Car Reviews

2020 Lexus RX First Look: Sales Leader Gets Much Needed Upgrades

New multimedia and safety tech take the spotlight

New multimedia and safety tech take the spotlight

The Lexus RX created the luxury crossover segment two decades ago, and even won our inaugural SUV of the Year competition with high levels of comfort, a car-like driving experience, and impeccable build quality. Fast forward to today, the fourth-generation Lexus RX receives significant updates for the 2020 model year on the safety, multimedia, and chassis fronts.

You’ll need a magnifying glass to see the 2020 Lexus RX’s exterior updates. Thinner headlight clusters, a reshaped spindle grille with square-like inserts, and updated taillights comprise the most obvious changes from the outside. The interior looks similar to the pre-refresh model except for the addition of paddle shifters, six standard USB ports and standard NuLuxe leatherette upholstery on all variants.

The 2020 Lexus RX’s biggest changes are inside the cabin. The dreaded Lexus Remote Touch interface finally adds Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Alexa integration. A new 8.0-inch screen now comes standard and an optional 12.3-inch unit returns. The difference is that both are now touchscreens, which means you can minimize how often you use the overly complicated touchpad that we’ve criticized in various Lexuses over the years. Opting for the larger touchscreen also adds an enhanced voice command function that recognizes more phrases versus the standard one.

Lexus also revised the 2020 RX’s suspension with thicker but hollow front and rear stabilizer bars, retuned dampers and shock absorbers, and stiffer anti-roll bars to improve ride comfort. The 2020 Lexus RX also gets a brake-based torque vectoring system the subtly applies the brakes on the inner wheels for better handling and stability through turns. F Sport models get an updated Active Variable Suspension system that’s said to be more responsive than before. Standard F Sport models include performance-tuned dampers as well as Sport+ and custom drive modes, while top-of-the-line F Sports add a cold air intake, active sound control, a special electric power steering system, and a heated steering wheel.

On the safety front, the 2020 Lexus RX gets the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, which now includes low-light pedestrian detection and cyclist detection. Lane tracing assist detects road markings and helps center the car when adaptive cruise control is active. When the road lacks clearly marked dividers, the system can follow the vehicle ahead of you in certain conditions.

Powertrain choices carryover, with the 2020 Lexus RX 350 sporting a 3.5-liter V-6 paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The RX 450h pairs that six-cylinder engine to an electric motor and a CVT for 308 hp combined. All-wheel drive comes standard on the RX 450h (optional on the RX 350), which uses a second electric motor to turn the rear wheels. Two- and three-row variants will remain available.

We last tested the Lexus RX last year in three-row RX 350L guise. Although we liked the smooth ride and luxurious cabin appointments, its infotainment system held it back significantly. The multimedia issue appears to have been solved with a full arsenal of smartphone integration tech and additional ways to operate the interface—but we’ll reserve full judgment until we have some time to do some testing. We also hope that the suspension tweaks improve the crossover’s ride and handling balance.

Look for the 2020 Lexus RX to go on sale in the third quarter of 2019.