By on December 31, 2018

2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD front quarter

2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD

3.5-liter V6, DOHC (290 hp @ 6,300 rpm, 263 lb/ft @ 4700 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive

18 city / 25 highway / 21 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

21.7 (observed mileage, MPG)

13.0 city / 9.1 highway / 11.2 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $50,065 US / $68,256 CAD

As Tested: $56,835/ $68,256 CAD

Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $2,205 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

Twenty years ago, Lexus created a new segment: the luxury crossover. That 1998 RX 300 was a revelation — buyers with means who wanted something with a higher seating position were previously relegated to traditional, truck-based SUVs. Those old-school machines generally had poor on-road behavior due to their trucky roots.

Not the RX. In eight short years, Lexus had ascended from nothing to the pinnacle of plush. The division eyed customers buying high-trim Ford Explorers and never exploring, and from this the RX was born. Two decades on, the RX still leads the segment it created.

With the Lexus RX 350L — the “L” means long, I assume — that class-dominating RX should be able to coddle a driver and up to six passengers in quiet, leather-wrapped style. Will this three-row, extended-line extension stretch the customer base?

2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD profile

Driving the RX 350L is exactly what one would expect from a Lexus — composed and isolated. Road and wind noise is minimal, and there is little feel from the steering wheel. Seats, at least in the first and second row, are all-day comfortable. Passengers and drivers alike will arrive refreshed, but those who enjoy driving will be dissatisfied from the numb driving experience.

2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD interior

The outboard rear passenger shoulder belts are a long, difficult reach for those in the second row, as they are anchored well rearward of the seat. That third row isn’t suitable for adults save for short distance, emergency situations — while the second row does slide forward, the legroom saved in the third row is eliminated in the middle if the folks up front are anywhere above average height.

2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD front seats 2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD second row 2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD third row

The trade-off? If you are indeed using the third row — say, for small kids — the cargo area is quite spacious with that third row in use. I’ve spent time in several three-row crossovers, and few have as much depth behind the third row as this RX 350L. A luggage-heavy road trip with six or seven — again, assuming small kids are in the mix — is possible.

2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD cargo area

I’m warming to Lexus’ control mouse/nubbin for the infotainment system. While I generally prefer a touchscreen, I’m finding that as I age, reaching for a screen takes my eyes away from the road a bit too long. No, I haven’t hit anything, nor have I had any close calls — I’m just realizing the limitations that go with my rapidly greying beard. Anyhow, the square nubbin behind the gear selector gives tactile feedback as selections are made for navigation or audio.

2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD center stack

Styling of this RX 350L, while bolder than the half-dissolved suppository look of the early RX, still isn’t pleasant. The long front overhang and minimal distance between the front wheel well and front door cutline are awkward. The folded creases placed haphazardly about the body are just plain weird — and look painful, if you consider my earlier suppository suggestion.

2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD front

One nice thing: the lengthening of the body to accommodate an extended third row has been nicely integrated. I have to look hard at it — or glance at the badge on the tailgate — to distinguish between this and the two-row RX.

2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD rear

Further, I’ll disagree with many of my colleagues on one point. I don’t hate the “floating roof” trend. On this RX, it seems to visually lower the roof, while not overwhelmingly lengthening the look.

2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD Gauges

In all, I find that this Lexus RX 350L is maddeningly meh. It’s a Camry, only in wagon form — it has seven seats, and seven percent better interior materials than a Camry. I’d love to have a Camry wagon, really, just not at a Lexus price.

[Get new and used Lexus RX pricing here!]

Looking at how incredibly good the very similar Toyota Highlander is, Lexus can be so much more. It SHOULD be so much more, because it once was. Bubble economy be damned, that first Lexus LS was one of the best cars ever made at any price. Even today, incredible cars can come from Lexus, such as the LF-A and the LC.

Lexus, please. Unshackle your engineers and product planners. Let them make a true volume model that bests everything the world can offer. While this extension of the wildly successful RX will surely sell, it could be so much better.

2018 Lexus RX 350L AWD rear quarter

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]

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57 Comments on “2018 Lexus RX 350L Review – Go Long...”

