2021 Lexus RX

by Elidio Ismenghi

Overview

The 2021 Lexus RX might look aggressive and sporty, but its character is relaxed and comfortable instead, which makes it a perfect choice for cruising. Even upgrading to the F Sport model brings few driving thrills. A 3.5-liter V-6 is standard in models bearing the RX350 badge and a hybrid powertrain can be found in the RX450h; acceleration from both models is appropriately sedate. Buyers will also choose from the standard two-row version of the RX and the lengthened, three-row RX-L, but the latter isn’t well-suited for frequent third-row passengers. Accommodations in the front and second-row seats are much nicer and more spacious, with plush seat cushions and plenty of luxury and convenience features.

What’s New for 2021?

Lexus introduced the Black Line Special Edition package for the F Sport models. It comes with black exterior accents, black 20-inch wheels, blue stitching for the leather interior, and either an Ultra White or Grecian Water (medium blue) paint job. More notably, ordering the Black Line Special Edition package also adds a two-piece set of Zero Halliburton luggage. Elsewhere, the RX receives a new interior color—Glazed Caramel—which replaces Noble Brown. Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and power-folding exterior mirrors are all now standard. A wireless smartphone charging pad is now optional and the Performance package has been rechristened as the Handling package.

Engine, Transmission, and Performance

Buyers can have their RX in two distinct flavors: Models badged RX350 are powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 while the RX450h comes with the V-6 plus two electric motors. Our RX350 test vehicle was equipped with an all-wheel-drive and managed an adequate—but slow for the segment—run of 6.9 seconds from zero to 60 mph. The RX450 his one of the segment’s few hybrids but it, too, required longer than average to reach 60 mph from rest. What the RX does best is ride comfortably; it irons out rough stretches of road and delivers a compliant ride. The cabin remains quiet and well isolated from the road, making the RX an excellent long-distance cruiser.

Interior, Comfort, and Cargo

Lexus has chosen fine materials for the RX’s interior, including soft leather, textured metallic or wood trims, and soft-touch plastics. The driving position is comfortable and easy to settle in to, but the interior is marred by a few ergonomic missteps: The tuning knob for the radio is a long, awkward reach from the driver’s seat, and the infotainment system is operated by an irritatingly inaccurate controller just aft of the shifter. Luckily, Lexus has added touchscreen capability to RX’s infotainment system. While it’s not quite the cargo-hauling champ, the RX came close, holding just one less carry-on suitcase behind its rear seats than the victorious Cadillac XT5. With its second row folded—a process done either from the side door or from the cargo area—the RX matched the XT5 with 24 cases. Folding the seats does not yield a completely flat load floor.

Infotainment and Connectivity

We found the Enform infotainment system difficult to use while driving, but it comes standard with many of the automotive world’s most modern and sought-after features: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and onboard Wi-Fi are all included. An 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen comes standard but upgrading to the 12.3-inch display not only provides a wider viewing screen, but it also adds in-dash navigation, a 12-speaker audio system (a nine-speaker setup is standard), a DVD/CD player, and access to the Lexus Enform Suite. This collection of apps provides access to emergency assistance as well as limited internet connectivity from the infotainment system. A 15-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system is also optional, as is a rear-seat entertainment system with wireless headphones and dual 11.6-inch monitors.

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