Full 2014 Lexus RX 350 Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Lexus RX 350 sees just a few changes, including a new 115-volt power outlet for the backseat, the addition of brake priming to the pre-collision warning system and, for newer iPhone owners, the integration of the Siri Eyes Free feature.
With all the premium-brand crossovers on the road, it's easy to forget which one blazed the trail for these luxury car-based SUVs. When it hit the streets some 15 years ago, the Lexus RX gave consumers the plush ride, bulletproof reliability and low ownership costs expected of the brand, along with a fair measure of cargo capacity and foul-weather capability. Other entries quickly flooded the market. But despite this tidal wave of competitors, the 2014 Lexus RX 350 is still a very appealing choice for a luxury crossover.
With the latest RX 350 you're still getting all of the above qualities, plus a smooth V6 engine, comfortable seating for five and a handsome cabin featuring top-notch materials and assembly quality. You'll also find plenty of standard features here, along with a nice collection of useful convenience and high-tech options. There's not much to find fault with either, as the only significant downsides are the lack of a third-row seat and an electronics interface that takes more of your attention to operate than we prefer.
If either of these are concerns for you, we'd point you toward the seven-passenger 2014 Acura MDX and 2014 Infiniti QX60. The Infiniti has the bigger third-row seat of the two, but the Acura is more involving to drive. In addition, both have very easy to use audio-navigation systems. As five-passenger alternatives go, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Volkswagen Touareg are pretty upscale despite their lack of a luxury badge, while the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60 are all excellent smaller luxury crossovers. Overall, though, the Lexus RX 350 remains in the top tier among premium-brand crossover SUVs, even if it is no longer the undisputed segment leader.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Lexus RX 350 seats five people and is available in two trim levels: standard and F Sport. The hybrid RX 450h is covered in a separate review.
The RX 350, which is available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, comes standard with 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 power-adjustable lumbar, a leather-wrapped power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a sliding and reclining rear seat, cloth upholstery and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Standard electronic features include the 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. Those with iPhone 4S or 5 models can also use the voice-operated Siri Eyes Free feature, which allows you to listen to and create (via voice) texts and e-mails via the vehicle's speaker system, as well as hear sports scores, weather forecasts, appointment reminders and even turn-by-turn directions.
The F Sport includes all-wheel drive and the contents of the Premium and Comfort packages (detailed below) as well as 19-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, an eight-speed automatic transmission, special exterior styling elements, special interior trim and perforated leather upholstery.
There are many packages available, some of which require the purchase of one to obtain another. For the standard RX 350, the Premium package adds a sunroof, power-folding and auto-dimming mirrors, roof rails, leather upholstery and driver memory settings. There's also a version of this package that also includes a blind spot monitoring system. The Comfort package adds automatic wipers, xenon headlamps and heated and ventilated front seats (which are also available separately).
The Display Audio package gets you a rearview camera, a larger 7-inch central display screen, Bluetooth phonebook download capabilities, the Lexus Remote Touch electronics interface, the Enform suite of app-based features and a 12-speaker sound system with HD radio. The Navigation package adds the Display Audio contents along with a navigation system (with 8-inch display) and voice controls.
The Luxury package (standard RX 350 only) features 19-inch wheels, LED headlamps, 10-way power front seats, a heated wood and leather steering wheel, upgraded leather upholstery, a 115-volt power outlet for the rear seat area and a smog-sensing auto climate control recirculation.
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. The F Sport's wheels and special styling can be added to the front-drive RX 350 via the available Sport package. Other stand-alone options include front and rear parking sensors and adaptive cruise control with a pre-collision warning/braking system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 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 model only comes with 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 despite a more sophisticated transmission and its advantageous gearing.
EPA-estimated fuel economy with the six-speed automatic is 21 mpg combined (18 city/25 highway) with front-wheel drive and 20 mpg combined (18 city/24 highway) with all-wheel drive. The F Sport is rated at 21 combined (18/26).
Properly equipped, the RX 350 can tow up to 3,500 pounds, which is less than most competitors can manage.
Every 2014 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.
Optional are parking sensors, a blind-spot monitoring system, a rearview camera and an adaptive cruise control system that includes a pre-collision warning and brake-priming 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, in two separate tests of the supposedly sportier F Sport, it came to a stop in a disappointing 131 and 123 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 its moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. The RX's seats/head restraints also earned a "Good" rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
Upscale appointments and exceptional cabin materials make the 2014 Lexus RX 350 look and feel suitably expensive. When you opt for the Display Audio or Navigation packages you also get the Lexus Remote Touch system, which is a mouselike device that allows the user to move among a variety of icons on a large, centrally located screen. It's a nice idea and adds to the luxury ambience, but in practice we've found that the cumbersome on-screen menus and the controller's imprecise nature draw too much of your attention away from the road. On the upside, the optional Mark Levinson audio is one of the best sound systems on the market.
The front seats could use some extra adjustment range, and both thigh and lateral support are somewhat 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.
When it comes to ride quality, the 2014 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 on 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 those of the regular RX 350.