The Lexus RX and RXL receive a number of updates, many of them on the tech front for 2020.
Performance and driving enthusiasts will appreciate the addition of two new F SPORT packages.
The 2020 Lexus RX and RXL (fancy SUVs to you and me) get a thorough revamp for the new year. You can’t really say it’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Lexus has redone this luxo-crossover across the board and the improvements are noticeable. The best way to distinguish between the two is how the RXL is a little longer and – most important if you have a large family – comes with a third row of seats.
Other than that, they are quite similar in terms of form, function, safety, and technology.
Styling & Design (Maybe Slightly Overboard)
For 2020, the front and rear fascias are updated to bring the RX and RXL in-line with the rest of the brand’s look. Both have Lexus’ signature grille, and lots of “individual blocks” strewn across the overall form to give a balance of sophistication and strength and blah-blah-blah. Lexus goes on and on about this, but it doesn’t really matter much to me. Lexus has been off in their own design direction for a while now, and I worry they might never come back.
But let’s not talk too much about subjective things like styling, shall we. The meat of the RX and RXL is more than a strong enough selling point.
Yakety Yak (It Will Probably Talk Back)
Take all of the on-board tech, for example. Standard on all models are the latest smartphone integrations and their respective virtual assistants. The standard eight-inch touchscreen is for messing with everything tech-related, like the Lexus Enform Remote system (you get a three-year trial period). This remotely starts the vehicle using your smartphone, handy to have when it gets cold.
There are six USB ports throughout the RX and RXL, so everybody’s devices stay charged. Of course both are fully compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The newest Lexuses (Lexi?) also have voice services like Amazon Alexa, so you can just yack at the Lexus Multimedia System, and it’ll start playing your favorite road trip playlist or start navigating you home.
Passengers (Lexus insists on calling them “Guests” which is kind of annoying) can choose between the standard eight-inch display, or an available 12.3-inch high-resolution, split-screen multimedia display. Going further yet is Dynamic Voice Command, which Lexus says recognizes “millions more phrases” than their conventional systems.
Safety? Of course a vehicle of this stripe will have enough safety stuff to make Ned Flanders sleep like a baby. There’s Lexus Enform Safety Connect and Enform Service Connect along with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 as standard equipment. This gives you stuff like daytime bicyclist detection, low-light pedestrian detection, Road Sign Assist, and Lane Tracing Assist. The Pre-Collision System can detect bicyclists and pedestrians in low-light situations.
Lane Tracing Assist also works in conjunction with the All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and, in certain conditions, follows the car ahead of you. The Road Sign Assist gizmo displays road sign information in the instrument panel, which I don’t really see the efficacy of.
The 2020 Lexus crossovers get several updates to improve driving dynamics. The front and rear stabilizer bars are thicker, yet hollow to cut weight. They have reinforced bushings to reduce body roll and improve steering response. The shocks are re-tuned (natch) and feature a new friction control device to manage “high frequency vibrations,” meaning the RX and RXL should provide a smoother ride. The stiffer suspension reduces the overall noise and vibration from the road, Lexus says. And finally, active corner braking prevents understeer by clamping down on the inner tire.
If you want your RX or RXL with a hybrid drivetrain, that’s on offer as well. These are either the RX 450h or RX 450hL and serve up a combined 308 total system horsepower. For fuel economy, Lexus estimates 30 and 29 combined for the RX and RXL respectively. The ICE part of the hybrid system is a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline mill with two high-torque, electric drive motor/generators in the mix. The all-weather drive system employs a trick second independent electric motor to push the rear wheels when needed for optimal traction.
If you’d like things a little more athletic and sporty than eco-conscious, the 2020 Lexus RX offers two F SPORT packages. The regular F SPORT package offers “the look” with additional tuning for a more muscular feel on the road. It includes a cold air intake (very Fast & Furious), active sound control, electric power steering, and a heated steering wheel. There are front and rear “performance dampers” and a Drive Mode Select system with Sport+ (very, very Fast & Furious).
By comparison, the RX F SPORT package includes an active variable suspension, which Lexus says is more responsive than prior systems. That active variable suspension is also borrowed from the mighty Lexus LC. Oh, and the RX F SPORT has Circuit Red seating with grey stitching on the seams.
No word yet on what the 2020 F SPORT packages will return for fuel economy. The current Lexus RX 350 F SPORT gets an EPA-estimated 19/26 city/highway and 22 combined mpg.
Pricing & Availability
The 2020 Lexus RX and RXL will start production in the third quarter of 2019. Pricing information is forthcoming. The current Lexus RX 350 starts at $43,820 with front-wheel drive; $45,220 with all-wheel drive. The current three-row RX 350L starts at $47,870 with front-wheel drive and $49,270 with all-wheel drive.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.