I’ll start with a staggering statistic, the Lexus RX is 20 years old this year. Way back in 1998 Toyota started selling the RX crossover, also called the Toyota “Harrier” in Japan. Which let’s face it is a much cooler name. So we’re twenty years into the Lexus RX’s life and I’ve been driving a new one, the 2018 R 350 F Sport AWD. Jacob already ran you through some of the RX’s lineage as our resident Toyota/Lexus expert. Now it’s my turn, how does the new RX stack up?
My autotrader.com/oversteer alter-ego wrote a piece recently about “automotive pioneers”. The Mercedes-Benz M-Class that I featured in that article only beat the RX to market by one year which makes the RX just as much of a pioneer in the luxury SUV segment. You could argue that Lexus even did it better, at least from a sales perspective. According to our friends over at GCBC, the M-Class, prior to its renaming to GLE, sold around 30,000 units per year here in the U.S. The Lexus RX by comparison sold around 100,000 per year on average. So you could say that they clearly did something right. Depending on your neck of the woods, I would bet that you could gaze out your window and see at least one Lexus RX within a minute or so. I’ll go do that now, hold on…
OK, I saw one but it took longer than I expected, sorry. I got distracted by a cute girl walking by so I may have missed one though. And I did see more Bird Scooters than I saw Lexus RXs, so all-in-all this was a pretty disastrous experiment. Back to the review.
We have seen four RX generations over the years. The first generation, XU10, was built in Japan and was semi-revolutionary from a design standpoint when it came out. After a facelift in 2000 we got an all new second generation RX, called XU30 internally, in 2003. The design was evolutionary but well received and Toyota added a manufacturing plant in Canada to help meet the production demand. This generation also saw the debut of the hybrid model in 2005 which made it the first premium brand hybrid vehicle on the market. Toyota continued the trend with a facelift circa 2007 and the third generation, AL10, debuted in 2008. Sadly this was the last RX to not feature the new for 2012 Lexus spindle grill. For the current generation, AL20, which debuted in 2015 we get an even larger angry spindle grill. So that brings us up to speed, the 2018 RX that I’ve been driving is at the tail end of its generational timeline. Let’s check it out.
While I’m not a big fan of the grill, obviously, I think that Lexus does it best in F Sport guise. There is something about blacking out some of the trim that just makes the overall design work a bit better. I was big fan of the Nightfall Mica paint color. The sparkle flakes actually give it a pretty impressive shine and further differentiate it from the boring greys out there. So, just what does the F Sport package get you on an RX? Here it is in apparently no particular order as provided by Lexus:
- BLACK ELECTROCHROMIC POWER-FOLDING OUTSIDE MIRRORS
- PADDLE SHIFTERS
- BLACK HEADLINER
- F SPORT PERFORATED LEATHER–TRIMMED HEATED STEERING WHEEL AND SHIFT KNOB
- F SPORT BOLSTERED/HEATED AND VENTILATED FRONT SEATS
- ALUMINUM PEDALS, INTERIOR TRIM AND DOOR-SILL SCUFF PLATES
- SPORT-TUNED AND ADAPTIVE VARIABLE SUSPENSION (AVS) WITH SPORT S+ DRIVING MODE AND SPORT-TUNED ELECTRONIC POWER STEERING (EPS)
- F SPORT 20-INCH SPLIT-10-SPOKE ALLOY WHEELS* WITH DARK GRAPHITE FINISH
- F SPORT EXTERIOR STYLING
- VEHICLE DYNAMICS INTEGRATED MANAGEMENT (VDIM)*
- REAR ARMREST STORAGE COMPARTMENT
- AMBIENT LIGHTING
- LEXUS MEMORY SYSTEM
As you can see, most of it is aesthetic. And that’s OK, the F Sport is the RX for those who want something a bit cooler looking for the school drop off. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the regular RX vs. the F Sport
Inside the 2018 Lexus RX 350 F Sport AWD is a fairly typical Lexus interior. I’ve said it before, but compared to most of the German interiors out there, Lexus amps up the “interesting” in a good way. This is accomplished using quality materials that actually have some texture and flair. Look at that strip running down the right side of the center console. Here it is from another angle. It’s actually got some personality, odd when you consider Lexus’ humble Toyota beginnings.
It’s pretty practical too, as it should be as an SUV. Look, I put many, many, things in the RX’s rear storage area. OK, not that many things, but the things I did put in there, it held.
If you are buying an SUV for performance, your options are limited to begin with. Driving isn’t quite as F Sporty, but compared to earlier generations of RX, it feels pretty quick. It can certainly get out of its own way on a highway on ramp.
Here is the window sticker so you can get the full RX experience. Overall I was pretty impressed with the latest RX, it’s not cheap, as you can see below, but you get a lot of stuff for your money.