Year after year, the best-selling luxury vehicle in America isn't a BMW 3 Series or a C-Class. It's the Lexus RX line, so we borrowed one for a week to find out what keeps these rigs flying off of lots.
It impressed us with it's quiet ride, superb interior and value proposition. We were going to recommend it, but during our testing it broke. Twice.
Here's what went down.
If the goal was to find out why crossovers sell themselves, I considered that accomplished within about five minutes of the RX 350's arrival at my house. The Lexus makes a fantastic first impression.
The death-robot styling language Lexus introduced years ago has finally hit its stride with the newest generation of vehicles. It's working wonders on the RX, where the sharply-creased, angular lines make the car appear less tall and more compact than it actually is.
Step inside, though, and it's anything but small. The RX feels positively gargantuan with room for four adults and their luggage. Five can come aboard for short journeys, but it won't be an overly-pleasant experience.
Brushed aluminum flows around the edge of the center control stack and angles it towards the driver, as wood or whatever trim you selected rises to meet the metal at its base. An angled, massive infotainment screen rises out of the dash alone but looks like a continuation of the control stack below. Everywhere you look, leather, metal and wood are interacting in unique and compelling ways. It's cohesive, it's high-quality and it's brilliant.
Though this model rung in at a steep total of $58,760, there isn't one aspect of this car that doesn't feel expensive and brilliantly made.
The aura of luxuriousness doesn't fade when the RX fires into life, as the 3.5-liter V6 is barely audible. It has a 295 horsepower engine which doesn't provide enough power to get excited about, though you'll be able to merge onto highways comfortably.
I've never had a car actually break in a way that severely hindered usability until this Lexus.
The RX decided, on the first day of its stay with me, that it was no longer interested in the business of unlocking its front door. I assumed that the door was frozen because it had dropped below 0 degrees that night. But despite the frigid weather , it seemed to be only affecting the driver's door and didn't cure when the car was warmed up.
The next day I climbed over the passenger seat to drive the car in for service, where Lexus fixed it overnight. This would have costed $604 with labor, had the vehicle been out of warranty.
Two days later, the same door lock had broken again. Obviously, there was an unknown or improperly addressed root issue causing these concerns. A car this expensive and less than a year old shouldn't break. The fact that it broke twice shows there was a worse, unaddressed issue causing problems.
Other low points include the infotainment system, which uses Lexus' confusing and ineffective Remote Touch interface.
The RX I drove also had some high-efficiency, low-rolling-resistance tires. The result was a massive all-wheel-drive SUV that was being passed on side streets by clapped-out Civics because the rubber on the tires refused to grip. It's also worth noting that the low-grip, fuel-saver tires come on the sport trim, limiting what little handling prowess the big SUV could claim.
I think the F Sport package as a whole is a miss.
We were disappointed by the quality lapse so atypical of Lexus, and can't recommended a product that failed in its core mission of dependably moving people around.
That doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't get one, but dig around into other customer and expert experiences before pulling the trigger.
Exterior: 3.5 stars
Interior: 5 stars
Driving Experience: 4 stars
Value: 4.5 stars
Overall: 4 stars
Price as configured: $58,760,