- Tech options like head-up display
- Upscale (but not highfaluting) reputation
- Plush interior, plush ride
- Fuel-efficient RX 450h hybrid
- Easy entry and exit
- Anonymous styling
- Unengaging driving experience
- Base front seats
- Remote Touch controller feels out of place
While the 2014 Lexus RX may not be over-the-top luxurious, it's a plush, lavish crossover that delivers the right premium impression.
The Lexus RX is the vehicle that essentially created the U.S. market for luxury crossover utility vehicles--or at least it was among the first. Sixteen years later, it's been joined by the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLK, and loyal owners continue to buy new ones. And the RX was for many years the best-selling Lexus of any kind, far outstripping the sedans with which the brand was launched in the States.
Today's RX fits the same formula as the original 1990s version. It's a comfortable, understated, luxury-branded five-passenger SUV that's accompanied by the Lexus reputation for both dealer service and reliability that just can't be beaten. The RX is premium, but not garish. Instead, it's practical, typically more affordable, oftentimes more reliable, and it has a lot of technology packaged into a car that doesn't appear to be fiscally or environmentally irresponsible. For those who want to show their green credentials, the RX also pioneered the luxury hybrid crossover sector as well.
For the first time since the current third-generation RX models bowed, for 2010, they've received a light refresh. The 2014 Lexus RX models wear the new "spindle grille" found on most of the lineup, 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.
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 2014 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.
New for 2014 is "Siri Eyes Free Mode," which integrates the iPhone's Siri service into the RX's voice-command system. The PCS collision avoidance system now comes with pre-braking, and there's a 115-volt AC adapter behind the rear seat.
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 2014 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.
2014 Lexus RX 350
Luxury can be understated--that's how the drivers of the Lexus RX roll.
The 2014 Lexus RX doesn't necessarily use bold and showy design to stand out in the luxury segment, but its understated approach wins shoppers over in a big way.
Looking all the way back to the late 1990s, the RX's shape and silhouette hasn't changed much, which almost makes its styling iconic at this point. It's more conservative and innocuous than edgy or aggressive, and Lexus has played it safe with the RX since the beginning.
There were a few cosmetic updates that came last years, bringing the company's new "spindle" grille to the nose of the car, but little else has changed since. The current RX maintains its original design essence with its tall roofline, smooth details and handsome proportions–even if the vehicle has become increasingly blunt-nosed and high-shouldered over the years. While the front end looks a little more menacing, its rounded fenders and curved rear belie its softer intentions.
Refinement remains the focus inside--along with a matching level of understated luxury. The interior of the 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.
2014 Lexus RX 350
Comfort is the priority in the Lexus RX; it rides well, and accelerates smoothly, but steering and handling are soft, with lots of body lean.
For those who desire an understated luxury vehicle–one in stealth mode–both the RX 350 and RX 450h hybrid models should provide more than satisfactory performance that is both refined and responsive without getting out of hand. That may not leave much room for excitement–or agility–since performance plays second fiddle to comfort and refinement in these models.
The 2014 RX's powertrain lineup is a carryover from previous years. The standard RX 350 comes with a 275-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 paired to a six-speed automatic with standard front-wheel drive and optional all-wheel drive. Even in heavier all-wheel-drive models, the engine provides more than enough power–feeling strong, confident, without enough gusto to pass smoothly and dash away from stop lights quickly, with nearly perfect shift quality.
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 was 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.
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.
2014 Lexus RX 350
Comfort & Quality
Four adults fit easily inside the Lexus RX; we'd like a little more seat bolstering.
It won't take much time in the 2014 RX models to realize why they're so popular with folks with a luxury budget, but don't want to appear filthy rich–they're plush and comfortable without feeling ostentatious. There's plenty of room for four adults–and a fifth if you absolutely must–and something about the RX's practical design just feels sensible and wholesome. It's also supremely quiet and smooth, with a ride almost more fitting for cars like Lexus' flagship LS sedan.
It's also very easy to climb in and out of the RX. While there may not be a ton of extra legroom in the rear seats, even with the front seats set all the way back, there's enough knee room for all but the tallest adults. The rear seats are also contoured for adult-sized passengers, and those seats flip forward when you need to haul around larger items. For more valuable items that you want to keep out of sight, there's also a very useful under-floor storage bin.
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).
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-aniline 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.
Last year, the Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h models received 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 were a few new materials
2014 Lexus RX 350
Great side-impact crash-test scores and some advanced safety technology protect Lexus RX passengers.
The 2014 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h models are both solid choices for families looking for safe, sensible, luxurious crossovers.
The Lexus RX 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 2014 RX 350 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.
Both models include all the usual safety features–ten airbags, side bags for the rear seats, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes–but there's a least a handful of features that really stand out. 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.
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 optional.
2014 Lexus RX 350
Lexus has a lock on Mark Levinson sound and other premium options, but they can make the RX quite expensive.
There's no denying Lexus' reputation for delivering exceptionally well-equipped models, and that definitely applies to the 2014 RX lineup, too. You'll find that the standard equipment in the RX both comfortable and comprehensive, and most of the options are limited interior upgrades and high-end infotainment systems.
Every RX comes standard with a Bluetooth, ten-way power front seats, dual-zone climate control and a 12-speaker audio system–along with more creature comfort features than can be optioned onto most mass-market cars.
Options include a 15-speak Mark Levinson sound system, hard-drive based navigation, softer leather, rear seat entertainment for the kids, remote start, ventilated front seats, LED adaptive headlamps, and a head-up display that projects basic information about your trip onto the windshield to reduce distracted driving.
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).
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).
2014 Lexus RX 350
With its hybrid version, the RX can be one of the most fuel-conscious SUVs--if you can hit the numbers.
If you're looking for fuel economy, the 2014 Lexus RX 450h is the better choice here. 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).
Standard RX 350 models are a little more consistent with other mid-size crossovers in the segment. Keep in mind that it 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.
All RX 350 models now include an 'eco driving' light that simply highlights when you're driving mindfully.