By Eric Peters
Mad Max drove the last of the V8 Interceptors. This may be your last chance to drive the last V6 powered crossover.
Which also happens to be the first crossover.
The Lexus RX.
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What It Is
Way back in 1998, Lexus introduced the RX300. It was a big introduction — because back in ’98, there weren’t any other luxury crossover SUVs.
It was the first of its kind, an entirely new kind of vehicle. A vehicle that was neither a car nor an SUV but blended elements of both. It was based on a car — the Camry — but rode higher off the ground, like a truck-based SUV. But it still handled and drove like the car it was based on while also being nearly as capable of dealing with a snowstorm as a truck-based SUV.
Without handling and driving like one.
People really liked the concept and bought RXs like people used to eat Pez. Others imitated the concept to such a degree that now every car company — not just luxury car companies — not only sells crossovers, many sell only crossovers.
But the RX — currently the RX350 — remains the Original Gangster of crossovers.
It is also one of the few new crossovers that still comes standard with a V6 and no turbo — which is one of the things that makes it stand out in a field now crowded with similar crossovers that come standard with heavily turbocharged four cylinder engines to make up for the lack of cylinders.
It also comes in two version, two or three rows — as opposed to rivals such as the Acura MDX, which also comes standard with a V6, but comes only one way — with three rows you may not need or want to pay a couple thousand additional for.
Prices start at $45,320 for the two-row RX350 with the V6 and FWD; adding AWD bumps the MSRP to $46,720.
An F-Sport version is available.
It features firmer suspension tuning as well as interior and exterior trim upgrades inspired by the Lexus LF-A supercar. It stickers for $48,800 to start with FWD and $50,200 with AWD.
The three-row Lexus RX350L stickers for $48,150 to start; $49,550 with the optional AWD system.
2022 is a carryover year, with only a few slight changes from last year – including the availability of fog lights on all trims (not just the F-Sport).
Two — or three — rows. Pick what you need. Don’t pay more for what you don’t.
The RX’s 3.5-liter V6 is the Swiss Franc of engines. It has perhaps the longest and best track record for durability and reliability, going back decades.
F-Sport looks serious.
What’s Not So Good
Console-mounted trackpad controller is awkward to use, especially while in motion.
F-Sport is mostly just looks. It does not get more power to match its mien.
This may be the last V6 RX.
Under The Hood
All versions of the RX, both two and three row — as well as F-Sport and not – come with the same 3.5-liter, 295 horsepower V6, paired with an eight speed automatic.
The 3.5-liter V6 used in the RX is the same basic V6 used in the Toyota Camry and Avalon sedans as well as the Lexus ES350 sedan. It is the long-beating heart of these notoriously long-lived, superbly reliable sedans — and it’s the reason for the RX’s earned reputation for being as close to immortal as a vehicle ever has come.
On The Road
It is possible to get a four to deliver the power of a V6 engine — and more torque, sooner — via turbocharging.
But it is impossible to get a four to feel — or sound — like a V6.
There is something deflating about the sound of a four in a vehicle with a $50k price. It is why some of the vehicles in this price range that have these little turbocharged fours have sound augmentation devices to make them sound better.
How sad is that?
At The Curb
The RX’s pioneering look — its overall silhouette — is no longer remarkable because everyone else has copied it.
Lexus achieves differentiation today by offering something … different.
Two — or three — rows.
You can pick which suits and not pay extra for what doesn’t — or pay in the form of extra size and length you don’t need to get the rest.
The RX’s main weakness looks great.
It lies voluptuously on the center console. This is where you will see the ergonomically shaped wrist-rest that holds your right hand in just the right attitude to run your index finger along the trackpad that is just below it and which you use to tap what you want to access/engage from the roster of options displayed on the 12.3-inch LCD touchscreen. It is beautifully designed, but functionally, leaves much to be desired.
It is hard to mouse while you’re moving, first of all. And second of all, the system assumes you’re right-handed.
The good news is that Lexus built in manual redundancies. For example, you can still adjust the volume and change the station by hand – using rotary knobs.
The Bottom Line
Size really does matter — under the hood.
If you want to drive something out of the ordinary, today.
Eric’s latest book, “Doomed: Good Cars Gone Wrong!” will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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