2013 Lexus RX 350 Review

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The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 26, 2013

The 2013 Lexus RX is plush and premium, and it delivers on that luxury impression, but it's not the over-the-top lavish expression some might seek.

Lexus found an upper hand against the German luxury brands when it developed the RX. While Lexus lagged behind BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz with its sedans and coupes, the RX beat all those brands to market with a richly fitted tall wagon with all-weather, all-purpose appeal. To this day, the Lexus RX--in RX 350 and RX 450h hybrid editions--remains a comfortable, understated piece, with a loyal following of repeat owners and buyers not swayed by the recently arrived BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Audi Q5.

The RX is more practical, often less expensive, and has standout tech and entertainment features in a package that won't be seen as fiscally or environmentally irresponsible. It also has a long-established reputation for reliability and dealer service that can't be erased. They're upscale, but not ostentatious.

For the first time since the current third-generation RX models bowed, for 2010, they've received a light refresh. The 2013 Lexus RX models get a version of the new 'spindle grille' that's already made its debut in the GS sport sedans, which makes it just a little menacing in our opinion, while all the snub-nosed, blunt-shouldered purposefulness--crossed with soft elegance--of the current generation's design remains. LED running lamps, new rear taillights, and a few new colors are the extent of the exterior changes, while inside there's a new steering wheel, contrast stitching for the leather, and a redesigned center console.

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New for 2013 on front-wheel-drive models is a Sport Appearance Package that includes a unique front bumper, halogen headlamps and superchrome-finished 19-inch wheels.

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.

The 2013 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h are plush, yet not over-the-top lavish, and 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 to filthy rich. There's a certain wholesomeness about the practical design, and its versatile seating is roomy and accommodating for four adults; at the same time, it's supremely smooth and quiet, with the passenger experience about as refined as you'll find in flagship luxury sedans like Lexus' own LS. Our only gripe remains that the standard front seats are a little flat and have odd back contouring, while the ride can be sharper (though still not rough) with the 19-inch wheel options.

Lexus vehicles have a reputation for being not just refined and comfortable, but also for being exceptionally well-equipped. That's definitely the case here in the 2013 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. The Remote Touch controller 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.

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2013 Lexus RX 350

Styling

Although the RX family gets various updates and enhancements for 2013, it remains the epitome of understated luxury.

Luxury can be bold and showy; but many luxury shoppers actually prefer a more practical, understated definition of luxury--and that's what the 2013 Lexus RX 350 represents from a styling and design standpoint.

The basic shape and silhouette of the RX hasn't changed all that much over this model's long model run--going back to the 1990s--and that makes it iconic in some ways. But fact is, the RX's styling still plays it safe, and we'd say that it's far more pleasant and innocuous than at all edgy.

Nothing about the relatively light cosmetic changes Lexus is introducing for 2013 changes that; although this year's updates are the first significant ones since Lexus redesigned the RX for the 2010 model year, they;re relatively minor altogether--limited to a new front-end look that matches that introduced for the new Lexus GS sport sedan, a somewhat crisper look in back to match, new LED running lamps, and new colors.

In its current iteration, the RX has become a little more blunt-nosed and high-shouldered, but it hasn't lost its design essence—with a tall roofline, handsome proportions, and smooth details. The new 'spindle grille' changes the way we see the RX from the front--and makes it look just a bit menacing, at first thought, but it remains a rather soft, elegant appearance.

Refinement remains the focus inside--along with a matching level of understated luxury. The interior of the 2013 RX continues with the same design that divides driver controls visually from the passenger zone—leaving a large swath of silver-painted plastic in place of the previous-generation's more subdued wood-grained look. Likewise, Lexus appears to have addressed a complaint of ours--that the current RX didn't feel as rich inside as before--by adding contrast stitching, and adding new Ebony Bird's Eye Maple and Saddle Leather interior options.

One other caution: Don't look for the RX 450h to call out your eco-conscious arrival. As in previous model years, there's very little visual differentiation between the RX 350 and the RX 450h hybrid, and for the latter it's really just a matter of badging, with the differences amounting to some hybrid logos and badges plus blue-lit gauges and a few other subtle differences.

New for 2013 is an available Sport Appearance Package that gets you a unique front bumper, halogen headlamps, and superchrome-finish 19-inch wheels. 

