Three-row crossovers have quickly become the family vehicle, easily replacing minivans, wagons and large sedans. While Acura and Infiniti have offered three-row crossovers for years, Lexus has been a little late to the party. Last year Lexus finally introduced its first three-row crossover, but instead of introducing an all-new model, Lexus decided to simply stretch the popular RX.
To make room for the coveted third row seat, Lexus stretched the RX by 4.3-inches, but all that extra length has been added behind the rear wheels, since the RX 350L has the same wheelbase as the standard RX 350. To make sure there’s enough headroom in the third row seat, Lexus also redesigned the tailgate.
And that’s it, the rest of the RX 350L is identical to the two-row RX, including its 3.5L V6 with 290 horsepower. The front-wheel drive RX 350L is rated at 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, all-wheel drive lowers those specs to 18/25 mpg. If you want a hybrid, Lexus also offers the RX 450hL hybrid with its 3.5L V6 and two electric motors that generate a combined 308 horsepower. The RX 450L is rated at 28 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
Is it enough to woo buyers that need more than five seats?
Well naturally you would probably say yes, but once you compare the RX 350L and RX 450L to its main rival, the Acura MDX, you’ll see some big differences. At 196.9 inches long, the RX 350L is actually just a tad longer than the MDX, which measures 196.2-inches long. But the MDX has a longer wheelbase 111-inches compared to 109.8 inches. That may not seem like much of a difference, but once you get inside you’ll see what’s missing. The RX 350L only has 23.5-inches of legroom in the third row compared to 28.1-inches in the MDX. The MDX also has more legroom in the second row 36.6-inches compared to 30.9-inches.
While there isn’t much room for your legs in the second or third row, the RX 350L’s headroom also fails to surpass the MDX. In the third row seat, the RX 350L has 34.8-inches of headroom compared to 35.6-inches in the MDX.
Ok what about cargo volume? The RX 350L actually has more cargo space behind the third row than the MDX, 16.3 cubic feet compared to 15 cubic feet.
So would we ever subject any of our friends our family to that third row in the RX 350L? No. It’s not only a pain to get in the back seat, but once you get back there good luck sitting back there for longer than 5 minutes. During our week with the RX 350L we actually just kept the third row folded and used the extra space to carry our stuff. So while the RX 350L does offer a third row, think of it as more of a last minute need when you’re out and about and decide that you need to transport more than five passengers, instead of an every day occurrence.
Besides the lack of space in the third row, the RX 350L is just as comfortable and capable as the standard RX 350. It’s interior is quiet and the 290 horses under the hood are more than enough power to keep it moving down the road. Passengers in the front and second row seats will find the RX 350L to be a comfortable cruiser, but again we just wish that the third row as a little bit bigger. Around town the suspension soaks up bumps with ease, but don’t expect a sporty driving experience, since once the road gets twisty there’s too much body roll and not enough feedback from the steering to make it fun.
While the RX 350L does have a massive 12.3-inch display, it still doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay and using its mouse-like controller to operate it is just frustrating. Luckily Lexus has started adding Apple CarPlay to its vehicles, so the RX should hopefully get it soon, but that annoying controller probably isn’t going away anytime soon.
Even though Lexus was one of the first luxury automakers to release a crossover, it is very late to the three-row crossover segment. While some Lexus buyers may be happy that Lexus finally added a three row version of the RX, since it wasn’t part of the original plan with this generation, there are some obvious compromises.
The 2019 Lexus RX 350L starts at $47,770, which is $4,200 more than the RX 350.