A new seven-seat family SUV based on Lexus’ popular RX range patches a significant hole in its local line-up.
The brand says seven-seat models represent one-in-five luxury SUV sales, making the new RX “L” an important alternative to the likes of Audi’s Q7, the Volvo XC90 and Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Toyota’s luxury arm built on the versatility of its regular five-seat RX crossover by extending bodywork behind the rear wheels by more than 10 centimetres, allowing room for a third row of seats just ahead of the tailgate.
Vehicle stlye: Premium large SUV
Price: From $84,700 plus on-road costs
Engine/transmission: 216kW/358Nm 3.5-litre V6 petrol | eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 10.6L/100km claimed
Back row occupants benefit from full-length curtain airbags, twin cupholders, tri-zone climate control and a single child seat anchor point on the passenger side. Hard-wearing faux leather trim for the third row is evidence the space isn’t intended for grown-ups, a notion confirmed by head and leg room in short supply for average-sized adults.
Other tweaks include extended sliding adjustment and manual folding functions for the second row that make third-row access a reasonably straightforward proposition.
As is the case with most of the breed, the third row is ideal for incidental use as opposed to everyday duties.
Up front, the RX delivers on Lexus’ usual values – it’s a comfortable, beautifully executed space with rock-solid quality and plenty of toys to play with.
Unlike many rivals, the RX is loaded with plenty of kit as standard, stuff like 20-inch wheels, a powered tailgate, leather trim, 8-inch stereo with Apple CarPlay and a 10-way adjustable drivers’ seat with memory functions join heated and ventilated front seats as standard kit on the entry-level RX 350L Luxury priced from $84,700 plus on-road costs.
Fully loaded Sport Luxury versions priced from $101,500 plus on-roads add a panoramic sunroof, multi-mode suspension, 14-way adjustable front seats, a 12.3-inch infotainment screen hooked up to a 15-inch Mark Levinson stereo and more.
Both variants feature a comprehensive safety suite including active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and lane keeping assistance as standard.
As the RX rides on the same wheelbase and suspension regardless of whether you select the regular five-seater or the $3300-dearer seven-seat variant, the changes don’t have a dramatic effect on the RX’s driving experience.
On the road
Packaging constraints for the longer version necessitated a switch from twin exhausts to a single outlet for V6 petrol versions, sapping 5kW from its ultimate outputs.
That doesn’t change the way the car feels on the road, as Lexus’ crossover remains a comfortable and effortless cruiser, the kind of car that soaks up highway miles or school run duties with ease.
Our brief test drive at its national launch in Northern NSW blended winding country roads with a highway leg – the latter playing to its natural strengths.
Powered as standard by a smooth and familiar 3.5-litre V6 as standard, the RX 350L offers 216kW and 358Nm outputs along with slightly thirsty 10.6L/100km economy. You can near-halve that fuel figure by spending an extra $8740 to get hold of a heavier, more complex and less driver-oriented RX 450hL hybrid model that Lexus expects one third of customers to choose.
Having spent more time in the standard version, we wouldn't bother with the hybrid. The standard RX 350 offers a more direct driving experience thanks to its crisp eight-speed auto (as opposed to a CVT) and fixed-rate shock absorbers that strike a reasonable balance between cosiness and precision. Though the RX “L” isn’t going to be a top pick for keen drivers, it represents a comfortable, well-specified and practical addition to the Lexus range.
SUV customers with an occasional requirement to carry an extra bod or two should add it to their shortlist.