2020 Lexus RX is the perfect size for the whole family

The 2020 Lexus RX 350 delivered a sweet ride under all conditions - quiet, smooth and tight.

The 2020 Lexus RX 350 delivered a sweet ride under all conditions — quiet, smooth and tight.

Lexus / Contributed photo

Lexus designers have been working overtime to close the gap between their RX 350 midsize SUV and its competitors. The RX 350 has always been reliable to a fault and meticulously put together, and the Lexus nameplate bespeaks quality and luxury. In past years, however, the RX 350’s styling, handling and performance were on the bland side. These deficiencies largely have been cured, and the RX 350 has a chance to break its sales record this year.

Slotted between the compact NX and full-sized GX lines, the RX 350 and hybrid RX 450h are the “right-sized” luxury SUVs — big enough for a small family, and versatile enough to serve capably in most circumstances. The base RX 350 is priced at $44,150, or $45,550 for the all-wheel-drive version. Our 2020 test car, in F Sport performance trim with all-wheel drive and several options, had a sticker price of $61,130.

Curiously, the base RX 450h with all-wheel drive is priced only $1,200 higher than its RX 350 counterpart, with a starting price of $46,750. It’s more powerful than the RX 350 but is rated at 31 mpg city, 28 highway with all-wheel drive, compared with the RX 350’s 19/26. Also available at all trim levels is an extended-length model with a third-row seat, and correspondingly more cargo capacity when the seat is not in use.

Our test car delivered a sweet ride under all conditions — quiet, smooth and tight. While driver engagement is not up to the standards of higher-priced Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and BMW models, it’s a cut above that of the lower-priced models in its class, with the exception of Mazda’s CX-5.

In keeping with its F Sport label, the test car’s seats were firm and supportive, rather than soft and cushiony, as one might expect in a luxury vehicle. While we took no long journeys in the RX 350, we concluded the seats would be comfortable over the long haul. Room for three in the reclining, sliding back seat was ample.

We remain noncommittal on Lexus’ touch pad, which controls the audio system, navigation, climate and other infotainment features. Our strong suspicion is that most drivers will adapt, even though the touch pad seemed too jumpy for on-the-road use — even in a car that rides as smoothly as the RX 350 does.

The test car was loaded with luxury features, but we couldn’t help but notice one that was missing, even with the $200 optional cold-weather package — remote start. Lexus buyers also have to pay $1,855 for blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic alert, plus intuitive parking assist and panoramic view monitor. The blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic alerts often are standard equipment on lesser vehicles.

2020 Lexus RX 350 AWD F Sport

Price: $61,130

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 295 horsepower, 268 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: front-wheel

Suspension: adaptive variable

Ground clearance: 8.2 in.

Curb weight: 4,387 lb.

Wheels: 20x8-in. alloy

Tires: 235/55R20 all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 18.4 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 56.3 cu. ft.

Towing capacity: 3,500 lb.

Fuel capacity: 19.2 gal.

Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 26 highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline

Lexus runs out the RX 350 to compete with the Acura MDX, Cadillac XT5, Lincoln Nautilus, Infiniti QX60 and Volvo XC60. Last year was Lexus’ biggest U.S. sales year for the RX series, totaling 111,636. Depending on December sales, the 2018 record may fall.

The 2019 RX 350 was rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.