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2020 Lexus RX 350: An eye-popping wardrobe conceals this crossover’s focus on comfort

2020 Lexus RX 350: An eye-popping wardrobe conceals this crossover’s focus on comfort

Among the 2020 RX 350’s improvements are styling enhancements and upgrades in its infotainment interface.

Among the 2020 RX 350’s improvements are styling enhancements and upgrades in its infotainment interface. Photo provided by Lexus

The act of driving a Lexus RX 350 F Sport is analogous to an aging hippy wearing his comfy old rock-band T-shirt: the appearance is hip, but the reason is comfort.

Boasting a mild facelift for 2020, the RX 350 is, indeed, one snappy dresser. Exterior changes include an updated -- and improved, in our view -- version of the Lexus spindle grille, flanks with more character lines than the mug of a mature matinee idol, and an aft end whose sloping back light is faster than this crossover’s zero-to-60 run. In severe profile, RX 350 shows both front and rear extremities that look sharp enough to cut steak.

It strikes quite a pose. That sporty appearance, however, writes a check this luxury crossover’s greasy stuff can’t cash -- which, really, is not a problem. Driving enthusiasts might find RX 350 a bit tame, but Lexus fans, who expect a Lexus to feel like a Lexus, will be delighted.

The RX 350 can be had in one of three trims: base, F Sport and F Sport Performance. Each can be had with front- or all-wheel drive, and all are powered by a carried-over, 3.5-liter, 295-hp V-6 that mates exclusively to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The F Sport versions take the aforementioned styling pizzazz a tad farther while adding a sport-tuned suspension, sport front buckets and unique interior trim; F Sport Performance ups the ante with adaptive suspension dampers and uniquely tuned steering.

We drove an all-wheel drive Performance, which we found -- despite the mechanical massaging -- every bit the Lexus it is: marvelously civilized, comfortably composed and dependably serene.

Acceleration, at about 8 seconds to 60 mph, is nothing more than segment-average with driving modes including Eco, Sport, Sport Plus, Normal and Custom. Notable is a locking function for the center differential in RX’s AWD system -- in this instance, “all-weather drive.” This is no off-roader.

Fuel economy is good. In just over 100 miles of mixed city/hwy motoring, we realized 22 mpg, just as the EPA anticipated.

Photo provided by Lexus

Photo provided by Lexus

Inside, trim in our F Sport Performance was appropriately sporty, with nicely bolstered front buckets, a striated-aluminum look on doors and center console, satin metal accents, and a two-tone leather interior ambience.

Room up front is great, while room in back is better than you have a right to expect. A tall passenger can sit behind a tall driver without drama, even under the panoramic sunroof we enjoyed.

Cargo room, generous at up to 53.6 cu. ft., is flexible with a rear seat back that’s 40/20/40-split for maximum folding options, although the seats-folded cargo floor is not completely flat.

We developed a love/hate relationship with the infotainment stuff, which boasts a base 8-inch screen or the optional 12.3-inch display we had.

The loved features include volume and tuning knobs for the radio; an appreciated old-school feature in the form of a CD player(!); must-have new-school features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility -- a first for RX; and (finally) a display with touch-screen capability, although that screen is a long reach from the driver’s seat. Which brings us to the system’s downside -- the easily reachable finger-slide pad controller on the floor console, whose finicky response and vexing use is enough to torque off your anger-management counselor.

But the system, overall, is improved for 2020, which only adds to this luxury crossover’s core appeals of opulence, comfort and quiet.

Finally, for the record, RX also is available in hybrid form as the RX 450h, and both the RX 350 and RX 450h mod- els can be had in stretched-wheelbase, three-row “L” versions.

This content was produced by Brand Ave. Studios. The news and editorial departments of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had no role in its creation or display. For more information about Brand Ave. Studios, contact
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Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer. He is a regular contributor for Brand Ave. Studios and to AAA Midwest Traveler magazine's online Web Bonus.

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