Lexus is having a banner year, earning top brand recognition at JD Power for reliability (again) and at Consumer Reports (again). Its best seller has been the RX SUV, and the 2021 RX 350, RX F Sport, and 450h are about to enter showrooms. Can they measure up to their predecessors or to the hype that follows the brand today? Let’s take a look at the three choices.
If the RX label is known for anything, it’s for its popularity as a family hauler. The 2021 RX 350 has to pick up this mantle. To try and continue its winning streak with parents, Lexus has added a standard blind spot monitor. This means that the rear cross traffic alert is also standard. These crash avoidance systems are known for reducing the chance that SUVs will sideswipe neighboring cars and for reducing the chance of fender benders or worse accidents when in reverse. Another new standard feature is power-folding side mirrors with an auto dim feature.
The RX 350 weight was reportedly reduced by the use of hollow front and rear stabilizer bars. These are stiffer with thicker diameters and reinforced connections. Better shock absorbers and upgraded dampers improved the ride quality. These changes seem aimed at the family driver for one and at the passengers who otherwise might feel every bump.
Dash technology is front and center. In fact, the touchscreen is closer to the driver by 5.5 inches. The standard 8-inch screen can be upgraded to a high-res 12.3-inch screen as the brand clearly reaches out to technophiles. The SUV has six standard USB ports and an available wireless charger. Just in case you are wondering, Apple CarPlay is standard as well as Android Auto.
The RX 350 is the five-seat edition. Standards for the driver include a power-adjustable steering column, power-adjustable seating, automatic high beams, and rain-sensing wipers.The RX L has a longer wheelbase. This allows it to have three rows and a choice of six or seven seats. This adds a reclining, power-folding third row. The dual-zone automatic temperature system is upgraded to a tri-zone system for this bigger model.
The Lexus brand tends to pile all of the key technologies on the base edition. NuLuxe upholstery is standard, and, while it isn’t leather, it functions as well as the real thing. Then shoppers can get packages for the most luxurious amenities. Among its refinements, there are semi-aniline leather seats and real wood trim in walnut or bamboo. There’s even a wooden steering wheel if the leather-clad one doesn’t suit you.
Back to the issue of safety, Lexus has a few systems that are cutting-edge especially at this price tag. Bicyclist detection by day and pedestrian detection even in low light are two new additions. Adaptive cruise control, which Lexus calls All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, can be combined with Lane Tracing Assist. This step toward car autonomy is now paired with Road Sign Assist.
Drivers can feel confident behind the wheel of this SUV. It has a competitive 295-horsepower V6 under the hood. An eight-speed automatic is standard, and front-wheel drive can be exchanged for all-wheel drive. With trailer equipment, it can pull up to 3,500 pounds.
Lexus warranties are supplemented by two free maintenance visits during the first year. Reducing overall Lexus car repair costs, oil changes are recommended at 10,000 mile intervals.
Recognizing that the RX 350 isn’t just a family hauler, Lexus has its 2021 RX 350 F Sport options. If its about looks, the base package adds pedals, knobs, and a steering wheel that reflect performance. It changes out the grille, badges, and bumpers as well as adding big 20-inch wheels. The front and rear dampers are exchanged for a performance variety to improve the SUV’s reflexes.
The Handling package goes further by adding Dynamics Integrated Management and an Adaptive Variable Suspension. The F Sport Performance package takes it up once again by adding electric power sport steering, which Lexus calls EPS, and a sound generator. This model also has heated and ventilated seats.
The RX hybrid has been around more than ten years now. This year’s RX 450h earns 30 miles per gallon combined. Horsepower is rated at a combined 308, which you will notice is slightly better than the regular gasoline model.
Providing acceleration, there are two high-torque electric generators. This ensures excellent passing performance, sidestepping a complaint against some hybrids and EVs. The all-weather drive system has its own electric motor. This turns the rear wheels and helps with traction. All of these systems aid the 3.5-liter V6 engine.
Out of the gate, the 2021 RX 350 and the 450h have already earned a five out of five predicted reliability rating. Lexus has earned top brand marks from Consumer Reports and JD Power. Adding to that, the 2020 RX models dominated sales in the luxury midsize SUV class.
The closest competitor was the BMW X5. There is a large pricing gap in favor of the Lexus. Priced more comparably, the Acura MDX is another rival in this category. It has a standard third row seat and is slightly bigger. Interestingly, second-row legroom is much the same as that of the RX 350.
The 2021 RX 450h has its competitors as well. One is in the same family, the Lexus NX Hybrid. Another is the Acura MDX Hybrid. If you are willing to spend much more, there’s the Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-Pace, and Porsche Cayenne Hybrid. Even more expensive, the Tesla Model X could also be compared to the RX 450h.
Now that you know more, you should have a good idea of whether the RX is right for you. Remember to compare prices across brands and look at the available standards before you commit to a new SUV.