The updated 2013 Lexus RX crossover SUV is likely to remain a top seller, in part because Lexus knows how not to offend. Seems like everywhere you look these days, there's some newfangled crossover with polarizing looks to attract attention. That's a good strategy for getting stares, but what happens when it's time for people to open their pocketbooks? The sales charts don't lie: A bunch of them will be making beelines for their Lexus dealers.
Truth be told, we find the current RX underwhelming. But for the RX's legions of fans, this refreshed 2013 Lexus RX model is likely to satisfy. The RX 350's V6 is powerful and refined, the RX 450h's hybrid powertrain is exceptionally fuel efficient without sacrificing performance and every RX has that creamy ride quality that loyalists expect. Bold new faces may dominate the headlines, but it's the tried-and-true RX that keeps bringing home the bacon.
What's New for 2013?
New color choices, revised styling with LED running lights and the new Lexus spindle grille treatment, interior updates and extra standard equipment mark the changes to the 2013 Lexus RX. The RX 350 can also be optioned with an F Sport Package designed to make it more fun to drive, and a new 8-speed automatic transmission is included for F Sport models, improving fuel economy. The RX 450h model gains a new Sport driving mode this year.
What We Like
Satisfying gasoline and hybrid powertrains; excellent hybrid fuel economy; relaxed ride; quiet cabin; big cargo area
What We Don't
Low-mounted rear bench seat; no third-row seat
A 3.5-liter V6 making 270 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque powers the RX 350's front wheels and is paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is optional. Versions with the F Sport Package include all-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic.
The RX 450h features a 3.5-liter V6 that works in tandem with electric assist motors and a battery pack to generate a combined 295 hp. The RX 450h offers a choice of front- or rear-wheel drive, and has a new Sport driving mode for 2013.
Fuel economy checks in at 18 miles per gallon city/25 mpg hwy for the RX 350 with front-wheel drive. The all-wheel-drive model is rated to return 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy with the 6-speed automatic and 18 mpg city/26 mpg hwy with the 8-speed automatic. The RX 450h yields 32 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with front-wheel drive (30 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive).
Options & Standard Features
The 2013 Lexus RX comes in regular RX 350 ($40,555) or hybrid RX 450h ($47,205) trim.
Standard features on the RX 350 include 18-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, a power sunroof, a power rear lift gate and keyless entry with push-button ignition. Inside, the RX 350 has fabric upholstery, 10-way power front seats, a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel, driver memory functions, an 8-in infotainment screen with the Remote Touch mouse-like controller, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth and a 9-speaker audio system with a 6-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary input and iPod/USB connectivity.
The RX 450h adds a unique grille and front bumper, as well as hybrid-specific status gauges, but otherwise mostly shares the RX 350's equipment roster.
Notable options include 19-in alloy wheels, adaptive xenon or LED headlights, two kinds of leather upholstery, dynamic cruise control, a rear-seat entertainment system with twin 7-in screens, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system and a hard-drive-based navigation system with the Remote Touch interface, voice-command functionality and the Lexus Enform with Safety Connect telematics suite.
A new F Sport Package is offered for the RX 350 all-wheel drive, installing an 8-speed automatic transmission, a sport suspension, 19-in wheels with more aggressive tires and unique styling details inside and out.
The Lexus RX includes stability control, 4-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes, active front headrests and 10 airbags (front, front side, front knee, rear side and full-length side curtain). All models are equipped with Safety Connect, which provides access to a 24-hour response center to get help to you if the unexpected occurs.
In government crash tests, the RX FWD receives four stars out of five overall, while the RX all-wheel drive gets a 5-star overall rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety calls the RX a Top Safety Pick for 2013.
Behind the Wheel
The RX 350's V6 is essentially a Camry engine tasked with pulling around an extra 500 pounds, so you're not going to set any speed records. But what a lovely motor this is -- so smooth and restrained, yet so eager to charge toward red line. It's a highlight of the RX 350 driving experience.
With 295 hp on tap, the even heavier RX 450h produces remarkably swift acceleration by hybrid standards, and the continuously variable automatic transmission is quite responsive.
An elevated ride height and pillowy standard suspension tuning will be instantly familiar to longtime fans. Lexus hasn't tinkered much with the RX's basic driving formula over the years, but no other crossover has really duplicated it. Road and wind noise are hardly noticeable on most roads. For commutes or family trips, this Lexus is hard to beat.
Inside, the RX looks high-tech, but our first impression is that some of the old Lexus quality is lost in the latest iteration of this popular luxury crossover. Regardless, the RX's cabin emits a palpably premium vibe, and that should be good enough for most buyers.
One of Lexus's newest models, the RX is treated to some of the company's latest techno-gadgets, including Remote Touch, a mouse-like infotainment controller that's mounted on the center console. Of course, you have to ante up for the hard-drive-based navigation system to get Remote Touch.
Notably, the navigation system includes the Enform telematics suite, and Destination Assist provides live navigation assistance from Lexus's 24-hour response center. Both features are facilitated through direct communication with the RX's navigation system.
RX models without navigation have a relatively straightforward dashboard layout. Controls are generally easy to find and use, and the gauges are exceptionally clear thanks to Lexus's trademark electroluminescent illumination. As is the norm for Lexus products these days, the RX boasts standard iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity. We'd like to see an infotainment screen with Remote Touch come standard in the RX like in the GS sedan, but overall it's hard to complain about the RX's technology offerings.
The RX's back seat is, unexpectedly, not a strong suit. We figured this 2-row crossover would lavish attention on its rear passengers, but the bottom cushion is mounted surprisingly low to the floor, resulting in a knees-up riding position for those with long legs. Still, there's plenty of room for adults.
Cargo space measures a generous 40 cu ft behind the rear seat backs and 80.3 cu ft with those seat backs folded down. Note that the RX 450h has the same cargo capacity as the regular RX 350, because its battery pack is concealed beneath the rear seat.
Other Cars to Consider
Acura MDX -- Equipped with 7-passenger seating and more engaging driving dynamics, the appealing MDX is a safe and reliable alternative to the Lexus RX.
Cadillac SRX -- Equipped with a powerful V6 and developed with the RX in its gun sights, the SRX is ready to rumble with the Lexus. People and cargo space, however, disappoint.
Volkswagen Touareg -- A dedicated 2-row crossover like the RX, the frequently overlooked Touareg is available with an excellent TDI turbo-diesel V6, and it's got a nicer interior and a more comfortable back seat than the RX.
There isn't much to criticize when it comes to the popular Lexus RX. People who buy them love them. Now, thanks to the new F Sport Package, the Lexus RX appeals to both the left and right sides of the owner's brain.