Ignore the super-sized hamburger grille up front and the body sporting more lines than a politician’s campaign speech.
The only embellishment that matters on the 2020 Lexus RX350L is the stylized “L” badge on back, a true industry stamp of approval.
That badge symbolizes levels of quality and value that most competitors still can’t quite match.
And consistently high quality probably explains why the RX350 – one of the first crossovers to hit the market -- still leads the mid-size near-luxury segment in sales.
Like me, Lexi’s big wagon doesn’t roll on its looks.
Actually, I’m sure some people find beauty in brash geometric design, which still stands out five years after the RX350 assumed its current, uh, style.
The silver RX I had recently was one of the relatively new L models, stretched slightly in its body-panels to accommodate a minimalist third row of seats – practically a requirement in any crossover these days.
It also was an all-wheel-drive model, pushing its total cost to more than $63,000, a price that partly reflects the relentless demand for crossovers in general.
Introduced two years ago, the L – which adds $3,000 to the RX’s price -- doesn’t do much for back-seat leg-room, but does add 7 cubic feet of cargo space.
To Lexi’s credit, the slightly stretched RX doesn’t look much different than the regular version. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s reason for celebration.
Long, fairly sleek headlamps nestle next to the cow-catcher grille and above large fake air-inlets, wrapping back into fenders flashing short overhangs.
A raised hood sits atop the thick body, which features sides as flat as sheets of plywood and carved pretty heavily by a slightly wavy character line above the door-handles and a second swooper down low.
Meanwhile, the wheel-openings were square with definition lines above them, housing 20-inch “superchrome” turbine wheels with 235/55 tires.
It all sort of made me a bit dizzy.
But beauty in the RX – or whatever – is only skin-deep, meaning the good stuff lurks out of sight beneath the exaggerated hood and body.
Powered adequately by Lexus’ ubiquitous 3.5-liter V-6 – this one tuned to 295 horsepower – the RX also featured a refined 8-speed automatic transmission.
With more than 4,600 pounds to lug, it won’t ever be mistaken for one of Porsche’s wild-eyed, asphalt-eating sports-crossovers, but that’s probably just fine with most RX buyers.
Smooth and torquey, the engine felt pretty lively around town, jumping to 40 mph with ease and accelerating to 60 in a reasonable 7.3 seconds.
Although it flattens out and strains a little at higher speeds, the six is still good for overall fuel-economy of 21 miles per gallon, which is reasonable in a seven-passenger vehicle.
The refined powertrain in the RX combines with an exceptionally smooth ride to impart a feel of luxury in the big wagon, despite it being all-wheel-drive.
As you might expect, the 67-inch tall RX leans some in corners, but its smartly tuned dampers do a pretty nice job of keeping things under control.
2020 Lexus RX350L Technology/Video: Lexus
Likewise, the black interior in the RX compensates well for the vehicle’s polarizing exterior, offering a flat, two-tier dashboard upon entry that reinforces the sense of luxury.
That theme was maintained throughout the $64,000 vehicle, with a tablet-shaped, 12.3-inch touchscreen rising gracefully from the mid-dash.
As you would expect in any modern high-end vehicle, the RX provided all sorts of safety devices, including lane-tracking, road-sign assist, a pre-collision system, pedestrian detection and active cruise-control.
But I was most impressed by the simple buttons and knobs used to control the audio and climate systems. (Once a gomer, always a gomer, I suppose.)
Just about as pleasing was the RX’s conventional shifter for its automatic transmission, a clear contrast to the electronic units on some European vehicles that require all sorts of fussing and cussing just to find “reverse.”
A broad console stitched in black matched door panels with padded centers and armrests, while the front buckets sported smooth black bolsters with perforated centers.
Comfortable captain’s-chair bucket seats in back opened a small lane to the third-row bench seat, a cramped place likely to be viewed as a penalty box by anyone over five feet tall.
Among the options on my well-equipped RX were a luxury package with heated and ventilated front and rear seats, a sliding moonroof and the 20-inch wheels ($1,865); triple-beam LED headlamps, as well as LED turn-signals and fog-lamps ($1,775); and a 12.3-inch navigation system and Mark Levinson audio system ($3,365).
And, hey, if character, quality and content are far more important to you than looks – except maybe in your girlfriend/boyfriend – the hard-edged RX is easy to live with.
Buy something Italian if you need a challenge.
2020 Lexus RX350L Luxury
- What I liked most: The quality, practicality and user-friendliness of the RX.
- What I would change: The entire container that all the good stuff came in.
- MSRP: Base price, $54,700; as equipped, $63,505.
- Official color: Atomic Silver.
- Fuel economy: 18 miles per gallon in the city, 25 on the highway and 21 mpg overall with fuel filler on the left.
- Odometer reading when tested: 5,749 miles.
- Spare tire: Temporary compact.
- Weight: Estimated 4,650 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 196.9 inches long/74.6 inches wide/67.3 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 19.2 gallons.
- Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds.
- 2020 Lexus RX350L in a few words: A vehicle that quietly rises above its loud, jumbled exterior – thankfully.
- Warranty: Four-year, 50,000-mile basic coverage and six-year, 70,000-mile powertrain protection.
- Final assembly location: Miyawaka Fukuoka, Japan
- Manufacturer’s website: www.toyota.com
- E-mail me at email@example.com
- Up next: 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4Matic Coupe