2021 Lexus RX

By January 6, 2021

The 2021 Lexus RX returns this year as the brand’s mainstay crossover SUV. More than twenty years after its introduction, the quiet, refined RX remains the one to beat.

Lexus’ 2021 RX adds a little more value by making blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts and power-folding side mirrors standard. Wireless smartphone charging is newly optional.

Most RX models will wear the 350 moniker, which designates the standard 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard but all-wheel drive is on the menu. An 8-speed automatic handles gearchanges.

The 450h hybrid model keeps the 350’s V-6 but adds a pair of electric motors that get juiced by a small battery. Total combined output is 308 horsepower, which gets sent through a CVT. The rear wheels are driven exclusively by the electric motors, making every 450h all-wheel drive.

All the wizardry of the hybrid results in fuel economy of 31 mpg city, 28 highway, 30 combined. The RX 350 carries an EPA rating of 20/28/23 mpg for front-wheel-drive models and 19/26/22 mpg for all-wheel-drive models.

Aside from the choice of powertrains, the RX also gives buyers a choice of wheelbase. The standard length model sticks with two rows, while the long-wheelbase variant makes room for a small third-row seat. Both powertrains are offered with both lengths.

Newly standard blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alert join a list of safety equipment that includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and active lane control. The lIHS found the RX to meet their standards for a Top Safety Pick award, but the NHTSA only gave it a four-star overall rating.

Model Lineup

The most affordable RX is the $46,095 base model. It gets the 3.5-liter V-6, front-wheel drive, 18-inch wheels and LED lighting. Interior features include synthetic leather upholstery, 10-way power front seats, dual-zone climate control, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The F-Sport model starts at $48,575 and gets unique interior trim, more aggressive exterior styling, and a host of suspension tweaks that includes adaptive dampers. Other touches include 20-inch wheels, paddle shifters, and unique instrumentation.

Both trims are also available in hybrid form; the standard hybrid costs $48,745, while the F Sport hybrid begins at $52,225.

All-wheel drive is a $1,400 option on all models. The long-wheelbase version—not available with the F Sport—comes similarly equipped to its comparable standard-length model and adds about $2,900 to the bottom line.

Exterior

Lexus used to be as subtly styled as anything else, but lately the brand has leaned more towards the bold and unconventional. Outside the flagship LC coupe, the RX is perhaps the best poster child of this rebellious design language. The front end is defined by the massive hourglass grille, itself flanked by wide front air dams and canted slit headlights. The look is a busy one.

The back of the RX isn’t nearly so polarizing. The taillights recall the past generations of RX and the dual exhaust cutouts are a subtle nod to the nearly 300 horsepower under the hood. Faint character lines are enough to emphasize the width of the RX without being overpowering. It is a strong contrast to the bold and striking front end.

Interior

Lexus has stylized their interiors with a Japanese flair that distinguishes their products from the largely Germanic competition. The center stack leans in towards the driver just enough to improve ergonomics while driving; the gearshift also cants left. Some attractive layering atop the dash adds some kick to a usually monotonous surface. As is the norm for Lexus, material and build quality is superb.

Last year Lexus updated the infotainment system to add a touchscreen; it also moved the dashtop-mounted screen closer to the driver. Both are welcome updates. Usability while driving is much improved with the updated system.

Even the base seats with their synthetic leather upholstery are supremely comfortable, and things only get better up the trim ladder. The F Sport model gets extra bolstering and can be done up in red leather for extra spice.

The back seat is no less comfortable than the front. Standard-wheelbase models use a rear bench that can be adjusted fore and aft; models with the third row also offer captain’s chairs. Both wheelbases benefit from 38 inches of leg room in the second row.

Cargo space isn’t quite as spacious as some mid-size crossovers: there is just 7.5 cubic feet behind the third row, 23 cubic feet behind the second row, and a total of 58 cubic feet with the back two rows folded down.

Driving Impressions

The RX might have unconventional design, but it drives as expected: silent, coddling, refined. Handling is fine, but the real treat is the ride quality: even the worst roads won’t leave passengers with a hair out of place. Serenity is king here.

The 3.5 liter V-6 that comes with most models generates 297 hp, and 0-60 mph happens in a reasonable 7.9 seconds; that figure keeps in step with the calm, unhurried aura of the RX. And even gunning for the upper register of the speedometer hardly unruffles this stoic Lexus, as its power delivery is polished-stone smooth.

The hybrid model doesn’t trade off any of these trademark Lexus qualities. It retains the quiet, reserved nature of the RX, only mixing in the additional efficiency.

The RX 350 F Sport trends in a different direction, promoting speed and performance by way of sportier trim and an upgraded suspension. The massaged chassis drives a bit sharper, but the standard model should more than suffice for most buyers.

Final Word

The 2021 Lexus RX is as able as its predecessors and just as enticing. If we were to get one, it would be the two-row hybrid model.

 

—by Anthony Sophinos, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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