior look very classy. Whether or not you want the longer wheelbase of the L model is an entirely personal decision, so examine your needs to figure out if that third row is worth it for you.
2018 Lexus RX Review
Three years into its current generation, the 2018 Lexus RX offers strong acceleration, an edgy design, and a wide range of standard advanced safety features. But fuel economy is only average, options can quickly boost its price, while the eye-catching exterior isn't for everyone.
With two models offered in either front- or all-wheel drive, pricing for the Lexus RX starts at $44,265 for a front-wheel-drive model in base trim and can top out at over $61,000 for an optioned-up all-wheel-drive F Sport model.
Standard are LED headlights, fog lights, and brake lights, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, a power liftgate, rain-sensing wipers, an eight-inch infotainment system, Siri Eyes Free voice control, push-button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a power tilt-and-telescopic steering column. A wide range of active safety features including a rearview camera, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, and lane keeping assist are also standard.
Since all gasoline-powered RX models have the same engine and transmission, we believe the base model is a better value than the firmer-riding and slightly noisier F Sport. We'd ratchet things up with the Premium Package which adds real leather and either walnut or bamboo trim. The Cold Weather Package is a cheap option for driver's in wintry climates, while heated and ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel – oddly, packaged separately – are also musts (and affordable ones, at that).
Here’s how we’d build it:
- Model: 2018 Lexus RX 350
- Engine: 3.5-liter V6
- Output: 295 hp / 267 lb-ft
- Transmission:Eight-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
- MPG: 19 City / 26 Hwy
- Options: All-wheel drive ($1,400), Premium Package ($1,110, leather interior trim, matte bamboo trim, rear armrest storage, auto-dimming power folding outside mirrors, memory for driver's seat, steering wheel, and outside mirrors, driver's easy exit auto away/return seat), Power tilt and slide moonroof and aluminum roof rails ($1,350, required with the Premium Package), Cold Weather Package ($315, windshield wiper de-icer, fast-response interior heater, headlight washers, rain-sensing wipers, auto-leveling headlights), Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert ($1,065), Heated and Ventilated Front Seats ($640), Heated Leather Steering Wheel ($150)
- Base Price:$44,495 (including a $1,025 destination charge)
- Best Value Price:$50,525
The RX steps off the line nicely with smooth, composed handling up to and including freeway speeds. Three driving modes – Normal, Eco, and Sport – vary powertrain performance, while opting for the F Sport trim adds adaptive dampers that stiffen up the ride on smooth roads, but automatically relax on rougher pavement to maintain a supple ride quality.
Although the current version handles more sharply than past models, even the RX 350 F Sport is more of a highway cruiser than back roads corner carver. More pointedly, our RX 350L tester with a few hundred extra pounds of mass – carried in the rear third of the vehicle – felt sloppier in corners than the standard model with more pronounced body lean in corners. Those extra pounds also affect acceleration as well as passing at highway speeds.
In addition, while not a gas guzzler, the RX 350's EPA-estimated 20 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, and 23 combined on rear-wheel-drive models is only average for the class. A RX 450h hybrid variant is available for improved fuel economy, which comes out to 31/28/30 mpg (city/highway/combined).
The fourth-generation Lexus RX finally booted the previous model's jellybean-on wheels design to the curb with a jet-inspired roofline that's both adventurous and, at times, unquiet to the eye.
The love/hate conundrum begins up front with a massive spindle grille, continues along its flanks with deeply sculpted body panels, and terminates with a floating canopy C-pillar that sits above a sculpted and flared rear quarter. The rear window on models like our 350L tester is more upright, while wide chrome strips between the taillights and across the lower valance accentuate the spindle theme of the rear fascia.
That bold sheetmetal is wrapped around a luxurious interior – a place of calm and order, nearly bereft of exterior noise – that features soft, supportive front seats that offer a comfortable perch even after hours of freeway driving. F Sport models feature bigger and firmer seat bolsters, while Luxury models get 10-way adjustment, cooling, heating, and extendable thigh cushions. Three adults can sit in back where the seats are just as comfortable and also split, fold, and recline.
350L models that are 4.3 inches longer are equipped with a third row replete with heating, air conditioning, the requisite cup holders, and the choice of six-passenger (via second-row captain's chairs) or seven-passenger (courtesy of a second-row bench) seating configurations.
Cabin instrumentation is straightforward and easily understood. The various buttons and knobs are silky smooth to operate, and the controls, aside from the infotainment interface, are intuitive and within easy reach of the driver.
But like many vehicles this size, the 350L's third row is little more than a jump seat, and cargo space behind the third row is a parsimonious 16.3 cubic feet. In addition, despite the added personality, the RX's new design may or may not age well, the various options and packages can add up quickly, the haptic-feedback infotainment joystick is irritating and often too distracting to be used when driving, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay aren't even offered.
The Best and Worst Things
Overall, the RX is a slick package; we're just not sure how well that polarizing sheetmetal will age.
Right For? Wrong For?
In a break from the past, the RX's edgy design should finally attract style-conscious crossover buyers to Lexus showrooms.
The RX 350's middling fuel economy, however, will have eco-friendly shoppers looking elsewhere – perhaps at the pricier RX 450h.
The Bottom Line
Despite average fuel economy and a love-it-or-hate-it design, the 2018 Lexus RX is a top choice in the mid-size luxury crossover class thanks to its serene ride, strong performance, and breadth of advanced safety features.
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