Car reviews - Lexus - RX - L
Extra seats do not spoil looks or ride, high-levels of standard gear, hybrid powertrain, spacious interior
Room for improvement
Fiddly infotainment controls, suspension a touch on the firm side in Luxury grade, road and tyre noise at highway speeds
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19 Feb 2018
By TUNG NGUYEN
LEXUS Australia says the new seven-seat version of its RX large SUV will appeal to the same customer base as before, but the added practicality will boost its overall bottom line.
Up to one in four RXs sold is now expected to be the seven-seater, but unlike its five-seat counterpart, the three-row SUV is only available with two powertrains – a 3.5-litre V6 and a petrol-electric hybrid – forgoing the entry-level turbocharged 2.0-litre four pot.
RX L vehicles also come to market with just two model grades – Luxury and Sports Luxury – as the F Sport variant is unavailable in seven-seat guise.
Sitting just $3300 or $1600 above the five-seater versions of the Luxury and Sports Luxury respectively, is the RX L worth the step up over the regular five-seater?
At first glance the RX L can be hard to discern from its five-seat counterpart, but Lexus has actually stretched the rear overhang by 110mm to make room for the third-row seats.
The roof has also been raised by 10mm to make more room for passengers six and seven, but from the outside the easiest giveaway is the higher-set rear hatch and a repositioned rear wiper.
Of course, this is all in service of the easy-to-use power tumble, 50:50 split-fold third-row seats that can, according to Lexus, accommodate adults up to 160cm tall, as well as ensuring 47mm of headroom back there.
While seating fully grown adults may be a bit of a squeeze – our 185cm frame found it hard to get comfortable in the rear pews – there is ample room back there for children and young teenagers.
Lexus has even made a conscious effort to make the third row more comfortable than what its competitors can offer, by positioning the second-row seats higher to give the third-row occupants more foot room, as well as including air-conditioning controls, vents and cupholders.
The second-row pews can also slide up to 45mm further forward to give third-row occupants a touch more room.
However, the third-row seats miss out on the supple leather upholstery featured on the second- and first-row seats, instead fitted with a substitute material that can endure the constant folding up and down.
Safety should not be a concern for third-row passengers either, as the side curtain airbags have been extended to cover all occupants.
With another set of seats in the back, obviously boot space takes a hit, but the RX L still offers 176 litres of volume and is wide enough to easily fit, say, a folded up stroller or a week’s worth of groceries in the back with all seats in place.
The second-row also still offers great space for passengers with our lanky legs easily and comfortably slipping behind the driver’s seat that was set to our preference.
From the driver’s seat though, not much has changed for the Lexus large SUV since its launch in 2015.
The seven-seater in Luxury spec kicks off $3300 more expensive that it’s five-seat sibling at $84,700 for the 350L and $93,440 for the 450hL, and $1600 upstream in flagship Sports Luxury guise ($101,500 and $110,240 for the 350L and 450hL respectively).
Our first taste of the RX L came in 450hL Sports Luxury form, which pairs a 193kW/335Nm 3.5-litre internal combustion V6 engine with a 123kW electric motor system for a total combined output of 230kW.
Mated to one of the best continuously-variable automatic transmissions we’ve experienced, the RX450hL is a smooth riding and slick shifting affair.
Making use of the electric motor at low engine speeds means the RX450hL feels punchy off the line and continues to build speed in the higher revs as the petrol engine takes over.
By no means is this powertrain combination sportscar quick, but it can confidently build pace, unlike many other seven-seat SUVs that can feel lazy and lethargic at the poke of the throttle.
The electrified powertrain also means engine noise is kept quieter than usual, a wonderful feature in a premium crossover.
Around corners the RX450hL handles itself confidently, able to shake-off quick bends and high-speed turns alike, but the lightweight steering lacks of the feel and communication that would elevate the Lexus crossover from adequate to outright fun.
The adaptive suspension in the Sports Luxury variants soaks up bumps and thuds admirably and cossets and swathes occupants in comfort, while still offering an engaging experience.
The suspension in Luxury grade however, to our tastes, lands a little on the firm side with bumps and knocks resonating through the 20-inch wheels right through to the seats.
This was more evident with our time in the other engine offered in the RX L, the 3.5-litre petrol V6 350L, which saw us cruising up the highway on the way to the Gold Coast from Byron Bay.
We would have also appreciated more noise dampening as we found road and tyre racket also becomes more apparent at higher cruising speeds.
Lexus has also had to detune the petrol V6 engine from 221kW/370Nm to 216kW/358Nm due to the packaging restrictions of the seven seater that meant the exhaust system had to go from a dual-unit to a single.
This engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and the powertrain combo is satisfactory for around-town driving.
Expecting any sort of sporting performance though, might leave you disappointed.
Overtaking during highway situations means the transmission will kick down a gear and engine revs rise, but the performance punch doesn’t come with a thrust, but delivered more like a steady trickle.
Still, a seven-seat large SUV is likely not the vehicle buyers would pick for sporting performance.
Entry-level Luxury grades are offered with high levels of standard gear, including heated and cooled front seats, 12-speaker sound system, powered tailgate, wireless phone charger and 8.0-inch infotainment screen with all the goodies.
However, Lexus’ haptic feedback touchpad system that controls menus is beginning to feel dated.
It can often be hard to select the right menu option while piloting the vehicle and we would appreciate an easier-to-use system such as BMW’s rotary dial iDrive system.
Sports Luxury specification vehicles add an uprated 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, 12.3-inch infotainment system, heated second-row seats, leather-accented and woodgrain steering wheel and adaptive suspension.
The upgraded sound system is a noticeable improvement over the 10-speaker unit, while the woodgrain touches contribute to an obvious lift in cabin ambience.
Our pick of the range is definitely the hybrid Sports Luxury version, but for those who can’t stretch the budge all the way to $110,000, the $93,440 RX450hL Luxury still offers the same levels of practicality.
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