  • avatar

    To all of those bemoaning the passing of the near-luxury sedan, welcome to your future, all style and comfort and everything I don’t like in a crossover. Give me boxy function any day over this. I’m going to be honest I’ve never seen a guy drive one of these, but if you want to know what 50 year old blonde real estate agents drive, this is it

    • 0 avatar

      Women’s social aggression and status signaling have no legacy attachment to animal physicality. Pretty cars and handguns are their thing if they’ve had to work their way up.

    • 0 avatar

      Crossovers might have plenty of practical attributes, but style is never one of them – the entire segment has been either anodyne or unsightly (the RX evolved from the former to the later). I’m deathly serious when I say the Acura ZDX is probably the closest to sleek and appealing crossovers have ever gotten.

      • 0 avatar

        I just really like the utilitarian aspect of crossovers which was the original idea. The tall, upright, boxy Land Rovers, Jeeps, Honda Pilots of old are what I like. These swoopy designs are a real turn-off for me, but I know there’s a lot of people that prefer style over function

        • 0 avatar
          Paul Alexander

          That’s why I have always liked the first generation CR-V, which seemed purpose built for weekend campers and mild outdoorsmen. Now it looks like a bulbous, raised minivan.

  • avatar

    The fake floating roof looks terrible, but so does the rest of this vehicle. I know looks are subjective, but… come on.

  • avatar

    It’s easy to bash the driving experience but few buyers really care. While must reviewers praise Mazda’s driving experience their sales don’t reflect it. I have had 3 RX’s since 2000 with a total accrued mileage of 400 K and have NEVER had a repair. Team that with extraordinary customer service and you see why it sales so well.

    • 0 avatar

      You put an average of 133k on each. There arent many mainstream vehicles out there that can’t achieve that.

      • 0 avatar

        I politely disagree, John. I’m inferring from marc1023’s comment that he’s never even had an ankle-biter-type problem. To me, that remains impressive for a six-year, 133,000-mile vehicle. It’s even more impressive three times in a row and for vehicles that aren’t bare-bones in terms of options.

        It’s also consistent with my parents’ Lexus experience: other than two instances of exterior cosmetic damage inflicted by other people, they’ve experienced zero failures of any kind across eight years and two vehicle. Their other vehicle (a domestic pick-up) has been great in terms of drivetrain, suspension, and body but has had several ankle biter issues. In keeping with a positive Detroit stereotype, all have been cheap fixes.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          Eh, I did 150k on a freaking Hyundai Tucson with 4 of thoseyears being in the snowbelt and it never went to the shop for anything but a timing belt and water pump at 60k. It was still on the original decade old battery when we traded it.

      • 0 avatar
        open country

        An average of 133k on a vehicle from new is not very impressive, but judging on marc1023’s “accrued” mileage designation, he personally has covered 400k in Lexus RX’s that may or may not have been new when he acquired them. That is pretty impressive to me for 3 consecutive vehicles and speaks to the RX’s quality over multiple generations.

      • 0 avatar

        But there are many luxury vehicles that become very costly to keep running well before 133K.

    • 0 avatar

      “It’s easy to bash the driving experience but few buyers really care.”

      The Great Divide between car sites and car buyers. Even CR has long been affected by it.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Just came for the “I didn’t read the article but crossovers suck” comments. Not bad for an ES350 Wagon.

  • avatar

    There it is, the perfect example of the grossly overused Japanese rear end. Awkward and ugly trapezoid, angry taillights and an abundance of lines and creases. Grrrrr….I’m an angry SUV!
    Nothing about this car’s looks say luxury, elegance or style.

  • avatar

    Jesus that is awful looking. Not a single angle pleasing to the eye.

  • avatar

    2018 Lexus RX 350L Review – Go away


  • avatar

    It looks like they took the styling mock-ups from three different proposals and decided to meld them all together into one extremely unattractive package. It’s ridiculously unattractive from every angle.

  • avatar

    The vast majority of Lexus drivers I see are older empty-nesters. Maybe they want a 3-row to take the kids and grandkids to dinner?

    But the problem with this 3rd row is the narrow Venn diagram overlap that is kids too big for car seats and not too big to fit in that 3rd row.

    It’s a big cargo space that could have been shrunk to make more room in the 3rd row?

