Nearly every manufacturer has introduced or put some serious money behind their three-row crossover entry in the last couple of years. Some have developed completely new platforms while others have stretched existing ones, in an effort to squeeze in that extra row. Lexus took the latter approach with their popular RX, stretching it a few inches and adding the letter L onto the end of the model names. Walking past the 2020 Lexus RX 350L Executive, you may not even realize it is a three-row model as the extra length has been seamlessly incorporated into the existing body language.
As is to be expected of a best-selling Lexus, the interior fit and finish are top notch, with soft touch materials everywhere and truly nice-looking switchgear. Our test vehicle was equipped with Birch semi-aniline seats that looked fantastic against the almost black woodgrain. Vehicles with white coloured seats are typically a hard no for me, due to the higher risk of showing dirt, stains or other scuffs life brings along. The RX 350L looks so perfect with this interior however, that it would be a shame to get it any other way.
The RX can be optioned in Luxury trim or two configurations of Executive, both of which bring even higher levels of niceties than already come standard. Our test vehicle was loaded with the Executive seven-passenger trim, the alternate choice being Executive six-passenger which replaces the middle bench for captain’s chairs. Wireless charging, panoramic view cameras and the Power Rear Door with Kick Assist are nice additions on the Executive, but the real treats are the Heads-Up Display and Mark Levinson 15-speaker audio system. These toys are already on top of things the Luxury trim brings along such as LED lighting everywhere, navigation, sonar parking sensors and power adjustable seats.
Wrapped in blue Nightfall Mica paint, the Executive trim is the only additional cost our test-vehicle had over the $59,050 base MSRP, bringing the as-tested price to $72,850 before taxes, fees and incentives. This is significantly pricier than the other Japanese entrants in the segment, but it comes along with refinement, as well as all of the reliability and lifespan synonymous with the Lexus brand. The 2020 models bring another long-awaited treat, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. This is a very welcome change, as the touchpad interface and Lexus Enform infotainment system is one of the more frustrating systems to use in the market today.
The RX 350L certainly drives like a Lexus, with a firm yet comfortable ride, solid steering, and a very quiet cabin. It drives smaller than its size, despite the stretched wheelbase and has delightful road manners. As a plus, the stretched wheelbase makes for a fantastic amount of luggage and cargo to fit in the trunk area. The second row can slide forward and back, providing for a luxurious amount of legroom not found in most small or mid-sized CUVs. However, once you raise the third row and try to put any sort of human being in it, is where the other shoe drops.
The only way you can get seven people comfortably in the RX 350L is if they are all very short, or for some reason like having their legs firmly sandwiched between the seat cushions. The third-row seats gain enough leg room for the average sized person to sit comfortably, but only if both the second and first row seats are almost as far forward as they can go.
In a many where the third row is an afterthought, the seats are really meant to be used occasionally. Your co-workers will despise you if this is the vehicle you show up in weekly for carpool for six or seven people. If you really do need to fit six people, spend the extra $500 to get the captain chairs so that there is some foot room in the middle, or better yet, go big and opt for Lexus’ own GX 460 (reviewed here).
There is another huge redeeming factor of the RX 350L that needs to be highlighted, which is the 3.5-liter VVT-I V6 engine under the hood. This brings along a wonderful refinement that you will not find in the turbocharged four-cylinders most of the competition is using. Churning out 290 horsepower at 6,300RPM and 263 lb-ft. at 4,700RPM, the RX 350 L is no slouch, and is well matched to the eight-speed automatic that is equally smooth.
Lexus Canada rates the RX 350L at 13.1L/100km city and 9.4L/100km highway, for a combined average of 11.1L/100km. Our weeklong evaluation resulted in 11.8L/100km, well within the manufacturer’s estimate. If those numbers are not sufficient, there is always the RX 450hL with hybrid technology, which knocks all three of the rated numbers into the low-eights. The RX 350L requires just regular 87-octane fuel for optimal performance and efficiency.
The 2020 Lexus RX 350L Executive is one to put on the shopping list if you need cargo space more than a usable third row. The Acura MDX (reviewed here) has slightly better seating accommodations, but does not emit anywhere near the same level of luxurious touch, feel or ride. The Volvo XC90 (reviewed here) is a bigger vehicle to pilot, and needs to be optioned all the way up to the Inscription model to come anywhere close. All in all, it is pretty hard to get the Lexus feel from anything other than a Lexus. Maybe it is worth it to sometimes ask your passengers to sit cross-legged.