Lexus RX350 2019 sports luxury

2019 Lexus RX350 Sports Luxury review

Rating: 7.6
$99,500 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
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The RX350 Sports Luxury blends edgy design with old-school Japanese plushness, but it still lacks the infotainment and dynamism of European rivals.
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There are a lot of things one can buy for $100,000 – a house deposit, renovations, a lavish holiday, or lots of shares, as some examples.

While investments in property or stocks are obvious (and probably smart) options, $100K can also buy you a very nice luxury car, or multiple cars, mind you. See it as an ‘investment’ in your comfort during your daily commute.

One example of a very nice car within this budget is the Lexus RX, the Japanese marque’s large luxury SUV, which combines striking exterior design with plush cabin materials and enough room for up to seven people (that’s if you opt for the RX L).

If you want a five-seat RX with every imaginable feature the brand can offer, and the silky smooth appeal of V6 petrol power, then you’d probably be looking at the 2019 Lexus RX350 Sports Luxury, which is priced from a cool $99,500 before on-road costs.

The vehicle you see here has the one option available ticked, premium paint ($1500). Titanium Silver is a rather lovely finish, and brings the as-tested ticket to an even $101,000 plus on-road costs, which would equate to a little over $110,000 on the road in Victoria.

For the spend you’re hardly left wanting for standard equipment, with inclusions like 20-inch alloy wheels, full-LED headlights with adaptive high beam, LED fog lights and cornering lights, ‘sweeping’ indicators front and rear, keyless entry with push-button start, adaptive variable suspension with selectable drive modes, a 360-degree camera system, a 12.3-inch infotainment display with satellite navigation and SUNA live traffic updates, DAB digital radio, a 15-speaker premium Mark Levinson sound system, colour head-up display, and manual rear side window sunshades.

There’s also semi-aniline leather-accented upholstery, a panoramic glass sunroof, 14-way power-adjustable front seats with three-position memory, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, along with power-folding and reclining rear seats.

Sounds pretty comprehensive, right? Well, that’s on top of the already high level of kit standard from the entry-level Luxury grade, which includes (breathes) the full suite of driver assists – think AEB, all-speed adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert – 10 airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, wireless smartphone charging, dual-zone climate control with nanoe moisturising technology, electric adjustment for the steering column, a 4.2-inch multifunction driver’s instrument display, an electric tailgate, self-dimming, auto-folding and heated side mirrors with memory, privacy glass, along with automatic headlights and wipers.

Good luck trying to find a European rival with the same level of specification for similar money, perhaps with the exception of a fully optioned Volkswagen Touareg Launch Edition – though with every box ticked, the VW asks for $2000 more than our tester.

It’s worth noting the RX wears a 2015-stamped five-star ANCAP safety rating, with an 83 per cent result for adult occupant protection and 82 per cent for child occupant protection – albeit tested against older criteria.

So, the Lexus gets a big tick in the value-for-money stakes – something the company has been doing well for some time.

Interior quality and ambience have also long been Lexus strong points, and the RX certainly lives up to that reputation, for the most part.

The semi-aniline leather is lovely, as are the soft-touch materials that adorn just about every surface within arm’s reach. Some may find the laser-cut wood-effect ornamentation a little chintzy, but I personally love the Sport Luxury’s steering wheel with wood inserts. It’s a touch of old-school posh that you just don’t see much of these days.

Everything feels solid and very well screwed together in typical Lexus fashion, though there are some bits that detract from that high-end feel, if only slightly.

The plastic trim to the right of the driver surrounding the 360-degree camera and electric tailgate buttons is hard scratchy plastic, as is the centre hub of the steering wheel. You may also see a very close link between the instrument cluster of the RX and various pre-TNGA Toyota models, including the lack of a digital speedometer readout, or perhaps the separate cruise-control stalk that’s straight out of the old Corolla. Small things, but still worth noting.

We also noticed our test vehicle would creak from the passenger’s side when entering or exiting driveways – despite only having 12,000km on the clock.

From the driver’s seat there are a couple of other frustrations, mainly with the Lexus Enform infotainment system – something we’ve complained about at CarAdvice for quite some time.

Being an older model, the RX runs a previous iteration of the company’s infotainment interface compared to newer models like the smaller UX crossover and the LC sports coupe, along with the recently refreshed RC and NX lines.

