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2018 Lexus RX L First Drive: More To Love

motor1 logo motor1 4/2/2018 Jeff Perez
2018 Lexus RX L: First Drive© 2018 Lexus RX L: First Drive

Lexus added a third row to its best-selling vehicle, giving buyers even more reason to be excited.

– Phoenix, Arizona

The Lexus RX is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Often credited as bringing the luxury SUV to the masses, it has evolved over the past two decades, growing to become even more performance-oriented with the addition of the F Sport trim, even more efficient with the optional hybrid powertrain – and now, even more spacious with the arrival of the three-row RX L.

With an extra 4.3 inches added to the body, the RX L provides even more usability to the already roomy SUV. Configurable in either six- or seven-passenger seating, the RX L is a welcome addition to a range that’s already impressively equipped, and a segment that’s becoming even more flooded with three-row offerings. After spending time with it on the highways and many parking lots on the outskirts of Phoenix, it’s easy to see why Lexus has added it to the range.

Even Lexus admits that the row furthest back isn’t intended for two full-size adults.

Inspecting the RX L from the outside, you probably won’t even notice anything has changed (apart from the barely noticeable “L” badge on the rear). There’s a bit of extra bodywork on the backside, and the roofline is angled slightly more towards the sky, but overall, the design remains just as sharp and luxurious as the standard model. All told, the body stretches out 4.3 inches longer than the regular two-row version, but it’s not until you jump into the cabin that you notice the change in size.

Lexus offers both six- and seven-passenger seating options, with the former adopting two comfy captain’s chairs and the latter using the same bench seat found in the two-row model. This particular tester was set up with the six-passenger configuration, and personally, it’s the one I’d go for if I were a buyer. The new layout allows easy access to the third row by way of a center aisle, and not to mention both the seats and cushions in the second row have been raised to allow extra foot room in the rear. But even Lexus admits that the row furthest back isn’t intended for two full-size adults.

Even with the second row of captain’s chairs pulled almost all the way forward, I was only barely able to squeeze my six-foot frame into the third row. It’s quite uncomfortable for an adult, but usable in a pinch. There are only 23.5 inches of legroom in the third row. Compare that to the three-row Infiniti QX60, which has 30.8 inches for the back row. Even with theL in the name, the wheelbase of the RX is no longer than that of the standard model, at 109.8 inches. While that may make things easier for Lexus on the production front (both the L and the standard RX are built at the same factory on the same production line), that doesn’t exactly yield fabulous results for passengers in the third row.

On road, you might forget that the RX L even has three rows at all. Because the wheelbase is unchanged, it feels familiar to drive compared to the standard model.

But while the RX may be down on legroom in the third row compared to its closest rivals, the extra 4.3 inches added to the body gives it even more storage capacity with the rear seat folded flat. With a 50/50 split power-folding third row, the Lexus has 58.5 cubic feet of cargo space, up two cubes over the regular RX (56 cubic feet). Leave the third row erect, and you’re still left with 6.2 cubic feet of room. To put that space to the test, we loaded up the RX L with nearly $500 worth of books and electronics that we delivered to the Boys and Girls Club of Phoenix as part of our drive route. Even with four large plastic bags and a laptop-sized box, there was still room to spare.

On road, you might forget that the RX L even has three rows at all. Because the wheelbase is unchanged, it feels familiar to drive compared to the standard model. The steering input is smooth and refined, the suspension is superbly comfortable, and power is ready at a moment’s notice. Both standard gas and hybrid versions of the RX L are available; the former uses the same 3.5-liter V6 as the regular RX, with 290 horsepower, while the hybrid produces a more robust 308 hp.

In terms of efficiency, the front-wheel-drive RX 350L returns 19 miles per gallon city, 26 highway, and 22 combined, while the all-wheel-drive version is down slightly returning 18 city, 25 highway, and 21 combined. The hybrid model, naturally, is more efficient, returning 27 miles per gallon combined.

Even though it’s longer, more spacious, and overall enjoyable to drive, the RX L still lacks significantly in the tech department. It doesn’t come with either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, as is the case for all but the newest Lexus and Toyota products, and uses a mouse-type controller that feels over-engineered and difficult to use, especially when driving. The only major technological feature of note is located on the liftgate; the optional touch-free power rear door ($200) opens when you wave your hand over the Lexus emblem like a magician.

In terms of safety, the RX L is just as well equipped as its two-row counterpart, thankfully. Lane departure warning with steering assist, and automatic emergency braking both come standard. Rear cross traffic alert and a 360-degree camera – which gives the driver a bird’s-eye view of his or her surroundings – can be had for an extra $1,865. Visibility rearward isn’t affected much by the addition of the new backseat, and with a clear backup camera, it makes for easy navigation even in the most crowded parking lots.

For all that extra space, the cheapest RX L – the front-wheel-drive 350 – can be had for $47,670, representing a modest $4,400 increase over the standard version. The next-up all-wheel-drive 350L comes in at $49,070. The most expensive L model – the 450hL – starts at $50,620, representing a $4,295 increase over the two-row hybrid model.

But don’t let those numbers intimidate you. When stacked up against other three-row luxury competitors, the Lexus RX L is well priced for its class – only the Acura MDX is cheaper ($44,200). All things considered – the extra row, the added cargo room in the rear, and the familiar driving dynamics – it’s easy to understand why Lexus would offer a three-row version of its best-selling SUV. It’s more spacious, more comfortable, and a joy to drive, meaning buyers in this segment will be quick to drop the extra cash for the more capable three-row version instead of the standard two-row model.

Photos: Lexus

2018 Lexus RX L: First Drive© 2018 Lexus RX L: First Drive

2018 Lexus RX L
Engine3.5-Liter V6, 290 Horsepower
MotorDual Electric Motors, 18 Horsepower
Output308 Horsepower
Drive TypeAll-Wheel Drive
0-60 MPH8.1 Seconds
Top Speed112 Miles Per Hour
Fuel Economy27 Combined (est.)
Seating Capacity6 / 7
Cargo Volume6.2 / 15.3 / 58.5 Cubic Feet
Base Price$47,670
As-Tested Price$65,720 (est.)

2018 Lexus RX L: First Drive

2018 Lexus RX L: First Drive

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