The 2014 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 a tad boring, even with the ostensibly edgy F Sport package installed. But for this luxury crossover's legions of fans, the 2014 model should continue 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 2014?
A 115-volt outlet is included with Luxury Package and F Sport models, while the optional Pre-Collision System now features emergency braking preparation and forward-collision warning. Also, if your iPhone is the 4S or newer, it can sync up with the 2014 RX's infotainment system for enhanced Internet and email/text functionality based on voice controls.
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. The F Sport Package features all-wheel drive and an exclusive 8-speed automatic. Fuel economy estimates start at 18 miles per gallon city/25 mpg hwy with front-wheel drive, while the all-wheel-drive/6-speed combo is good for 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy. The winner is the all-wheel-drive/8-speed package (F Sport) at 18 mpg city/26 mpg hwy.
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. All-wheel drive is optional, as well. Fuel economy is a laudable 32 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with front-wheel drive and 30 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Lexus RX comes in regular RX 350 or hybrid RX 450h trim.
The RX 350 ($40,670) includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, 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, 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 ($47,320) adds a unique grille and front bumper, as well as hybrid-specific status gauges, but otherwise it mostly shares the RX 350's equipment roster.
Notable options (many of which come bundled in packages) include 19-in alloy wheels, a sunroof, adaptive xenon or LED headlights, two kinds of leather upholstery, driver memory functions, adaptive 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, an 8-in display screen, voice-command functionality and the Lexus Enform with Safety Connect telematics suite. Remote Touch is also available via the Display Audio package with a lesser 7-in screen.
The F Sport Package (RX 350 AWD only, includes Premium and Comfort Packages) adds an 8-speed automatic transmission, a sport suspension, 19-in wheels with more aggressive tires, a 115-volt outlet and unique styling details inside and out.
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.
The 2014 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). The available Pre-Collision System features emergency braking preparation and frontal-collision warning. All models have 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 350 received four stars out of five overall, while the RX 450h, oddly, got a 5-star overall rating despite sharing the 350's individual scores (four stars for front impacts, five stars for side impacts). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave both RX models the top rating of Good in all crash tests.
Behind the Wheel
Inside, our first impression of the current RX was that some of the old Lexus quality might have been lost in translation. Regardless, the RX's cabin emits a palpably premium vibe, and that should be good enough for most buyers. It also offers some of the company's latest techno-gadgets, including Remote Touch, a mouselike infotainment controller that's mounted on the center console. It's not as effective as the best infotainment systems from Germany, but thankfully the learning curve is not steep.
On the road, the 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.
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 redline. 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.
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 -- Outfitted with a powerful V6, 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 turbodiesel V6, and it has a nicer interior and a more comfortable back seat than the RX.
The Lexus RX may not be front-page news, but those who buy them tend to love them. We'd stick with just the base RX 350, as it's both well-equipped and reasonably priced.