As a result, the graphics are a little old hat, and this is particularly noticeable with the navigation system, which harks back to my parents’ old 2006 Toyota Kluger. It even ‘ticks’ along the map rather than scrolling along like newer models, which feels very dated, though it may not be an issue for some.

The RX also, at least for the time being until the updated model arrives in October, persists with the fiddly and infuriating joystick controller for the infotainment in place of the newer (but still fiddly) touchpad of newer Lexus models, or the rotary dial and touchscreen functionality seen in various rivals.

Even after spending some time practising with the controller, it’s a real struggle to accurately navigate menus without shouting the odd obscenity. It might even prompt you to attempt using the voice-control function, which we found to be as useful as a blunt pencil.

There’s also no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, though this will be remedied later this year with the refreshed model. Beyond the usability issues with the interface and controls, the system is a bit slow to respond to inputs and load menus compared to rival infotainment units from European brands.

Moving away from our infotainment frustrations, the sound quality from the Sports Luxury’s 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system is fantastic at any volume, with crisp and clear audio with great depth. Meanwhile, the colour head-up display negates the lack of digital speed readout in the instrument cluster while also offering a decent amount of information.

Storage is decent up front, too, with two cupholders in the centre console, a good-sized cubby under the centre armrests, and fold-out door pockets that can accommodate loose items and a couple of bottles.

There’s a really nice simplicity to how the rest of the cabin operates, too, from the damped feel of the switchgear, the silent operation of the wipers and one-touch electric windows, to how the steering wheel and driver’s seat electrically return to your last set position when you buckle your seatbelt or start up the engine. It feels rather fancy.

Moving to the back, rear passengers miss out on additional climate controls like you might find in various rivals, though the outboard seats are heated and there’s a 12V socket should someone need to charge a phone or tablet.

Without being a practicality standout, there’s plenty of room for two adults in the second row, with decent leg and head room even for taller passengers. The rear sunblinds are a nice touch, as is the electric recline function and fold-down centre armrest with cupholders.

Behind the second row, the boot measures 453L to the top edge of the seatback with the rear pews in place, expanding to 924L with them folded flat. It’s not all that large on paper, particularly when most rivals offer about 100L more with the rear seats in place, but it’s a usable space nonetheless and is more than capable of accommodating a pram or the kids’ sports gear.

Under the boot floor is a temporary space-saver spare wheel, along with a couple of underfloor storage cubbies. Those that use their luxury SUVs to tow might find the RX’s braked capacity of 1500kg a little meek compared to the 3000kg and up offered by the likes of rivals, too – the BMW X5, for example, recently got upgraded to 3.5 tonnes on six- and eight-cylinder models.

Speaking of capacities, the five-seat RX350 has a relatively low GVM of 2575kg, allowing for just 490kg of passengers and luggage – something worth noting if you have a habit of loading up your car for weekends away.

Power in the RX350 comes from the familiar naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 shared with a number of models across the Lexus and Toyota line-ups, developing 221kW (at 6300rpm) and 370Nm (at 4600–4700rpm) in this application. That’s channelled to the ground via a ‘Proactive’ on-demand all-wheel-drive system and eight-speed automatic transmission.

While those outputs seem quite muscular on paper, any real sporting or performance pretensions are dissolved by the RX’s 2085kg kerb weight in 350 Sports Luxury guise.

In saying that, there’s good get up and go from the naturally aspirated V6, with beautifully smooth and linear acceleration that’s combined with a lovely engine note under load.

Lexus claims a 0–100km/h sprint time of 8.0 seconds flat for the RX350; a whole 1.2 seconds quicker than the four-cylinder turbo front-drive RX300 and 0.3 seconds shy of the V6 hybrid-powered RX450h.

Without having had a chance to test the manufacturer’s claim via Vbox, we found the RX350’s acceleration to be adequate across all situations by the seat of the pants, though it certainly doesn’t feel as peppy as some of the turbocharged petrol and diesel six-cylinder units offered by European rivals.

Once going, though, the eight-speed auto offers snappy and intuitive shifts in town and on the highway, while the engine itself settles into silence on the highway, ticking over at around 1800rpm at 100km/h in eighth gear.

