Lexus RX 350 blue

Appealing SUV inside and out

Roseville, Calif.- Lexus doesn’t make the decision an easy one when it comes to purchasing one of its midsize sport utility vehicles, the RX brand.

The 2021 RX 350 test driven here appeals to folks who want a traditional gas-powered luxury SUV. But it’s worth some additional time to consider other versions of the RX.

There’s also the RX 450h, a hybrid that has some alluring qualities. One more version to place in the mix is the RX 450hl, the letter L referring to extended length, in this case enough for a third row. It’s the only RX model with an available third row that increases overall seating to six or seven people.

Regardless of which one is chosen, one thing is for certain – the purchase of an attractive, well-equipped SUV. All the RX models are sharp looking, offer a good ride, solid performance, and have their share of upscale amenities that one expects from a luxury SUV.

The RX brand has been a big seller for Lexus. For the past eight years sales has exceeded 100,000, including an all-time high of 111,636 in 2018.

Lexus RX 350 interior

Little has changed with this year’s version of the RX 350, a two-row SUV that comfortably seats five people. While there are more highly rated models in its class, the RX 350 features lots of upside and is offered at an appealing price ($45,300) that’s lower than some of its rivals.

Of course, that doesn’t mean all is perfect. One complaint is performance doesn’t measure up to other midsize SUVs. And its detractors certainly have a valid point.

The front-wheel drive RX 350 has a 3.5-liter, V6 engine that produces 295 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque, and is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. While its acceleration wasn’t disappointing here and powered its way over hills and in freeway passing situations, going 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds is modest for this class.

From this vantage point, we would like to see Lexus offer a turbocharged RX 350 that not only provides better performance but improved fuel economy over the current 20-27 mpg.

The RX 350 is a pleasing SUV to drive. Sure, there’s no exhilarating moments behind the wheel. However, it does handle with ease, corners well, absorbs annoying bumps in the road, and can maneuver well in tight spaces.

Safety is also a strong point when driving the RX 350. Its standard features include automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision and lane departure warning, and lane-keeping assist.

2021 Lexus RX 350

  • Performance: 3.5-liter, V6, 295 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 20-27 mpg
  • Price estimate: $45,300 to $52,600
  • Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles; drivetrain: 6 years/70,000 miles; roadside assistance: 4 years/unlimited; corrosion: 6 years/unlimited

Interior

The RX 350 cabin incorporates metallic or wood trim, high-quality synthetic leather and plastic that is soft touch. It comes standard with an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, along with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa integration. There is a finicky mouse that we wish Lexus would replace with something not as distracting for the driver.

Cargo area comes up lacking compared to some of its competition. The RX 350 has
18.4 cubic feet of space behind the back row and expands to 56.3 cubes when the back seat is lowered.

The 2021 RX 350 remains a good choice among luxury midsize SUVs. We can overlook a few of its modest deficiencies for the overall product, an appealing SUV inside and out with many strong qualities.