Behind the Wheel

2020 Lexus RX 350 F Sport Review: Refined, responsive, and hampered by its infotainment technology

The stance and fascia of the model make it more crossover-like and harkens back to original RX design.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

There is no shortage of SUVs for buyers to choose from. When it comes to luxury vehicles the market is split between sport-centric engaging models and more typical family haulers. As mass market SUVs become more premium and offer advanced technology and high-quality interiors, the cost of going all-in on a luxury model might make buyers question if it's worth it.

The revisions to the 2020 Lexus RX 350 are made to persuade customers that a $50,000 luxury model is still the right way to go. But are the changes enough?

2020 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport Revisions to the car's front end have helped with its much-derided looks.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

The exterior of the RX has gotten refreshed to make it less hand vacuum-y and more crossover. That's not a bad thing. It's now more attractive than before though that's not really saying much. This isn't exactly the sales segment for sexy design.

Lexus has improved the model's stability on the road, steering responsiveness, and ride quality. The SUV is a better drive than before though still not in the same room as the conversation being had by Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz models. Its all-wheel drive helped the all-season shoes stick to dry roads with ease.

The RX 350 continues to prove easy to steer and a breeze to park though its A-pillar hampers visibility during turns. That's not an uncommon complaint of SUV drivers regarding a number of models.

The wheel feels good in-hand, but the wheel itself is a bit fat. The car's heated steering wheel feature only warms small sections of the wheel at three- and six o'clock, which is disappointing.

2020 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport The steering wheel of the model is fatter than what one may expect from the SUV.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Lexus did not update the powertrain of the model as part of the refresh. It still has a 3.5-liter V6 under the hood that delivers a competent 295 horsepower in the 350 F Sport grade and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain feels more responsive in this edition than it did in the last. The SUV gets 23 mpg combined, which isn't ideal, but not terrible.

The interior of the RX 350 F Sport tester featured the new Circuit Red color throughout that garnered several compliments by passengers and passersby during the week-long test drive. The red-covered seats were comfortable, even on extended trips. Four adults easily fit in the two-row SUV.

Still, the overall Lexus drive and ride experience is hampered by the SUV's infotainment system. Lexus wins points for moving its available 12.3-inch screen 5.5 inches closer to front seat occupants. Despite spending a week behind the wheel, it was just easier to not deal with the infotainment system rather than use the awkward touch pad to plug in addresses for navigation and change the radio system.

2020 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport Some design elements of the RX are outdated, like the cell phone holder.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

The Lexus now comes with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa compatibility but during the test drive, despite several attempts with different cords and a variety of iPhones, the system never worked with the phones.

There are some design elements that are outdated. Its heated/ventilated seat controls appear from a lower-class parts bin while the slot cell-phone holder is from a small period of design history that is best left behind.

As tested, the RX came with a number of safety technologies that are part of the Lexus Safety Suite. None of the included features of the Safety Suite are obtrusive or annoying in their employment.

2020 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport This car has the new Circuit Red upholstery throughout the cabin.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

The tested 2020 Lexus RX 350 F Sport has a starting price tag of $47,950.

The Lexus RX 350's closest competition is the Infiniti QX50. Its bests that model by a large margin. With the Nissan Murano getting a bit long in the tooth and Chevrolet Blazer coming in around the same price as the RX with less premium appointments, it's easy to make the argument that the RX is the right model for many buyers.

Still, it faces stiff competition from the spunkier and more agile Acura RDX, which easily earns top accolades for SUVs at this price point and size.

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The Bronze Edition model builds on the XLE trim.

Toyota

The Toyota Highlander entered its fourth generation for the 2020 model year, which brought sleek style, updated tech, and a premium-look interior. A new XSE trim joined the lineup for 2021, and for 2022, Toyota is adding a new hybrid-only Bronze Edition trim.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Bronze Edition adds useful features, such as a hands-free power liftgate.toyota

The new Bronze Edition Highlander builds on the XLE trim with:

  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Digital rearview mirror
  • Ambient interior lighting
  • Memory driver's seat with 10-way power adjustments
  • Hands-free power liftgate

Toyota notes that the Bronze Edition previews features that will show up with the greater 2022 Highlander release. Among them are the new Wind Chill Pearl color, which replaces Blizzard Pearl from the previous model, and height/tilt passenger seat adjustments.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Highlander is a supremely comfortable SUV with room for the family.Toyota

The Highlander carries on into 2022 with a standard 3.5-liter V6 that makes 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. A Highlander Hybrid is available, which mates a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors. Combined system output is 243 horsepower. With the V6 on board, the Highlander can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Bronze Edition is available for Highlander Hybrid models.Toyota

All 2022 Highlander models get Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, road sign assist, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane departure alerts, lane tracing assist, a sway warning system, and automatic high beams. Those features and the Highlander's excellent crash testing scores were good enough for the SUV to earn a Top Safety Pick + designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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New luxury full-size SUV

All-new 2022 Lexus LX 600 will be here soon

The new LX will go on sale in early 2022.

Lexus

The Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus LX are among the most revered off-road vehicles of all time. Even so, Toyota is cutting the Land Cruiser in the U.S. after the 2021 model year due to slow sales. We will see its twin, however, as the 2022 Lexus LX was just announced. The full-size SUV will go on sale in the first quarter of 2022 and will bring all two new trims, more intuitive tech, and updated but familiar exterior styling.

2022 Lexus LX The new LX gets a twin-turbo V6 instead of a big V8, and its new platform shaves weight while improving rigidity.Lexus

The 2022 Lexus LX 600 comes in five trims: Standard, Premium, Luxury, F Sport, and Ultra Luxury. The new Ultra Luxury trim cuts the number of seats to four by replacing the rear bench with a pair of plush reclining captain's chairs. A rear entertainment system and large rear center console complete the top-level trim. Also new for 2022 is the LX F Sport, which brings Lexus' sharp appearance package to the LX for the first time. The F Sport gets exclusive 22-inch wheels, aggressive exterior styling, and sport seats with unique color schemes.

The LX is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 that produces 409 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a ten-speed automatic transmission. The body-on-frame SUV rides on an all-new GA-F platform that Lexus says is 20 percent more rigid than that of the previous model. Lexus also carved 441 pounds out of the previous LX's platform weight.

2022 Lexus LX The LX is available in five trims, including a new top Premium Luxury model. Lexus

A new Active Height Control (AHC) system and adaptive suspension provide stability and a comfortable ride while retaining the LX's off-road capabilities. AHC allows the driver to select from three ride heights depending on the situation, and a low setting is available for entering and exiting the vehicle. Three wheel sizes are available, and the F Sport trim comes with a Torsen limited-slip differential.

Lexus updated the LX's cabin for 2022 with new infotainment system and a cleaner, more upscale design. A new dual-screen infotainment system is standard. The top 12.3-inch touchscreen handles audio and infotainment duties, while the lower 7.0-inch touchscreen is used for climate controls and related settings. The LX also gets Lexus' new infotainment software, which promises to be more intuitive and simpler than previous systems. Over-the-air updates will bring new features and update existing functionality, while voice controls can command audio, navigation, phone, and other vehicle settings.

2022 Lexus LX Ultra Luxury trim reduces seating capacity to four but makes the LX's cabin seriously plush.Lexus

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