2018 Lexus RX Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 27, 2017

The Lexus RX makes a style-conscious statement like never before, and it hasn’t lost its grip on good manners.

The Lexus RX has been standard-issue equipment in mid- to upper-middle class neighborhoods. It's surprising that it wasn't sold with an HOA and membership dues.

Until now. Two years ago, Lexus struck out of the tract-home mold and wants to attract defectors who've left for sport-tuned German crossovers. The 2018 Lexus RX boldly asks you to consider every sharp shape and sharper F Sport intentions.

It’s refreshing, eye-catching, and not quite as polished as in the past. We give it a 7.3 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)

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The jellybean-on-wheels meme is gone, and the Lexus RX has a jet-inspired roofline and a crazy amount of detail, by old Lexus standards. Adventurous and sleek, it’s also unquiet to the eye, a constant visual interruption of itself. The cabin’s less so, but a couple of sweeping arcs and tony leather and wood trim pitch it to the architecture-as-lifestyle crowd without crowding out more casual users.

The Lexus RX 350 suits up with a 295-horsepower V-6. An 8-speed automatic doles out power to the front or to all four wheels. The librarian’s finger-wag that quieted the RX in the past has been retired. The RX burbles with life, and accelerates strongly. F Sports even amp up intake noises and pipe them into the cabin–the polar opposite of Lexus philosophy, circa 1990.

RX 450h hybrids have a lower-output V-6, batteries, and motors that power the rear wheels for a through-the-road, all-wheel-drive powertrain. The continuously variable transmission saps the life out of its delivery, but it’s smooth.

Both models span a wider range of road manners, from plush luxury tuning to moderately firm, delivered in F Sports with remapped steering and attentive adaptive shocks.

The RX seats five, and has exceptionally comfortable front seats, as well as relaxing rear seats with split-fold-recline seatbacks. Cargo space is good, and fit and finish is fine. Lexus applies some avant-garde wood and leather to the RX; the cockpit’s balance and outreach works better than the sheet metal.

All RX crossovers have forward-collision warning systems, adaptive cruise control, and rearview cameras. What they don’t have are identical crash-test scores. The NHTSA scores front-drivers at four stars overall, AWD models at five.

Lexus fits base RXs with synthetic leather, power features, and cruise control. Most models come with real leather, and option packages add on navigation, premium audio, a panoramic roof, and rear-seat DVD entertainment. Lexus’ mouse-and-touchpad infotainment is inferior to systems from Volvo and Audi, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are nowhere to be found.

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Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 7
Features 9
Fuel Economy 6
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