Spiky outside, comfortable inside. The 2021 Lexus RX bears little resemblance to the harmless-looking crossovers of its ancestry. It’s all creases and angles, and the sharp hourglass grille lets you know it means business.

We appreciate daring styling, but the RX exterior could use a dash of refinement. We think the target audience will likely agree with us. Inside, however, the RX makes amends. The cabin is spacious and quiet, with comfortable seats front and rear. Lexus knows how to coddle, and both rows are nicely padded.

In an effort to appease family buyers, the RX comes in an extended L version that adds 4.4 inches of length and third-row seating. We’d skip it – the third row is only suitable for small children, and the second row loses leg room to boot.

More luxury than utility. The RX feels like a luxury car inside. Wood and metallic surfaces provide visual and tactile contrast, and the asymmetric dash is smooth and modern. F Sport trims get bold red leather upholstery, which we like.

The ride is geared toward comfort as well. The suspension is composed and smooth, even with optional larger wheels. The RX’s 4,200-pound weight means it was never going to carve corners, but it behaves well enough on the road.

All-wheel drive is available (and standard on hybrid models), but the RX isn’t as adventurous as many midsize crossovers. Cargo space is mediocre, too – the RX maxes out at less than 60 cubic feet of space with the seats folded, which is less than competitors.

Lexus RX

Safer than ever. For 2021, the Lexus RX adds to its already considerable list of safety equipment. Blind-spot monitoring is now standard, joining advanced features like adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.

Toyota continues to lead the way in this department, and family buyers should rest easy. Last year’s RX was an IIHS Top Safety Pick, and we anticipate similar results this year.

We’re glad that the RX gets a touchscreen, which is easier to use than the console-mounted touchpad controller. An 8-inch screen is the default, but an optional 12.3-inch screen brings navigation and better voice commands. If you can afford the package, it’s worth it.

Hybrids win again. Let’s be clear: the RX’s base V6 powertrain is not bad. Its 295 horsepower is plenty of grunt, and it can tow up to 5,000 pounds in a pinch.

But after adding all-wheel drive, the RX 350 is only $1,250 cheaper than the hybrid RX 450h. The 450h is the more powerful option as well, making 308 hp and 247 pound-feet of torque.

It’s not enough to make the RX feel quick, but it pays off at the gas pump. The EPA estimates that the 450h will get up to 30 miles per gallon combined, which is excellent for a car this size. Even without all-wheel drive, the V6 powertrain only manages 23 mpg combined. For the relatively small price increase, we’ll take the hybrid.

Final thoughts. The 2021 Lexus RX helped define the midsize crossover, which has become one of the most popular segments of the market. The competition has grown sharper, and we’re not sure that the RX’s styling is doing it any favors.

All the same, it delivers on some of the most important elements: luxury, comfort, and tech. The thrifty hybrid powertrain is a highlight, and for luxury buyers looking for fuel efficiency, the RX 450h should be at the top of the list.

Check prices for the 2021 Lexus RX »