Road Tested: 2021 Lexus RX 350L
With its 2021 RX 350L – Lexus looks to continue its dominance in the luxury crossover SUV segment. For 2021, the entire RX line-up gets an updated interior color scheme called glazed caramel and there’s a new Black Line Special Edition for the F-Sport models as well. There are new standard safety features for 2021 to boot – including rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring and power folding mirrors.
On the outside:
The exterior hasn’t changed in terms of looks and that’s just fine for the fans of Lexus’ ongoing spindle grill look that many have fallen in love with. You still have its bold, sharp edges with enough refinement to keep it classy and elegant looking. There’s also a new color called Nori Green Pearl – the color of our test model.
Powering the RX 350L is a potent 3.5-liter V6 with an output of 290 horsepower with 263 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission that delivers a sporty driving experience. It propels the RX 350L from 0-60 miles per hour in 8.1 seconds. If you get the F-Sport model, these numbers go to 295 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque.
Power is put down into an all-wheel drive system that is front-wheel drive dominant but can shift power to the rear wheels when needed. We took our test model over a snowy mountain pass and had very little issues getting around — even with its stock all-season tires.
As far as fuel economy goes, the EPA rates this vehicle at 19 miles per gallon around town and up to 26 on the highway for a combined average of 22. Not exactly great fuel economy but not too bad, considering the V6 power and vehicle weight.
On the inside:
An area that Lexus should take great pride on, is in that of interior fit and finish. Its attention to all of the little details go a long way to making it feel ultra-expensive inside. From the stitched leather to the quality of surface materials that all feel like good quality – you’ll be surrounded by luxury. Its new glazed caramel color scheme is perhaps one of the most luxurious you’ll find in this vehicle segment.
While it’s wonderful that Lexus offers a wide-screen infotainment system, it still boggles our minds as to its insistence of its high-despised touchpad. Things would be different, if it were a touchpad like we find in the latest Acura vehicles – where it was absolute tracking. Instead, we’re still fumbling around with a cursor-based menu format where the system at times will guess where you want the cursor at. Even after spending a great deal of time using it, you’ll still likely find it’s very cumbersome compared to what we find in competing vehicles.
We love the fact that Lexus has an ongoing relationship with audio experts, Mark Levinson. They are easily some of the best-sounding factory audio systems you’ll find in any new vehicle. Save for the Bowers and Wilkins in the newest Volvo products, the Mark Levinson systems are nearly as good. Solid bass performance, smooth midrange frequencies and silky highs that are sculpted by its built-in surround technology. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard as well.
Wrapping things up:
In regards to safety features, you’ll find that the RX 350L is chocked full of them. Blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, airbags galore, automatic seat belt tensioners, parking alert monitors and auto wipers.
Driving the RX 350L immediately demonstrates why so many people love it. From the way it makes nearly every road surface, even moderately bumpy ones – feel smooth to the minimal body roll you’ll find during cornering. And while it’s no speed-demon, it has plenty of passing power and never feels underpowered. You’ll also appreciate the varying drive modes available, our favorite was the sport mode. However, for those more economy conscious, you may want to use its ECO mode.
In an extremely crowded vehicle segment, it’s easy to understand why the Lexus faithful go back to the RX 350 time and time again. Sure you’ll find some of its competitors might do a thing or two better but few can improve on the quiet cabin, comfortable seats and ride quality — all while offering Lexus’ proven reliability and resale value.