Bold design. The 2019 Lexus RX features styling that grabs eyes and turns heads. It stands out at stop lights with edgy styling and sharp creases, especially when sitting next to some of its more boring competitors.
Up front, a heroically-sized spindle grille rests between a pair of narrow L-shape LED headlights that rest above a set of triangular-shaped fog light enclosures. Bold styling touches continue along the sides with deeply sculpted body panels, and floating canopy C-pillars set above sculpted and flared rear quarter panels.
The spindle theme is repeated in the outline of the license plate surround that rests between trapezoidal-shaped rear taillights. Below that, the lower valance features cutouts for a pair of oversized, chrome-trimmed exhaust outlets. A rear wiper that parks itself under the upper rear spoiler and out of the way of accumulating snow and ice is a particularly nice touch that should be appreciated by drivers living in colder states.
With the Lexus RX’s sharp styling comes a negative. Some buyers may prefer a toned-down look, and the RX’s design is far from that. This can leave them no other choice but to head to one of Lexus’ competitors.
Quiet, comfortable cabin. The cabin is equally stunning – a place of calm and order that keeps all the road noise outside where it belongs. Soft, supportive front seats offer a comfortable position, even after hours of freeway driving, with cooling, heat, 10-way adjustment, the perfect amount of side bolstering, and extendable thigh cushions on Luxury models.
The hand-stitched, two-tier dashboard is dominated by either a standard 8-inch or optional 12.3-inch TFT display that doesn't impede forward visibility. Cabin instrumentation is intuitive, while the various buttons and knobs are silky smooth to operate and within easy reach of the driver. Sightlines out the front and sides are good, thanks to relatively narrow A-pillars.
There's plenty of leg, hip, shoulder and head room for both front passengers as well as three full-sized adults in the second row. On models so equipped, the third row offers heat, air conditioning, cup holders, as well as a bench or captain’s chairs in the middle row for either seven- or six-passenger seating. Overall fit and finish is superb, with soft-touch surfaces found nearly everywhere.
On three-row models, cargo volume is 7.45 cubic feet behind the third row, 23.03 behind the second row, and 58.48 with both rows of seats folded. Two-row variants feature 18.4 cubic feet behind the second row and 56.3 with those seats folded.
But like many vehicles this size, the RX 350L's third row is little more than a jump seat, and cargo space behind the third row is miniscule. In addition, the rear three-quarters view is hindered by a thick C-pillar, the view out back is hampered by a smallish rear window, and the various and sundry options and packages can add up quickly.
Finally, the haptic-feedback infotainment joystick is irritating and often too distracting to use when driving, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay aren't even offered, and we should also stress the RX 350L’s third row and its jump-seat-like 23.5 inches of leg room. Who does Lexus expect will fit back there?
Feature-rich standard equipment list with standard safety tech. The 2019 Lexus RX doesn’t have trim levels as much as it has sub-models. These sub-models include the RX 350, RX, 350L, RX 350 F Sport, RX 450h, RX 450hL, and RX 450h F Sport.
The differences between these models include the powertrains and the seating arrangements. The RX 350 is the V6, conventional eight-speed automatic model, while the 450h is the V6, continously variable transmission hybrid model. Add the “L” to either one stretches the cabin for a third row and the choice of two seating configurations.
As you might expect, the long list of standard features includes the usual power bits (windows, locks, mirrors, front seats), plus a scratch-resistant, self-restoring top paint coat, Bi-LED headlights, LED taillights and LED exterior accent lighting, power-folding auto dimming heated outside mirrors, acoustic windshield glass, and alloy wheels.
Inside, the RX has a power tilt and telescoping steering column, an 8-inch infotainment screen with joystick remote, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, three-zone automatic climate control, Lux seats, a nine-speaker audio system, HD radio, Lexus Enform connectivity, satellite radio, and smart watch and Alexa Skill integration.
But all is not perfect. 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.
On the safety front, all Lexus RX models come with a host of driver-assist safety features that include forward collision warning with low-light pedestrian detection and daytime bicyclist detection, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, automatic headlights with high-beam assist, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and rain-sensing wipers.
Optional features include blind-spot monitoring with automatic rear cross-traffic braking, intuitive park assist, an overhead camera, triple-beam LED auto-leveling headlights with washers, and LED cornering fog lights.
Strong V6, thrifty hybrid. The Lexus RX 350’s 295-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine delivers strong performance in a straight line, and its optional all-wheel drive makes up for its extra heft with additional grip on takeoff. On top of this slick acceleration, the eight-speed automatic transmission delivers smooth shifts, while the comfort-tuned suspension keeps rough roads at bay.
For its part, the RX 450h’s rear electric motors give it standard all-wheel drive, plus they push fuel economy to an impressive 31 miles per gallon city, 28 mpg highway, and 30 combined, according to the EPA.
On the other hand, while many luxury vehicles’ hybrid systems boost performance and fuel economy, the Lexus RX 450h is less powerful at 259 hp and 247 pound-feet of torque. If you’re considering the F Sport as a way to punch things up, you'll be setting yourself up for a disappointment.
Final thoughts. The 2019 Lexus RX is a refreshing style wrench tossed into the otherwise boring luxury crossover segment, but it’s not without flaws like a smallish third row in “L” models, and lack of oomph from the hybrid powertrain.