Cars

Looking for a Family Crossover? Give the Lexus RX 350L a Long, Hard Look

We drive the 2020 Lexus RX 350L in Singapore.
IMAGE ERIC TIPAN
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Road trip with kids are the best. The zoo, resorts, and parks are staples on the itinerary and that’s just for starters. The more the merrier as they say.

Driving up and down the streets of Singapore makes it even better because their idea of traffic is what EDSA looks like on a weekday at 4:30 a.m.

All is good if you’re talking about just one family, but when you’re visiting, there are nephews and nieces who add to the headcount, and seven people won’t fit in any sedan.

I remember Lexus launching a larger version of the RX a couple of months ago so I DM’ed former Toyota Motor Philippines marketing executive Jade Sison, who’s now with Lexus Asia Pacific, for the hookup with the Lexus Boutique in Singapore for a test drive of the latest iteration of the RX crossover, the 2020 Lexus RX 350L.

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Photo by ERIC TIPAN.
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Looks good, feels good

It doesn’t look like a seven-seater at first glance but even sans the badge, it is quite obviously a Lexus.

From its sharp façade and the exquisite spindle grille all the way to its fastback-like C-pillar, this crossover simply oozes with style.

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It looks better under the intense heat of the Singapore sun. That sheen from the pearl white body and the play of light and shadow on the body surface, glass and even the corners of the pinched metal is some kind of amazing.

Like cut gemstones, it's Bi-LED triple ‘L’ headlamps (with auto levelling and LED daytime running lamps) shine through a jagged trapezoidal border as it frames what US buyers voted for as the 2nd most appealing feature of a Lexus, the spindle grille.

You know the ellipsis “if looks could kill?” Well, if traffic was the victim, its chalk outline would be in several different places—cut to pieces by the piercing look of the RX.

And it’s not just the lines either. Its whole surface toys around with the whole idea, creating texture that’s never been seen before in a mass production crossover.

There’s no wood in the cabin and it somehow feels right. It makes it less formal, more frivolous even, but with enough elements of luxury and sportiness to keep up with the Lexus philosophy.

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Photo by ERIC TIPAN.

Photo by ERIC TIPAN.
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Despite the compact size, the interior still feels quite inviting, especially with the almost all-leather interior, rich tan on the seats and matte black on the dashboard and steering wheel.

Gold metallic accents are a nice touch. It complements the overall color scheme and is soft on the eyes on bright sunny days, which is a good contrast to the gleam of the exterior.

The steering wheel feels great to grip because of the added thickness from the leather. Oddly enough, it pairs very well visually with the chunky horn button. Audio controls can be found on the left stalk while controls for the multi-information display (in the instrument panel) and various other safety features are on the right.

In the middle of the dashboard, angled to face the driver like in a jet fighter cockpit, is a 12.3-inch touchscreen with a GPS navigation system that sends sound to the Lexus Premium Audio System with 12 speakers. It has six USB ports and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto but the latter and former only activates when your device is plugged to the port inside the center console.

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To control the large monitor, Lexus has upgraded this unit with the new Remote Touch Interface, replacing the Remote Touch Controller. It’s like using a laptop trackpad, but larger and with more haptic feedback.

To accommodate the third row, 4.3 inches were added to the overall length without extending the wheelbase, which translates to more seats without considerable real estate. That means it can only fit children comfortably if the adjustable second row is occupied and pushed all the way back.

If you’re fitting seven adults in the vehicle, the second row can be shifted forward, sacrificing some legroom in the middle to free up some in the back.

You have to realize that this is a crossover so concessions have to be made. Otherwise, you can opt for the bigger and beefier GX or LX.

For more cargo space, simply use the electronic controls found on the side panel of the third row to fold the seats completely flat. Just remember to put the seats either fully flat or in all-the-way seat position. Anything in between and a faint beeping sound will go off, which means the seat isn’t properly set yet.

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While it may not be as lavish as say, an LS, the interior is finely manicured, looks good, feels good and even comes with Lexus’ patented analog clock right in between the middle vents.

Photo by ERIC TIPAN.

Snappy drive

Under the hood is a 3.5L engine that sends 289 HP and 358 Nm of torque to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

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On Eco Mode, it feels sluggish – the way you do on a Monday morning slogging on the highway – and throttle feedback is retarded in favor of fuel economy. Normal feels a tad more alive, responsive and engaging but still feels wanting. To truly get the most out of the V6, switch it on Sport. Its steering and acceleration reaction is ultra-snappy this mode and the exhaust notes are higher, which adds excitement and that ‘fun to drive’ element.

Because it is compact and the steering light, it’s a pleasure to handle in the city and easy to maneuver around the sharp turns in small streets and tight parking garages. Right-hand driving took a little getting used to but it handled exceptionally well on the long, fast bends of the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE).

Ride comfort was very good. Even with 20-inch bronze wheels and size 55 tires, there was hardly any noise, vibration and harshness that crept up. Granted that Singapore’s roads overall are finer, I did find a few that mimic ours and there was barely any discomfort of any form felt in the cabin.

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For protection and peace of mind, it already comes with Lexus’ Safety System+ (Pre-Collision System, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Lane Departure Alert), 10 SRS airbags, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Hill Start Assist, Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Active Cornering Assist, Rear View Camera, an 8-sensor parking assist system, and a tire pressure warning system.

I know that’s a lot of auto mumbo-jumbo for a regular person but to get the gist of the terms, take the names literally as each word means what it actually implies.

Our group of seven went to a water park called Wild, Wild Wet in Pasir Ris with bags for change of clothes no problem and even easily loaded a large-sized luggage and some shopping items after a trip to Changi City point.

Photo by ERIC TIPAN.
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It’s big enough for the family (even with luggage), high ground clearance so it doesn’t sag even with a heavy load, comes with a whole suite of safety features, has a powerful V6 engine, great looking, and did I mention that I returned 9.3 kilometers per liter during my six days with it?

The only thing you’d ask for is for it to be priced like it is in the Philippines. Because of the COE (Certificate of Entitlement) in Singapore, it costs S$292,800 (roughly P10 million and change). In the Philippines, this baby is only P4.758 million.

Wow, right?!

If you’re eyeing a luxury level SUV on your next upgrade, and want the perfect family crossover, do yourself a favor and give the 2020 Lexus RX 350L a long, hard look.

In the Philippines, drop by Lexus Manila in Bonifacio Global City or if work puts you in the Little Red Dot, check out the Lexus Boutique at 33 Leng Kee Rd, Singapore 159102.

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Eric Tipan
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