What's New for 2013
The Lexus RX 350 gets revised styling for 2013 that brings it in line with the brand's new design direction. The interior receives a few design and functionality enhancements as well, while the standard equipment list expands to include a power liftgate and iPod/USB audio interface. A new F Sport package gets special styling cues, a sport-tuned suspension and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Pioneering products often fall out of favor and get pushed aside as newer, improved or more innovative things come onto the scene. The Lexus RX was a pioneer at one point, introducing the world to the luxury car-based SUV. Eventually, this type of vehicle would be dubbed "crossover" as more entries flooded the market. Yet despite this torrent of competition over the years, today's 2013 Lexus RX 350 definitely hasn't been pushed aside, as it remains the best-selling luxury crossover.
A reputation for reliability and a devoted customer base certainly helps in this regard, but the RX 350 still feels suitably new, improved and innovative. This competitiveness is certainly attributable to the fact that the RX is only two years removed from a complete overhaul. Comfortably seating five passengers, the RX boasts a high-class interior, an impressively smooth ride and a pleasing array of standard features.
The RX also packs the latest high-tech features you can use without leaving you feeling as if you need to keep a 13-year-old on standby to explain how everything works. The navigation system, for example, features the Lexus Remote Touch interface that utilizes a mouselike controller with tactile feedback. It's been updated for 2013 for improved functionality and control, and although it still requires one to pay a fair amount of attention to the screen, it's still pretty easy to use. For those who can stand toe-to-toe with that 13-year-old, the Lexus Enform suite of apps ties the car into Internet-based services like Pandora, iHeart Radio, Open Table or MovieTickets.com.
In addition to the Remote Touch updates, the 2013 RX gets subtle styling tweaks that add a little more visual flair to its face and a new F Sport model that features an eight-speed automatic transmission and a sport-tuned suspension. However, its ride is unpleasantly firm and there is no dynamic improvement -- in fact, our track testing showed its handling, braking and acceleration to be worse than the regular RX. We would avoid it.
F Sport aside, we recommend the 2013 Lexus RX 350. However, that doesn't make it an automatic choice. The new Infiniti JX35 is generously sized, providing an adult-friendly third-row seat. The Acura MDX may not be quite as spacious, but it still seats an additional two passengers, is more involving to drive and matches the RX 350's reputation for reliability. If you don't need quite as much space as the JX and MDX provide, the Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK and Volvo XC60 are all excellent smaller luxury crossovers. But overall the RX 350 continues to maintain its top-tier status, even if it's no longer a pioneer.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Lexus RX 350 seats five people and is available in a single trim level. The hybrid RX 450h is covered in a separate review.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, foglamps, LED running lamps, rear privacy glass, heated mirrors, a power liftgate, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats with two-way adjustable lumbar, a leather-wrapped power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a sliding and reclining rear seat, cloth upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Safety Connect emergency communications, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a nine-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The Display Audio With Back-up Monitor package adds a rearview camera, a larger central display screen, Bluetooth phonebook download capabilities, the Lexus Remote Touch electronics interface, the Enform suite of app-based features, real-time traffic and other information, and a 12-speaker sound system with HD radio and iTunes song tagging.
The Premium package adds a sunroof, power-folding mirrors, roof rails, a rearview camera, leather upholstery and driver memory functions.
If that's not enough stuff, the Comfort or Navigation packages can be added to the Premium package. Comfort adds automatic wipers, xenon headlamps and heated and ventilated front seats (available separately). Navigation adds the Display Audio with Back-up Monitor contents plus a navigation system and voice controls.
The Luxury package requires the Premium, Comfort and Navigation packages. To them it adds 19-inch wheels, LED headlamps (available separately), 10-way power front seats, a heated wood/leather steering wheel, upgraded leather upholstery and a smog-sensing auto climate control recirculation.
The F Sport package adds to all-wheel-drive models 19-inch wheels, an eight-speed automatic transmission, a sport-tuned suspension, special exterior styling elements, special white-accented interior trim and perforated leather upholstery. The wheels and special styling can be added to front-drive models with the Sport package.
The Navigation and Luxury packages can be enhanced with a head-up display, a dual-screen rear entertainment system and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system. Other stand-alone options include an automatic parallel parking system and adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision warning system (requires all-wheel drive).
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Lexus RX 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, and all-wheel drive is optional. The F Sport package requires all-wheel drive and includes an eight-speed automatic.
In Edmunds performance testing, a front-wheel-drive RX 350 went from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, which is average for the class. The F Sport was actually a little slower.
EPA-estimated fuel economy with the six-speed automatic is 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 18/24/20 with all-wheel drive. Lexus-estimated fuel economy is 18/26/21 for the F Sport.
Every 2013 Lexus RX 350 comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags, front knee airbags and the Safety Connect emergency communications system that includes automatic collision notification, an emergency assist button and stolen vehicle location services. The optional adaptive cruise control system includes a pre-collision warning system.
In Edmunds brake testing, an RX 350 came to a stop from 60 mph in an excellent 114 feet, which is 10 feet shorter than average. Curiously, the supposedly sportier F Sport came to a stop in a disappointing 131 feet.
In government crash testing, the RX 350 received four out of five stars for overall protection, with four stars for frontal-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the RX 350 the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Upscale appointments, exceptional cabin materials and cutting-edge tech features make the 2013 Lexus RX 350 look and feel suitably expensive for its price. Authentic wood trim and high-quality leather lend an air of opulence, and the optional Mark Levinson audio is one of the best sound systems on the market.
The controls are more complicated than past Lexus products, but then there are now more features that need controlling. When you opt for the Display Audio or Navigation packages, you get the Lexus Remote Touch system, which is essentially a mouselike device that allows the user to move among a variety of icons on a large, centrally located screen. It's a nifty technological achievement, but in practice, we've found it can draw too much attention away from the road. Some people love it, while others hate it -- we recommend playing around with it before you take an RX 350 home.
The front seats could use some extra adjustment range and thigh support, and lateral support is lacking. However, rear passengers will find the seating roomy and comfortable thanks to reclining and sliding adjustments. There's also ample luggage and cargo space, with as much as 40 cubic feet behind the 40/20/40-split-folding rear seats and 80 cubes with them stowed. There is no third-row seat, however, so those who have an occasional need to schlep the neighbors' kids around should consider an Acura MDX or Infiniti JX35.
When it comes to ride quality, the 2013 Lexus RX 350 doesn't disappoint. The compliant suspension and plentiful sound insulation isolate passengers from the outside world in a silent bubble of luxury. The 3.5-liter V6 is notably quiet, but it's also powerful enough to swiftly accelerate this crossover with ease. The softly sprung suspension never feels floaty, while the steering provides more weighting and response than past RX models. Still, those seeking a more engaging driving experience should consider the Acura MDX or Audi Q5. We don't recommend the RX 350 F Sport, as it suffers from an overly firm and poorly damped ride, with no appreciable increase in driving feedback or involvement. Worse still, its handling and braking numbers at our track were actually worse than the regular RX 350.