And still, it’s all you love about this super popular, super luxe SUV.
We love the Lexus RX. Collectively, as in the millions of drivers who have bought one over the years: the RX has been the top selling luxury crossover since it was first introduced. In its mission to remain intuitive to it customers, and to surprise and delight as luxury brands should, Lexus kept ahead of trends with design and technology updates. But, not everyone loved the changes.
And customers were vocal, as luxury customers can be. Luckily for them, Lexus listened.
You Asked For It, You Got It: Customer-Driven Changes Define the 2020 Model
The 2020 RX, which has a starting price of $44,000 ($46,700 for the hybrid model; about $50,050 for the model we test drove), reflects this. Not so much with a new design, but more of a refinement that incorporates many of the things customers said they wanted. And, Lexus surprises and delights with things we may not have thought of but are glad Lexus did.
After a week driving the new RX — in this case the 450 h hybrid model in the F Sport trim— I was mostly delighted. The RX still does what it does so well: it cocoons you with quiet comfort, is fun to drive when you want, has great flexible space for cargo and in the hybrid model, delivers very reasonable MPG for a car of this size and power.
A New Infotainment Interface Solves All the Problems
If you are not a fan of the infotainment touchpad in recent luxury cars, you’ll be thrilled to learn that the screen in the Lexus RX is now a touchscreen, too. You have your choice of both.
The infotainment screen in the Lexus RX is now 5.5 inches closer to the driver, so it’s easy to reach, and buyers will have a choice between the standard 8” screen or a premium 12.5” screen.
Personally, and I know I’m in the minority, I like the touchpad. I like to swipe and tap to find my radio presets or switch to the navigation screen. And, it’s super easy when working with Apple Car Play; the icons on Apple Car Play are large and easy to see; you can easily swipe to the app you want.
If you’re an Android phone fan, you’ll love this: The Lexus RX now has Android Auto; it’s the first Lexus model to get it. This was a sore point with Android phone users, but it wasn’t compatible with the touch pad. Now that is solved, too.
We did learn, however, that the USB port that connects your phone to the Infotainment system for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is in the center console, not the one in the cubby under the dashboard. At first I wondered why, but then it became obvious: you can put your phone in the console and have it mirrored on the screen (which is what Apple CarPlay does, essentially) and it won’t be a distraction while you’re driving. Pretty clever.
Alexa: Start the My Car and Turn on the Seat Heaters
Perhaps that development is what led to the next great thing: the RX is also Alexa compatible. You can use voice commands at home to unlock, start or check the fuel level of your RX; in the car you can ask Alexa to control your smart home devices: “Alexa, set the heat to 68 and set the oven to 350.”
This is likely a gateway to other voice assistant integrations and services like package delivery to your car.
More Comforts and Conveniences On Board, Too
Let’s start with my favorite: The number of USB ports. There are now 6—one for every passenger and one lucky person gets two! And I can see that being useful; charging my iPad and my phone while the kids charge their iPads and phones all at the same time. That’s pretty handy.
Also pretty nice is that the rear seats recline. Considering the fairly compact size of the RX, this is a welcome feature, too; I sat in the back seat and found the space to be fine but not overly large. I had just enough leg room but would feel cramped if sitting behind a very tall driver or there were 5 passengers in the car. The reclining seats will help this; passengers can have a bit more breathing room as they sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
Another great feature is the motion-activated lift gate: just swipe your foot under the bumper and the lift gate opens. It’s a nice feature that you might expect on such a luxury car.
These Awesome Driver Assist and Safety Features Are Now Standard
Lexus has long had some great driver assist and safety features, but the were part of an option package. Now, they are standard.
Called Lexus Safety System 2.0, the suite includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steer assist, and automatic high beam headlights (set it and forget it! The system will lower the illumination when another car or pedestrians are detected). Added to the suite are pedestrian detection (which works even in low light), road sign assist (which reads the road signs and displays them on the drivers information screen and/or the navigation screen), lane tracing (which works to keep the car centered in its lane), blind spot monitor with park assist (so you can see more than just cars in your blind spot) and a panoramic camera.
RX Takes a Cue From the Ultra Luxe LC
The model we test drove featured the F Sport package; it has “F Sport” visual cues on the steering wheel, carpets and an F Sport badge on the lift gate.
But the 3.5L V6 engine takes the horsepower up to 308 and you can shift through the 8 speed transmission with paddle shifters. Put it in sport mode and the RX feels more muscular; it gets up to speed faster and the active variable suspension, which is a hallmark of the Lexus LC, gives it a sportier ride. It’s a lot of fun.
So you can keep your eyes on the road, there’s a color head up display option; this projects key information like your speed, the speed limit and your fuel efficiency, onto the windshield so you don’t have to glance down at the driver information screen. This is one of my favorite features.
A Softer, More Sophisticated New Face
Probably one of the most talked-about changes to the last Lexus RX was the front end: it was designed to be angular and sculpted with a very forward and futuristic look. Some people didn’t love, though many didn’t care because they love this car. But listening to the more vocal customers, Lexus refined the front grille even more, adding for a more sophisticated look and feel. It still has the signature angular grille framed by lightening bolt running lights, it’s just a bit softer.
Inside, Lexus added NuLuxe leatherette seats. The F Sport model has an option called Circuit Red, which was on our test drive model; buyers will have a choice of a soft but bright Birch color option. I love a light color interior so this is great news.
The Best Part? What Lexus Didn’t Change
That awesome MPG. The RX 350 gas model is estimated to get 19 MPG city/26 highway; the hybrid model is estimated to get 31 MPG in the city and 28 on the highway. For a crossover with great ground clearance, a powerful V6 engine and lots of space to haul stuff and people, that’s pretty awesome. And one thing we are glad is a constant.
Disclosure: Lexus provided the RX 450 H for this story; all opinions are my own.