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2021 Lexus RX L vs. 2020 Acura MDX: Which Is Better?

There are plenty of midsize, 3-row SUVs out there, including the 2021 Lexus RX L and the 2020 Acura MDX, but which is better?

Quick Facts

  • The 2021 Lexus RX L offers plenty of safety and technology features.
  • Acura will skip the 2021 model year for the MDX, the 2020 Acura MDX carries over from 2019.

2021 Lexus RX L

2021 Lexus RX
Base Price: $48,925 / Read our 2021 Lexus RX L Review

What we like: Fantastic Lexus build quality; standard accident avoidance technology; great reliability rating

What we would change: Get rid of the remote touch interface for the infotainment; eliminate the unusable third-row seat in the RX-L; improve cargo capacity

Overview: The 2021 Lexus RX L is a midsize SUV/crossover that comes as the V6-powered RX 350L or the hybrid RX 450hL. Whenever the letter L comes at the end, it’s an extended-wheelbase version with three rows of seating. Standard features are virtually the same across the range, regardless of the drivetrain or number of seats.

What’s new for 2021: Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert joins the inventory of standard equipment, along with self-dimming/power-folding side mirrors. Lexus Enform Remote (for remote control of certain functions through a smart device, including those linked to Amazon Alexa) has its free subscription extended from one year to three. Wireless charging joins the options list. F Sport versions gain a moonroof and heated steering wheel, while last year’s Performance package is renamed the Handling package. And a new Black Line Special Edition based on the F Sport with its own set of cosmetic additions becomes available.

Features and technology: Standard equipment is consistent regardless of the model or the length. Packages are also the same up the line. The basic RX includes 18-inch alloy wheels, a power liftgate, automatic LED headlights, automatic high beams, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, a backup camera, proximity entry and push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, 8-way power front seats, “NuLuxe” simulated leather upholstery, a power-adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel, a cargo cover, an 8-in infotainment touchscreen also controlled by a center console knob, Bluetooth, two USB ports and a 9-speaker audio system with a media player interface, CD player, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD radio and an auxiliary audio jack.

A premium package option adds auto-dimming/folding mirrors, driver memory settings, and wood trim. The Luxury package includes those items plus 20-in alloy wheels, upgraded leather upholstery, front-seat lumbar adjustment, a heated steering wheel,

The Navigation package is available on every version, which includes the Remote Touch interface (a 12.3-in central display, a joystick-like center console controller), integrated navigation, and a 12-speaker sound system.

Depending on the region in which you live, more options might be available. Specifically in regard to certain extras that can be available as either individual items and/or within packages. These include hands-free liftgate operation, a choice of sunroofs (regular or panoramic), parking sensors, upgraded headlights, power-folding second-row seat, heated/ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, wireless charging, head-up display, and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.

What does the future hold? After a major update in 2020, we don’t expect a lot of changes for the 2022 Lexus RX-L See the 2021 Lexus RX L models for sale near you

2020 Acura MDX

2020 Acura MDX

Base price: $44,500 / Read our 202 Acura MDX Review

What we like: Strong and efficient V6; solid reliability; agile handling

What we would change: Sub-par interior quality; due for a full redesign in 2022

Overview: Acura skipped the 2021 model year for the MDX, so you won’t find any on the market. Luxury shoppers looking for something on the more family-friendly and value-conscious side of midsize three-row SUVs will find a lot to love in the Acura MDX. Primarily based on the Honda Pilot, the MDX has many of its trusty Honda cousins’ virtues while being a legitimate contender in the luxury arena. With three rows of seats, a fantastic reliability rating, and a low base price for its class, the MDX is a solid choice in midsize three-row luxury crossovers.

One of the strong suits of the MDX is the powertrain. The base engine is a naturally-aspirated V6 that delivers a very satisfying blend of muscle and efficiency. It may not have fancy performance variants, but the V6 is more than sufficient for most people’s needs. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional. However, AWD is standard when you opt for the MDX Sport Hybrid, which gets you a pretty decent fuel economy with 26 city/27 highway mpg.

What’s new for 2020: There are no notable updates to the MDX for 2020.

Features and technology: The Acura MDX is technically a one-option vehicle but has several option packages available. SH-AWD can be added to any trim for an extra $2,000, but it comes standard with the A-Spec and Entertainment packages. For the MDX Sport Hybrid, the base model is the Technology Package, and the Advance Package is an available upgrade.

The standard Acura MDX is well-appointed for a base model. It comes standard with a dual-screen infotainment system with Bluetooth, SiriusXM, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. Plus, you get six USB ports throughout the car, leather seating, heated front seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a moonroof. As for safety tech, standard features include lane-departure warning, automatic high-beams, and the AcuraWatch safety tech suite. AcuraWatch comes with collision mitigation and braking, lane-keep assist, road departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.

Move up the ladder to the A-Spec if you want a cooler-looking vehicle without any performance upgrades. There are optional technology and entertainment packages to add on, should you need to keep your kids entertained on longer rides, too.

What does the future hold: The all-new 2022 Acura MDX will be sold starting February 2021. See the 2020 Acura MDX models for sale near you

RX L vs. MDX: Strengths comparison

Lexus RX L Benefits: Great standard safety and self-driving technology.

Acura MDX Benefits: Usable third-row seat and better priced.

2021 Lexus RX L vs. 2020 Acura MDX: Which is better?

For our money, we’d go with the 2020 Acura MDX mainly because if you’re shopping for a vehicle with a third-row seat, you should be able to use it. The 2021 Lexus RX L doesn’t offer a usable third-row seat even though you can nominally seat up to seven people in it. See the 2021 Lexus RX L models for sale or See the 2020 Acura MDX models for sale

Popular Powertrains 2021 Lexus RX-L 2020 Acura MDX
Engine 3.5-liter V6 3.5-liter V6
Horsepower 290 hp @ 6,300 rpm 290 hp @ 6,200 rpm
Torque 263 lb-ft @4,700 rpm 267 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission automatic, 8-speed Automatic, 9-speed
Fuel Economy 22 mpg (19 city/26 highway) 23 mpg (20 city/27 highway)
Also Available NA 3.0-liter V6 hybrid
Warranty 4 years/50,000 4 years/ 50,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 6 years/70,000 miles 6 years/70,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating 5 stars 5 stars
Max Seating Capacity 7 7
Wheelbase 109.8 inches 111.0 inches
Overall Length 196.9 inches 196.2 inches
Width 74.6 inches 77.7 inches
Height 67.3 inches 67.4 inches
Turning Diameter 45.2 feet 38.7 feet
Headroom, Front 39.8 inches 38.1 inches
Headroom, Rear 38.5 inches 38.3 inches
Headroom, Third Row 34.8 inches 35.6 inches
Legroom, Front 41.4 inches 41.4 inches
Legroom, Rear 30.9 inches 36.6 inches
Legroom, Third Row 23.5 inches 30.9 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 58.3 inches 61.1 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 57.8 inches 59.1 inches
Shoulder Room, Third Row 45.7 inches 54.7 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 117 cubic feet 132.7 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 58.4 cubic feet 90.9 cubic feet










Abigail Bassett
Abigail Bassett
Abigail Bassett is a freelance journalist based in L.A. and she's covered automotive topics for a variety of well-known outlets including Fortune, Forbes, CNN and Motor Trend. She's also a television and video host and regularly covers breaking news, social justice, technology, health and wellness, and science in addition to her car coverage. When she's not working on her next project she's... Read More about Abigail Bassett

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