Car Reviews SUV of the Year

Lexus RX L: 2019 Motor Trend SUV of the Year Contender

Stretching the brand

Stretching the brand

WE LIKE Smooth ride, interior fit and finish

WE DON’T LIKE Third-row seating, infotainment interface

You only hurt the ones you love, so we’ll just come out to Lexus about its RX L: “The one reason it exists—its third row—isn’t even useful. Why would Lexus risk the equity it has in the RX nameplate with this model?”

This plaintive appeal from Christian Seabaugh was echoed by all. The RX L’s third row is cramped at best and contortionate to access, and it robs valuable cargo room even when folded down. The powered third-row seats take forever to fold. If he lived in a rainy climate, Zach Gale said he’d rather have the not-luxurious-but-pragmatic option of folding and hoisting the third row manually than getting soaked waiting for motorized mice.

Adding 4 inches of wheelbase to make room for the added seats also affected handling; Frank Markus called the RX L a “wiener dog,” due to its penchant for understeer then sudden lurchy tail-swinging.

Once past the third-row issues, you’ll see why this vehicle has been a standard-bearer for midsize luxury crossovers. Angus MacKenzie recalled the original being our first-ever SUV of the Year but noted that the RX L “doesn’t live up to the legacy.”

When you look at the blocking and tackling—the smooth and quiet ride, consistent steering and brake feel, elegant materials, superb fit and finish, crisp stereo—the RX L is pretty fabulous. And although the infotainment system still has a maddening user interface, a new split-screen setup helps a bit. Second-row seating space is good, until you have to slide forward to make room for origamied folks behind you.

Which leads to the main point: When a vehicle’s reason to exist is also the reason it fails, therein lies a problem.


2018 Lexus RX 350L (AWD Luxury)
Base Price/As tested $55,210/$62,815
Power (SAE net) 290 hp @ 6,300 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 263 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 7.6 sec
Quarter-mile 15.8 sec @ 89.3 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 133 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.75 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.2 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 18/25/21 mpg
Vehicle Layout
Front-engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine/Transmission 3.5L DOHC 24-valve V-6 /8-speed automatic
Curb Weight (F/R Dist) 4,673 lb (55/45%)
Wheelbase 109.8 in
Length x Width x Height 196.9 x 74.6 x 67.3 in
Energy Cons, CITY/HWY 187/135 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 Emissions, Comb 0.94 lb/mile