The 3.5-litre V6 has enough punch to overtake with confidence on country highways, too. It's something that we put to the test once or twice during a day trip to and from Echuca on the Victorian and New South Wales border.

We were super impressed with the RX’s comfort and refinement over long journeys, with excellent insulation from road and wind noise regardless of the surface, while the wafty suspension tune keeps your bum comfy on longer journeys.

It’s a similar story in town, too, though we noticed the near 2.1-tonne SUV could be a little firm over sharper imperfections around town, not helped by the large 20-inch alloys.

The focus on comfort hasn’t helped the RX in the dynamics department, with the wafty ride translating to noticeable body roll in the bends. It’s a similar story through the steering wheel, which can feel a little vague and boat-like, though you could argue it suits the vehicle’s relaxed personality.

We had plenty of time to test out the various driver-assist systems on offer, too. The all-speed radar-based adaptive cruise control worked pretty well across most situations, though at times would slow down a bit too much and leave too much of a gap if you approach a leading vehicle that’s going only slightly slower than you. It works pretty well in stop/start traffic, too.

The RX also misses out on the lane-centring function other newer Lexus models get, so it lacks the almost semi-autonomous highway driving ability from its lane-keep assist system available elsewhere in the company’s line-up.

Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert proved useful in traffic and in car parks given the RX’s large dimensions and slim glasshouse, while the 360-degree camera is a godsend when navigating tight parking spots both parallel and perpendicular.

She’s a thirsty beast, though. During our week of testing we racked up 1000km of mixed driving, skewed to high-traffic peak-hour commuting for the first part and then mixed in with some more freeway touring at the tail end.

During the working week we saw 16.0L/100km on the trip computer, which then dropped to 12.2L/100km following a round trip from Melbourne to Echuca (about 440km return). Lexus claims a (rather optimistic) 9.6L/100km on the combined cycle, and that’s without any fuel-saving technologies like cylinder deactivation or idle stop/start.

From the RX350’s 72L tank you could realistically get about 600km of real-world range with our final indicated figure, but in town you could be seeing the fuel light come on at 400km between fills.

Plus, the RX’s thirst for premium unleaded means you’ll need more expensive 95RON as a minimum, which can be a hit on the wallet at the pump.

From an ownership perspective, the RX is covered by Lexus’s four-year/100,000km warranty, whichever comes first. This beats the German luxury brands for time frame, though Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have unlimited mileage limits.

Infiniti currently matches Lexus’s coverage for both time and mileage, though both were recently surpassed by Korea’s Genesis with its five-year/unlimited warranty – but the Korean brand doesn’t have an SUV yet, so in the case of the RX it’s somewhat irrelevant until the GV80 arrives next year.

The Lexus DriveCare programme is complimentary for the duration of the new-vehicle warranty period, which includes 24/7 roadside assistance, one-way metro taxi fares up to $150 (incl. GST) should your car break down, off-road patrols, a courier service for urgent small parcels or documents, along with entry assistance if you’re locked out of your vehicle. More on that here.

As for servicing, scheduled maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. At each service owners have the option of a complimentary loan car, or can elect to have their vehicle picked up from their home or office and returned once maintenance is complete. Lexus does not, however, offer a capped-price servicing program.

That said, Lexus says the first service is free of charge, with the next three visits estimated at $660, $725 and $660 a pop, working out to $2045 for the first 48 months/60,000km.

The Lexus RX is a feature-laden luxury SUV that is great value for money, should you consider comfort and features top priorities.

In saying that, the Sports Luxury model is getting a little exxy regardless of which engine you choose, and while the luxury-focused personality of the cabin in this variant might be a pleasant throwback to the good ol’ days for some, there are several areas where it feels dated compared to the competition.

It should be noted there’s a facelifted model coming later this year that should improve things on the infotainment front, and that’ll likely be enough for many.

The RX300 or RX450h are probably better buys if you plan to use the RX primarily as a family car that will do most of its driving around town, because the V6 is just far too thirsty. Keep in mind the RX300 is around $8000 cheaper than the RX350 (in any grade), while the petrol-electric RX450h adds another circa-$8000.

It’s a great car, no doubt, but given the rate at which the game is moving at the moment, it’s starting to fall behind the pack.

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