- Plush interior, plush ride
- Elegant, not ostentatious
- Good set of tech options
- Fuel-efficient RX 450h hybrid
- Comfortable seating, easy entry/exit
- Unengaging driving experience
- Conservative styling
- Base front seats
- Remote Touch controller
The 2015 Lexus RX 350 and RX 400h deliver sensible luxury and excellent comfort -- boldness not necessarily included (or desired).
The 2015 Lexus RX has a lot to live up to—namely, its own reputation. The RX was one of the first luxury crossovers to hit the market, more than 15 years ago, and ever since then it's served as a benchmark for the segment.
Today it remains what it's been all along: a plush counter to rugged utes. Although today there are plenty of alternatives, the 2015 Lexus RX remains focused far more around suburban life than boulders and brawn, and it's a top pick for those who prioritize passenger comfort and a refined cabin.
While the upcoming 2016 Lexus NX takes a more daring path, the 2015 Lexus RX remains true to its original formula. It's a comfortable, understated utility vehicle, and its reputation for being trouble-free, for excellent dealership service, and for holding its value continues to convince shoppers to choose the RX over many models that are showier and sportier. On the other hand, that's part of the appeal, too; the RX is premium, but not garish, and it's understated in just the right ways to appeal to those who don't want to be too ostentatious.
Last year Lexus gave its RX models a light refresh for the first time since these third-generation models bowed in 2010. That meant the substitution of the new 'spindle grille' and a somewhat more menacing look in front, while the snub-nosed, blunt-shouldered purposefulness--crossed with soft elegance--of the design otherwise remains. The changes last year also included LED running lamps, new rear taillights, and a few new colors, as well as a redesigned center console, a new steering wheel, and contrast stitching for the leather.
If there's a clear pronouncement to make about the RX 350 and 450h, it's that performance takes second stage to comfort and luxury. While parents or empty nesters will find the RX plenty responsive in either guise, it's seldom exciting, edgy, or nimble, and there's a muted feeling to all of the driving inputs. Power comes from a 275-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive an option. Even with the heavier AWD system, the RX 350 steps off the line quickly and smoothly, and shifts during passing are quick yet downright seamless. Hybrid models perform nearly as well--in an absolute sense, though they manage to mute out even more of the outside world through the steering and brakes.
There is one model in the lineup for which performance doesn't actually take second stage. Go for the 2015 Lexus RX 350 F Sport, and in addition to a more performance-oriented look inside and out you get an eight-speed automatic transmission instead, along with steering-wheel paddle-shifters, special twist-spoke 19-inch alloys, and a sport-tuned suspension. Although we haven't spent any time with this model yet, it should bring a more eager, responsive driving experience without all that much sacrifice.
As for the rest of the lineup, which includes the 2014 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h, expect plus (but not over-the-top lavish) interiors, and a wholesomeness to the overall design, with versatile and roomy seating and a passenger experience that's nearly as refined as what you'd fine in flagship sedans like Lexus' own LS. Just a short ride in one is enough to see why it's such a popular choice for upscale realtors who don't want to look filthy-rich. The only gripes about the interior remain that the front seats seem a little too flat and unsupportive for the mission, and that if you opt for one of the showier wheel options the ride can become somewhat busier.
The Lexus RX has been an impressive (although not quite top-tier) crash-test performer in recent model years, and it offers ten airbags, including side bags for the rear seats. A hill-hold function helps allow for smooth launches when stopped on slippery, steep terrain, and the rearview camera helps with parking and backing out of the driveway, especially since the rear pillar can get in the way of visibility. The PCS collision avoidance system uses radar sensors to detect a possible impact, and now pre-brakes the vehicle to potentially lessen the severity of a crash. Adaptive lighting and automatic high beams are optional.
Lexus vehicles have a reputation for being exceptionally well-equipped, as well as refined and comfortable. That's definitely the case here in the RX 350 and RX 450h; you'll find a comprehensive list of comfort and convenience features, while options are pretty much limited to interior upgrades and top-notch infotainment systems. Major options include leather; a USB port; navigation with real-time traffic; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; and a superb Mark Levinson sound system. There's also an AC outlet behind the rear seat.
The Remote Touch controller, which has been redesigned modestly this year (essentially still a mouse/trackpad that requires you to look at the screen a little more than other systems) remains a mandatory part of the interface that we're conflicted about, but nearly everyone will like that the new Enform system enables apps for Pandora streaming audio and other information services. Last year Lexus introduced a "Siri Eyes Free Mode" for the system, allowing you to integrate some iPhone models with the RX's voice-command system. This year Lexus follows that with refreshed Display Audio systems across the model line.