In the thirty years since Lexus first launched on the planet, it has developed into a well-respected brand with a reputation for building powerful, reliable and economic luxury cars. Lexus is marketed internationally in more than 70 countries and has become Japan’s largest-selling make of premium cars.
The 2020 Lexus RX 350, the fourth generation of the sport utility vehicle that started the crossover craze in the auto industry, is the brand’s best seller, capturing 40 per cent of Lexus sales, and often out-selling entire lineups of other premium brands. In 2019, only one luxury model sold more in the U.S., the brand-new Tesla Model 3.
The brand took a risk 20 years ago in developing a utility vehicle that was not your average body-on-frame, truck-like vehicle on the market then. Internally, many in the company were wondering if buyers would go for a nimbler, car-like ride. The answer has been a resounding yes.
Lexus. Luxury. Reliability. Well-engineered. It’s difficult to find fault with any of the vehicles in the stable of Toyota’s luxury marque.
So how do I like the 2020 RX 350? Let me count the ways.
One. The Look. Previous generations may have been conservative in their styling, but this fourth-gen RX is bolder, more angular and aggressive. The front fascia has been revised; the Lexus spindle grille is slightly larger. Slimmer triple-beam LED headlights create a rakish look. The taillights have also been revised. Overall, the RX looks sharper.
Two. The back-up camera. With its varied views of the backup field, it’s as if you have eyes in the back of your head, or rather, eyes forming a ring around your head.
Three. The quiet. In the peaceful cabin of the RX 350, one is literally sitting in the lap of luxury. There is a sense of calm and tranquility when you’re stuck in stop-and-go traffic. In the fourth generation of the luxury utility vehicle, Lexus has used a new laser-stamping technique, giving the new RX models up to 10 times the stiffness, creating a stronger structure, improving dynamics and that means less noise and vibration.
Four. Safety. In recent years, Lexus has invested heavily in both active (crash prevention) and passive (crash survival) safety. Rest assured, the RX 350 comes with safety tech to the nth degree, including forward collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, automatic high-beams, adaptive LED headlights, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Five. Planted on the road. This is not a sports car but the RX 350 stays flat in aggressive turns and soaks up Nova Scotia potholes like nobody’s business. A pleasure to drive.
Six. Planted in the cockpit. At first, I felt the driving position was too narrow, but it wasn’t long before I felt firmly ensconced and connected to the vehicle. A driver’s cockpit that is also a cocoon of luxury. All the touchpoints are high-quality, upscale and the interior is understated and sophisticated.
Seven. The new touchscreen option for navigation information and entertainment. The Lexus touchpad is still there and, although it has had its detractors, I find it intuitive enough. The new touchscreen is a welcome option for those that don’t.
Eight. The gear selector. With more and more manufacturers going to a push- or pull-button gear selector with the added bonus of more room on the centre console for cupholders and nifty storage areas, the 2020 Lexus RX 350 keeps the familiar centre console configuration for its gear shift. I don’t mind this. Lexus still manages to have plenty of nifty storage areas for the driver and passenger.
Nine. The logo on the leather-wrapped steering wheel. First, it’s an L, like my first name. Then, the L symbolizes the comfort, luxury and complete assurance of a brand that, since its inception in 1989, has risen to the top of the luxury mountain, usually placing somewhere in the top ten of the lists of luxury brands in the world, riding along with uber-luxe stalwarts Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, BMW even Rolls Royce and Bentley.
Ten. The letters RX. Many vehicle brands use letters in their nomenclature. Do they actually mean anything? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Lexus’ model lineup includes the IS, RC, ES, GS, LC, UX, NX, GX and on and on. But those letters mean something and the RX is my favourite: Radiant Crossover. ‘Radiant’, a happy word that represents the dream Toyota had for the future of their Lexus brand when they created the RX lineup 20 years ago. Past generations and the 2020 Lexus RX 350 certainly fulfill that dream.
As tested: $66,155.00
3.5-litre V6, 295 horsepower, 268 lb.-ft. of torque
Eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive
Pre-Collision System with Bicycle and Pedestrian Detection, Automatic High Beam, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Tracing Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Backup Camera with Guide
20-cm touchscreen, 12-speaker audio system with remote, Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto. traffic, weather and map updates
STANDARD EQUIPMENT INCLUDES
Power liftgate, 20-in alloy wheels, power moonroof, auto-levelling headlights, heated mirrors, four-way power lumbar support, heated front and rear seats
$7,900 luxury package: satellite radio, navigation, heated steering wheel, LED headlamps, automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator, emergency assistance button, three years of enhanced roadside assistance, premium leather seats, clearance sonar with rear cross traffic braking, power tilt & telescopic steering wheel, 12.3″ touch display
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 11.1 / 8.2
Length, 4,890 mm; width, 1,895 mm; wheelbase, 2,789 mm; weight, 1,990 kg
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