    The crossover market seems to keep splitting itself into smaller and smaller niches.

    • 0 avatar

      Where I live, both summer and winter, these are one of the standard dyed blond trophy wife/relator chick premium CUVs. And ALWAYS driven with a cell phone glued to one ear. ALWAYS. I guess the three-row version means when you have a third kid you can get a new one. I see more of these in Florida, but the Germans and Swedes really rule this market in Maine.

      This is just another minivan for those too hip to be seen driving a minivan. With a heaping dose of ugly.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    While I’m not crazy about the center grille protrusion, I’d still prefer it over the CX-9. That Mazda cliff fall-off is jarring….

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    In regards of what could be more, this review could. I mean, Chris, we all know it’s ugly and it’s quiet.I’d like to know how it compares to the CX9, MDX (both dimensionally and dynamically), which I would personally cross shop heavily vs. this Lexus.

  • avatar

    I wonder what that thing does in the quarter mile…

    … said no one ever.

  • avatar

    I like this car a lot. But that last paragraph or 3 actually brings up a very good point.

    This car is extremely comfortable if done right. That means NO GO on the giant rims. Had a loaner and it otherwise I thought rode great, except the monster rims on that loaner (20’s?) were clearly causing crashes to come into the cabin.

    The styling, if you can just ignore the outside, again, its a nice space to spend time INSIDE.

    The Lexus infotainment, as mentioned in the ES review, is one of the worst on the market.

    However, get nice big sidewalls, ignore that exterior style, and you get a quiet, extremely comfortable cruiser, nice-materials, buttery-smooth V6, 8 speed auto (not the best but good enough), the best long-term reliability in the business, and very high resale value. That they can be had for less than a BMW/Audi/Mercedes is another bonus.

    Not my overall favorite cars, but as a complete package, these are really hard to beat.

  • avatar

    I didn’t read the article but crossovers suck. BTW how does it perform at Nurburg ring?

  • avatar

    Doesn’t matter how long you go running away from this, it’s still ugly.

  • avatar

    I can appreciate odd looking cars, but this just annoys and angers me.

  • avatar

    My dealer gave me one as a loaner while the GS was being fixed. As a sedan driver, I find the high cowl, position of the A-pillar and the long front overhang quite annoying. For a vehicle that’s not terribly large, guiding it into a parking space feels like I’m taxiing a 747. I would agree with the last line about unshackling Lexus engineers, they need to get back to that world-beating attitude of the LS400.

  • avatar

    Everything Lexus makes other than the LC is meh. Even Consumer Reports ripped apart the new LS as a poorly designed mess, the GS and IS are both ancient and uncompetitive, the NX and UX are both blah, this thing has the least usable third row in the class, and the ES is a Japanese Buick that doesn’t offer heated rear seats when the Avalon does because China…or something.

    Another note – the debut of horrible Lexus mouse system I think was 2010, with the launch of the prior gen RX. BMW, Mercedes, and Audi have all updated their infotainment systems at least 2 or 3 times since then, and MB and BMW now both have their own AI assistants. Lexus has done NOTHING on that front. They are just NOW starting to roll out Apple CarPlay, and this RX has basically the same garbage mouse that the 2010 RX had, just with slightly upgraded graphics. LAZY.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      The USDM Land Cruiser is Meh. If you are in the third world and get a diesel/manual one where you need it’s attributes, OK, but why would one buy this over an Escalade or Navigator. Hear me out. It is too big for trail work. They are incredibly thirsty, and they are expensive to maintain…and if you skip that maintenance they get exponentially expensive. I guess they are this generation’s Grand Wagoneer and there may be a really tiny subset where the cost vs capability is warranted…but a Sequoia is a better bet for most that just can’t buy domestic. The pickup owner gets much abuse on here for not working their trucks enough. How many Land Cruiser of this generation have ever seen anything more technical than a snowy parking lot? Even my old 93 80 series had the diff lock actuators frozen from disuse. I doubt they ever got engaged following the test drive. I wish we got the 70 series here.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Lol…posted all that and realized you were talking about the coupe upon rereading it. I forget it exists as I’ve never seen one in the wild but you are not wrong.