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2013 Lexus RX 350

Performance

The 2013 Lexus RX models perform well enough considering their mission, which puts comfort and luxury higher on the priority list.

To most people who are attracted to the understated luxury style of the 2013 Lexus RX, both the RX 350 and RX 450h hybrid models will provide performance that's responsive and refined and completely adheres to the image. On the other hand, don't expect a lot of excitement--or for the RX to be particularly bold or nimble--as performance clearly takes second stage to refinement and comfort.

While a few other details for the RX lineup have changed, the RX lineup's powertrain details carry over to 2013. In RX 350 models, the 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. This combination, even with the heavier AWD system, gives the RX 350 a strong, confident feel, and it steps away from stoplights quickly and passes smoothly, with almost seamless shift quality.

The RX carries itself over the road with the same sort of muted, comfort-oriented feel that you'll find in the brand's other conservative models like the ES and LS sedans; the down side of this is that there's really no feedback to speak of through the steering wheel.

Hybrid Lexus RX 450h models pair a 275-horsepower, 3.5-liter Atkinson-cycle V-6 with a version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive—one that, interestingly, electrically drives the rear wheels in all-wheel-drive form. Drive the hybrid gently and you'll glide from stops in electric-only mode, with the V-6 almost imperceptibly kicking on at 20 or 25 mph. Drive it a little more rapidly, to go with the flow of traffic, and the V-6 thrums on and off in the background, with the continuously variable transmission generally keeping the revs well below 2500 rpm unless you're close to full throttle.

In all, this is one of the most numb, isolated driving experiences in a hybrid--a good or a bad, depending on what you're seeking--although there are a few vibrations and some engine noise here and there. New for 2013 is a Sport Mode that gives you revised throttle mapping (with more aggressive tip-in) plus different transmission shift points that let the engine rev a bit higher. We haven't yet driven this version, but check back for updates.

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2013 Lexus RX 350

Comfort & Quality

Passenger comfort comes first, in these mostly top-notch luxury vehicles.

The 2013 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h are plush, yet not over-the-top lavish, and 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 to filthy rich. There's a certain wholesomeness about the practical design, and its versatile seating is roomy and accommodating for four adults; at the same time, it's supremely smooth and quiet, with the passenger experience about as refined as you'll find in flagship luxury sedans like Lexus' own LS.

Adding to the appeal is that it's exceptionally easy to climb into or out of the RX models. Although there's not a lot of legroom in the back seat, there's enough knee room for all but the tallest adults with the front seats back all the way. Back seats also have adult-size contouring—and you can even fit three across when needed—while the seatbacks to flip forward to stash larger items. And to keep precious goods out of sight, there's a clever underfloor storage compartment.

Among the few things we wish for in the RX are better-contoured front seats. An odd contouring that digs into shoulder blades has made it difficult to get completely comfortable for our taller-than-typical editors and test staff, and in front headroom can be surprisingly tight. If you click the right boxes and ante up for some upgrades, the optional seats are worth it as they have the additional long-distance support of length-adjustable lower cushions.

With available semi-anilene leather upholstery (the softer, less treated hides), plenty of soft-touch surfaces, . OLED gauges and plenty of soft-touch surfaces, the RX models feel almost opulent, with the upgraded wood trim that's optional in the RX 350 bringing a richer, better-coordinated look in our opinion.

For 2013, Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h models get a redesigned center console, along with a new steering-wheel design. Also, there's contrast stitching for the leather seats and center-console trim, and there are a few new materials.

Quiet, smooth, and isolated are all ways to describe the RX's ride. Motions are well damped, as they are in a good luxury sedan, and the only noise you do hear is during moderate to hard acceleration—more so in 450h models. The one caution is that we've noticed that with the available 19-inch wheels the ride gets somewhat harsher on some surfaces (though still not rough).

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2013 Lexus RX 350

Safety

Especially strong side safety ratings and some standout features make the 2013 RX models secure family picks.

An impressive set of active-safety options, along with mostly top-tier safety ratings, together make the 2013 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h good picks for families looking for a sensible and secure luxury vehicle.

With ten airbags, side-curtain airbags, side bags for the rear seats, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control, the RX models include all the usual standard equipment in this area; but there are a few more features that help it stand out. A hill-holder feature aids safer take-offs on steep, slippery terrain—a snow-covered driveway, for instance—while an available rearview camera system helps with visibility in the driveway or in parking lots (though even with it, the rear pillar can block your view when making lane changes).

