Lexus RX350L

Upmarket seven-seater finds space at a premium

TONY OíKANE

PLUS & MINUS

No more cumbersome than the five-seater; decent performance; ride Tight third row; no four-cylinder or F-Sport options; lax body control

TALK about subtle. Unless you see them side-by-side, youíll have trouble picking apart the newly arrived Lexus RX L from the five-seat RX thatís been on sale here since 2015.

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

Lexus says all the sheetmetal behind the seven-seat RX Lís B-pillar is unique, but youíll need to squint to tell. Both variants share the same wheelbases, with the RX L getting another 110mm grafted on aft of the rear axle. The only real hint that something is different is the chrome trim above the Lís rear quarter window Ė it arches the opposite way to the regular RXís. Oh, and the tailgate glass is a few degrees steeper.

So Lexus has adeptly camouflaged the new variantís bigger butt, yet doing so fails to gloss over a number of compromises from a packaging point of view. Yes, we know those two fold-out third row seats are only intended to be used occasionally, but even Lexus admits that anyone over 160cm will feel cramped back there, and the high beltline means theyíll also struggle to look out through that thin triangular quarter window as well.

Are your kids claustrophobic? No? Banishing them to the RX Lís third row might change that. At least Lexus has provided thirdrow occupants with their own climate control console and dedicated air vents.

But itís not just those in the rearmost seats that will struggle to get comfy. The second row has to be slid forward a fair way to liberate enough footroom for those behind, which dramatically cuts second-row knee room unless the front seats are also inched forward. The RX L is, in effect, a 5+2, rather than a true seven-seater.

The power-adjustable second-row seats of the regular RX have also been replaced by a manually adjusted bench to facilitate access to the second row.

Itís not all bad news, though. Thereís still ample luggage space even with the third row raised, and those seats are deployed electrically so you donít need to wrestle with straps or levers. The front seats are spacious and comfortable, and the ride is plush even on standard 20-inch alloys.

The 3.5-litre V6 that powers the RX350L is showing its age, however, and while the extra 110kg mass of the seven-seater is barely felt in around-town motoring, the RX remains one of the less dynamic offerings in its segment. Last year one in five luxury SUVs sold in Australia had seven seats, so the arrival of the RX L is clearly needed in the Lexus line-up. Unfortunately, those searching for a triple-row family hauler in this segment can find many more accommodating alternatives.

TONY OíKANE

Family compromises

There are a few other drawbacks that come with the addition of a third row; namely a drop of 5kW and 12Nm from the 3.5-litre V6ís output (thanks to the adoption of single rather than dual exhaust plumbing), plus the loss of the panoramic glass roof thatís standard on high-spec fiveseat RXs (itís substituted with a much smaller pane above the front seats). If you want Lexusí tractable and refined 2.0-litre turbo petrol four or the more visually exciting F Sport trim, youíre out of luck: in Australia, theyíre only available in five-seat guise.