2020 Lexus RX 350: Can touch this

BOSTON — There’s a lot to like about most Lexus automobiles. They’re invariably well built, quiet and comfortable, (mostly) reasonably priced for the competition and what you get — and then there’s the infotainment system controlled by an awful trackpad.

If you haven’t used it, you might not understand just how annoying it is. I mean, how bad can it be? Let me give you an analogy:

It’s like winning a free all-expenses paid trip to Maui and then finding out that your flight out there has two layovers and you’re sitting at the back of the plane and your seat won’t recline. It certainly doesn’t ruin the trip, but it does put a damper on proceedings.

The Lexus RX is the company’s best-selling vehicle for a reason. In 2019, Lexus moved more than 111,000 RX SUVs in the US, almost twice as many as the next closest model (the slightly smaller NX).

It’s the right size, with the right amount of power and capability and with the right price. Nearly everything about the RX is just right, and has been for a couple of decades now.

And for the 2020 RX, finally, Lexus had seen fit to add a giant touchscreen to accompany (though not entirely replace) that trackpad. And, even better, the optional 12.3-inch touchscreen that I had in my tester this week is so big and beautiful that you can ignore the trackpad completely.

It supports Apple CarPlay and, also new for 2020, Android Auto. It’s also worth noting that the mediocre Lexus infotainment software remains and should be dispensed with immediately in favor of what comes with your smartphone.

Aside from the touchscreen, there’s much appeal in the rest of the RX as well. My test unit was a fully-equipped RX 350 AWD F Sport weighing in at $61,130 and including a $200 cold weather package; a $600 heads up display (worth it); LED headlights, turn signals and fog lights ($1,675); a must-have panoramic moonroof ($500); and hefty $3,365 package that includes a delightful Mark Levinson sound system and that all-important 12.3-inch touchscreen. Without that, you get a mere 8-inch touchscreen.

F Sport is, as the name suggests, the sporty trim for Lexus, though mostly these are visual tweaks and not anything super-performance oriented. Buyers get big 20-inch wheels, F Sport (the official nomenclature is “F SPORT”, but I don’t work for the Lexus marketing department) badging on just about every surface imaginable, and a bunch of other tweaks to make things feel very SPORTy. There’s a sound generator that pipes in a bit of extra engine noise, for example, which is a little absurd when I write it out, but sounds rather nice in practice.

The 3.5-liter V6 under the hood is paired with an 8-speed automatic complete with utterly pointless paddle shifters so you can change gear on your own, which you won’t.

The safety system is excellent, checking all the right radar cruise control /automatic emergency braking / lane centering boxes, and there’s an optional rear-cross traffic braking system that can automatically stop the car if you’re backing out of a parking spot into oncoming traffic — a particularly useful feature that would be standard equipment if I had my way.

Fuel economy with this engine isn’t terrific, hitting 19/26/22 city/highway/combined, but it’s adequate enough. If you’re concerned about being green or you just have a long commute, Lexus is happy to sell you a RX 450h that comes with a hybrid system and a much-more impressive 29 combined MPG.

Lexus is also happy to sell you some kind of extended warranty package I’m sure, though the car comes with a 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper and 6-year/70,000-mile powertrain coverage. It seems unlikely that your new Lexus will break down any time soon, but if it does, Lexus will also kick in for lodging if the breakdown occurs more than 100 miles from home. Lexus is nice like that.

However, it’s that touchscreen that still has me enamored. But should I be that impressed? Many other brands have included touchscreens for the better part of a decade, though BMW and Mercedes are latecomers to the party as well. No matter. It’s here now, and the biggest drawback to the Lexus has been fixed. Maybe Lexus will sell 112,000 this year as a result.

About Jordan Golson 64 Articles
Jordan Golson is North State Journal's automotive reporter. He covers cars - both foreign and domestic - from around the globe.