2016 Lexus RX 350Enlarge Photo
Mid-size luxury crossover vehicles like the Lincoln MKX and Lexus RX have developed multiple roles in the market. On one hand, they’re the shape of convenience and elegance—especially to empty-nester types, who have turned to them instead of big luxury sedans. And on the other hand, they’re the image of success for professionals who balance family duty with demanding careers.
As such, the needs of these buyers may cover an exceedingly wide swath of duties, too, ranging from all-wheel-drive security for all-weather commuting and snowy winter driveways, to the kind of seating flexibility needed for weekend shopping trips, and the comfort for double-date dinners out.
These two models have both been reconceived as stronger, more refined, and more flamboyant this time around. They have so much in common in terms of their comfort, seating space, overall size, and even their silhouettes. Yet people are likely to see them in quite different light because of the disparate reputations of their respective brands.
We've had the opportunity to rate the MKX on our new scale, and we give it a 7.2 out of 10. As for the RX, we're still crunching the numbers, so stay tuned. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The brands, too, are both in the midst of change. Lexus is throwing more design inspiration and driving excitement into its vehicles—under direct mandate from Akio Toyoda, the president and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation. Meanwhile, the Lincoln brand, which is part of Ford Motor Company, is currently remaking itself as more of a mainstream luxury brand to target Lexus and Audi, among others.
So while we see these two vehicles heading along similar paths, both with dramatic new looks, these two vehicles couldn’t be any farther apart in design. The more daring, expressive exterior design of the 2016 Lexus RX, with its sharp, creased sheet metal, mated to an arched roofline and accentuated by blacked-out rear pillars, roams far from the soft, jellybean profiles of previous RX models. The MKX, on the other hand, has a look that shines in its subtlety and grace; it’s an understated look, yet one that stands apart from other luxury crossovers its size—in a completely different way than the RX.
Inside, the differences are a little less pronounced. The Lincoln’s cabin is unified by big, pared-down dash shapes; the console sits high, but there’s no shift lever, and it’s perhaps most distinguished by its warm fashion-forward materials—which almost allows you overlook some of the carry-over Ford switchgear and door panels. The RX cabin treatment is somewhat normalizing next to the aggressive exterior; it’s driver-focused and purposeful, and definitely less cluttered than some other Lexus efforts of recent years.
In performance and powertrain matters, these two models have quite close credentials in their standard guise. Yet with Lexus offering an RX 450h hybrid model and Lincoln offering an MKX turbo-V-6 option, you have some very different choices between the two. The MKX is powered by a 303-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 and a 6-speed automatic, while the Lexus RX has a 295-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and an 8-speed automatic. Both provide confident, rather brisk acceleration. But on the Lincoln, for $2,000, you can add a 2.7-liter turbocharged V-6 that makes 335 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque and can blast to 60 mph in about 6 seconds. The counter to that is the Lexus RX 450h, which instead subs in a special Atkinson-cycle V-6 and a planetary hybrid-drive system—plus supplemental all-electric rear drive in AWD 450h models—to return up to 30 mpg combined.