  • avatar

    Ok. I am going to have to take the author of this article to task. I recently spent a week in one of these due to my wife’s Es350 being worked on before we got rid of it (another story).
    He writes “That third row isn’t suitable for adults save for short distance, emergency situations — while the second row does slide forward, the legroom saved in the third row is eliminated in the middle if the folks up front are anywhere above average height”
    This is not even close to being true. I am only 6ft tall and sit rather upright in the drivers seat and sat behind myself and slide the 2nd row forward to the point of my knees were nearly touching the front seats and my 9 year old son still could not fit behind me.
    At first I thought I was doing something wrong until I looked it up on YouTube and found that the seat is completely useless for any HUMAN with LEGS.
    This is what happens when you stretch a car but not the wheelbase. In-order to do this right the car needs a redesign not a touch up.

  • avatar

    Torque and horsepower numbers mean nothing without the vehicle weight they have to haul around.

  • avatar

    That Large Mouth Bass Grill just doesn’t work. It’s hideous if you want to be honest. The floating roof trend is another styling idea that just looks odd and cannot end soon enough. Then there’s the side swoops….Lexus wanted/needed to add some “flair” to their excellent vehicles….My opinion , they clearly over reached. Do good vehicles that are Butt Ugly sell? The numbers will tell the story.

  • avatar

    We took a look at new RX350’s and ended up buying a lovely used GX460. Not as sexy, but an honest, body on frame old school SUV that appears to be built like a tank and has a V8 that barely knows its working for living.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    This review is very timely for me as I just test drove a 2018 RX350 while shopping at the local Infinite dealer. Lets just say I was not impressed given the price.THis all started out shopping for a replacement for my wife’s 1999 Honda Odyssey minivan. We had been looking at a CRV which she liked, but being the good husband, I wanted to expand the search and look at more luxe vehicles.
    So on the way back to the Honda dealer for another look at the CRV, we decided to stop in the Infinite dealer to see what they used sleds they had that would cost about the same as a new CRV. I know this is really strange cross shopping luxury vs mass market but no one ever described be as conventional.
    Long story short, we test drove a 2019 QX50 against a 2018 Lexus RX350 and were completely underwhelmed by the Lexus. The Infiniti was a far superior car with respect to fuel economy and suspension. We drove each over a series of four railroad tracks at 50 mph and the QX50 was far more composed. Also, the back seat of the Lexus was more cramped and less supportive. The variable compression 2L engine in the Infiniti is a thing to behold. Some people on this site rage on about CVT transmissions, but combined with the new engine in the QX50, delivers a combined EPA rating of 26 mpg. My only complaint was that the car required premium gas which is against my religion. However, the dealer offered me to pay for the difference in fuel costs based on my estimated mileage over two years in addition to giving my a $4k discount combined with 0.9% financing. So, for $39k my wife has a new luxury car for the next 20 years. The only downside was that I ended up violating another tenet of my auto religion by spending $2500 to extend the bumper to bumper warranty to 10 years or 120k miles. Given the technical sophistication of the variable compression and turbo charged engine, I opted to spend buy the warranty. This is a first for me.

    • 0 avatar

      ” So, for $39k my wife has a new luxury car for the next 20 years”

      You really think the Rube Goldberg variable compression motor will last that long? Between that and the CVT, a 20 year lifespan is a pipe dream, I’m sorry to say. I’d run it short of that 120k extended warranty period and then sell it with some warranty intact for the poor sod who buys it off of you second hand.

  • avatar

    The addition of the RX-L did little to increase RX sales for the year.

    Not surprising as the rear seats in the RX-L are tight (which is what you get when you do things the cheap way and not extend the length of the wheelbase).

    Would take a loaded CX-9 over this monstrosity any day.

  • avatar

    The grill alone would not let me buy it. That is ugly!

  • avatar
    Stanley L Williams

    With all of the tech in this car, WHY do the folks who drive these always have their cell phones plastered to their faces while jumping in front of me on the highway? Hello BLUETOOTH, or is that too hard to master?

  • avatar
    Stanley L Williams

    With all of the tech in this car, WHY do the folks who drive these always have their cell phones plastered to their faces while jumping in front of me on the highway? Hello BLUETOOTH, or is that too hard to master?

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