Among the RX's many advanced-tech accident-avoidance features are a Pre-Collision System that uses radar sensors to detect a possible impact, then readies the brakes and seatbelts for an imminent crash. Adaptive lighting and automatic high beams are also on offer.

The 2013 Lexus RX350 is an IIHS Top Safety Pick, receiving a rating of "Good" in frontal, side and rollover crash tests. In tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2013 RX350 received four out of five stars in frontal and rollover crashes, and five out of five starts for side impacts, for an overall rating of five out of five stars.

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2013 Lexus RX 350

Features

In base trim, the 2013 Lexus RX 350 or 450h offer plenty of luxury appeal, although the tech and entertainment upgrades will be tempting.

Lexus vehicles have a reputation for being not just refined and comfortable, but also for being exceptionally well-equipped. That's definitely the case here in the 2013 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.

Standard equipment for the RX 350 includes a 12-speaker sound sytem, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control, and ten-way power front seats—along with just about every comfort and convenience you'd find optional in a lesser mass-market model.

Options include upgraded softer leather seating, a side-view monitor, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, a hard-drive navigation system, integrated XMNavTraffic, a rear-seat entertainment system, ventilated front seats, remote start, LED adaptive headlamps, and a head-up display that projects basic information onto the windshield in an attempt to reduce distraction.

The RX also now comes with the Lexus Enform system, which has the capability to run apps for information or entertainment purposes—Pandora streaming radio, for example. Voice-command recognition is also included, as is a year of the Safety Connect concierge service (there's a subscription fee after that).

Our one feature complaint is that Lexus has adopted a "Remote Touch" controller bundled with its navigation system; this mandatory interface is part mouse, part trackpad, and we can't help but think of it as being somewhat distracting, as it requires one's eyes to be looking at the screen while making selections (tactile feedback is included in some menus).

New for 2013 on front-wheel-drive models is a Sport Appearance Package that includes a unique front bumper, halogen headlamps and superchrome-finished 19-inch wheels.

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8

2013 Lexus RX 350

Fuel Economy

The 2013 Lexus RX 450h ranks as one of the greenest family-sized crossovers.

The 2013 Lexus RX 350 does only have two rows of seating, for a total of five, at a time when many vehicles around its size are offering a third row. But the key is that you're likely to use the second row on a regular basis; this is a vehicle that can carry four adults around in comfort. And that makes the RX 350's fuel economy--in the upper teens, as we've seen it--not all bad.

But the pick for those concerned about fuel efficiency is the RX 450h. It's one of the greenest family-sized vehicles, and with its well-coordinated powertrain and a pricetag that isn't all that much higher than the RX 350. EPA ratings place the RX 450h at up to 32 mpg city, 28 highway, but the last time we drove an RX 450h, over mixed driving conditions, we didn't see anything close to that EPA rating—about 23 mpg overall, with all-wheel drive model (rated 30/28).

All RX 350 models now include an 'eco driving' light that simply highlights when you're driving mindfully.

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September 3, 2015
2013 Lexus RX 350 AWD 4-Door

A very nice, well built vehicle.

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This RX is the 5th Lexus we have owned in the last ten years. No better vehicle built and used in the U.S.
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April 28, 2015
2013 Lexus RX 350 AWD 4-Door

Its all about the comfort

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I downsized from a 2003 GX to the 2013 RX and as far as comfort goes you can't beat a lexus. Performance on the RX is very good, quality of the interior and exterior excellent and safety is as good as it gets... + More »
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April 17, 2015
For 2013 Lexus RX 350

Quality and dependability in one comfortable package!

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We bought the new '13 2 weeks after coming out in May '12 as we loved the new LEDs and "mouse"! It has been the best vehicle we have ever owned. We have had Cadillacs and Lincolns but first Japanese luxury car... + More »
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April 13, 2015
For 2013 Lexus RX 350

What SUVs should be like!

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Purchased used with 17k miles, the car still smells new with 33k on the odometer, is plush, gorgeous, comfortable and a joy to drive. The 6-speed automatic is not as responsive as my BMW's 8-speed, showing... + More »
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