The updated Lexus RX is now here in Singapore, and the seven-seater RX 350 L version makes for a sweet family ride
Photos: Ben Chia & Jonathan Lim
If you’re looking for a seven-seater sport utility vehicle (SUV) in Singapore, there really is no shortage of options available on the market. The choices range from the value-for-money Mitsubishi Outlander, to the uber-luxurious BMW X7, and just about everything in between.
The Lexus RX occupies the slightly upper end of that market, and while it is not quite the tricked-out high-riding limo like the X7, it still offers some semblance of the luxe life in an SUV package.
READ MORE: Want a more luxurious seven-seater SUV experience? Check out the gargantuan BMW X7, loaded wth just about everything you could ever want
The seven-seater version of the RX was first introduced last year, and marks the first time that Lexus has offered a model with seven seats here. And it’s not just a matter of chucking two seats into the regular five-seater car too. The car has been lengthened by 11cm, and the rear roofline redesigned to accommodate the extra chairs.
The car featured here is the facelifted RX, which Ju-Len has previously driven in RX 450h L hybrid form. To briefly summarise the changes, there has been some cosmetic updates, with the most obvious one being the grille which now gets a mesh design in place of the horizontal slats of the previous model. It also has fancy new LED headlights with shiny mirrors embedded within to offer greater illumination at night.
But the changes are more than skin deep apparently. Lexus claims that the updated RX is also now stiffer and stronger for improved stability, greater crash protection, and reduced levels of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).
To be fair, the RX does feel like one of the better handling SUVs in its class. It corners nicely, with body roll well-controlled, and there’s a nice fluidity to it. It’s not quite a Porsche Macan of course, but it’s surprisingly composed and decently responsive when going round bends.
Unfortunately, it seems like there’s been somewhat of a trade-off in making the RX a neat handling machine, because the ride feels weirdly un-Lexus-like. The RX bounces uneasily when traversing over large bumps, almost akin to an old-school off-roader, and overall ride quality feels poorly damped unless the road is billiard-table smooth.
It does more than make up for it though with its sweet V6 engine, which is plenty responsive and offers dollops of power, delivered in a manner that is as smooth as your favourite ice cream. Unlike the ubiquitous turbocharged engines that is seen in almost every other car these days, the RX 350 L’s 3.5-litre engine is naturally-aspirated, with a whiff of the good old days of large cars with large engines to match.
The drawback of course is that you pay in terms of fuel consumption. While Lexus quotes a figure of 10.2 litres per 100km officially, over our three day test drive we got closer to 14 litres per 100km. It’s a compelling reason to go the hybrid route, but in Singapore at least, the seven-seater RX is only available with this engine.
It’s a shame, because the seven-seat variant adds a dose of practicality into Lexus’ premium SUV offering. Granted it really is more of a 5+2, as the third row of seats are a bit tight for adults and are really more suitable for small children, but there’s no denying that at least having the option makes it a more compelling choice against rivals which only have five-seater versions. It costs the same as the non-L RX 350 too, so there’s no financial penalty for taking the extra seats.
It’s not like the third row passengers have to suffer as well despite the limited legroom. They get to have their very own air con controls and proper three-point seatbelts, and that set of third row seats can be folded down electrically with just a push of a button for greater convenience.
Elsewhere in the cabin, it feels like Lexus has put a lot of thought into making the RX a really practical proposition. There are no less than six USB ports littered throughout the interior, including two in the rear armrest, while there is also wireless charging in the centre console up front, ensuring that your devices will never, ever run out of juice.
The updated RX is not the perfect seven-seater SUV by any means, as there are other options that can offer more space, better economy, or a more balanced driving experience. But in terms of character and quality, the RX 350 L stands uniquely in a class of one.
Lexus RX 350 L
Engine 3,456cc, V6
Power 289hp at 6300rpm
Torque 358Nm at 4600-4700rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 8.1 seconds
Top Speed 200km/h
Fuel Efficiency 10.2L/100km
VES Band / CO2 C2 / 234g/km
Agent Borneo Motors
Price S$292,800 with COE
Verdict: Not the perfect seven-seater SUV, but sweet V6 engine and neat driving manners make the RX 350 L a compelling choice