Lexus RX 350 — A popular luxury choice

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(November 21, 2021) The Lexus RX 350 continues to be the luxury segment's hottest selling crossover SUV perhaps because of its relaxed and comfortable characteristics — attributes luxury customers demand —and its ability to get from point A to point B without drama in a hushed interior environment loaded with much of the modern technology offered by automotive manufactures these days.

And it can look rather aggressive with F Sport trim as found on our 2021 test vehicle. The sporty F Sport styling exercise works well on the RX, but adds few driving thrills. Driving excitement is not a high priority for Lexus buyers, however the cool F Sport look gives the RX a sporting vibe sitting in the driveway.

The F Sport treatment — which can be purchased with a Handling Package — includes unique steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedals, stylized bumpers and grille, F Sport badges, embossed front seats, aluminum ornamentation and 20-inch wheels. Front and rear performance dampers, LED ambient illumination, stainless steel rear door garnish, steering memory with seat memory, and scuff plates are also included.

The current generation RX 350, which hit the market in 2016, features a modern interpretation of crossover styling with numerous creases and sharp edges making it visually attractive — with the exception of the big cow-catcher grille that all Lexus products now wear. But we have grown used to the overall RX look — grille and all — after half a decade.

Lexus has made some mid-cycle changes to the RX for both 2020 and 2021 as it heads to 2023 when it will most likely get a full makeover. A light exterior freshening includes a revised spindle grille that has a more complex pattern than before, a redesigned front bumper with a bigger intake, new exterior colors, fresh wheel designs, and restyled LED headlights and taillights. 

Perhaps the biggest improvements have come inside where there are now 8.0-inch and 12.3-inch touchscreens replacing the non-touchscreen displays. We found that the addition of the touch interface makes the RX's infotainment system much less frustrating to operate, but on the larger screen some of the icons are hard to reach from the driver's seat. And because there is no "home" button on the screen, the maddening touchpad on the center console still has to be used for some functions. The 2021 RX becomes the first Lexus model to get Android Auto capability in addition to Apple CarPlay.

For 2021, Lexus added a Black Line Special Edition package. More important to all buyers, the 2021 edition gets blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and power-folding exterior mirrors as standard equipment. And a wireless charging pad is now optional for the first time.

While the RX 350 powertrain has remained the same, Lexus says it has retuned the suspension and stiffened the body structure to give a slightly sportier feel when driven around turns while still keeping ride comfort paramount. The F Sport's sport suspension — which previously resulted in a far harsher ride in exchange for minimal performance gains — has been modified as well.  

The RX comes with two distinct powertrains — the RX 350 and the RX 450h hybrid — and in standard size and a stretched version called the RX 350L.

The RX 350's long-running engine and transmission combination introduced six years ago consists of a 3.5-liter V-6 making 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive optional. We found the performance adequate with shifts smooth and unobtrusive. For comparison purposes it can accomplish a 0-to-60 run in around 7 seconds. That's enough performance, but it seems more relaxed than its 7-second climb to 60 mph would indicate — and it is slower than much of the competition.  Gas mileage for our AWD test vehicle is rated at 19 city, 26 highway and 22 combined. 

The hybrid version comes with a 308-horsepower hybrid powertrain that includes the 3.5-liter V-6 engine. In addition to a slight edge in horsepower, the hybrid's paramount attribute is gas mileage — more important these days as pump prices seem to increase weekly — measured at 31 mpg city, 28 highway and 30 combined. We also drove a hybrid for a week and found it nearly identical to the RX 350 with the exception of performance, which is more relaxed by about a full second from 0-to-60.

The RX 350's greatest attributes are its extremely comfortable ride, its wonderfully quiet living space, its luxurious interior surroundings, and its outstanding available top-line audio systems. You’ll be greeted by Lexus’ handsome interior, lined in lustrous aluminum trim, gorgeous wood veneers, a French-stitched leather dash and door gussets, perforated leather seats, and an immense array of technological features.

The 2021 RX 350 starts at $46,295, a $1,120 increase from the 2020 model. Our F Sport model carried a base price of $50,975 and a bottom line of $61,355 after a load of options were figured into the price. The highest priced option and the one we would purchase above the others is the 12.3-inch navigation screen with the excellent-sounding 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. Cost — $3,365.

The RX 350 comes with a generous four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile drivetrain warranty. Free maintenance is added for one year or 10,000 miles with roadside assistance for four years.

2021 Lexus RX 350 F Sport


Base price: $46,295; as driven, $61,355
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 295 @ 6,300 rpm
Torque: 268 foot-pounds @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 109.8 inches
Length: 192.5 inches
Curb weight: 4,387 pounds
Turning circle: 38.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 18.4 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 56.3 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 19.2 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 19 city, 26 highway, 22 combined
0-60: 7.0 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Acura MDX, BMW X5, Cadillac XT5

The Good
• Attractive cabin with great fit and finish
• Blindspot monitoring standard equipment
• 12.3-inch touchscreen available

The Bad
• Driver distracting touchpad still must be used

The Ugly
• Below average acceleration for segment