Review: Can the 2013 Lexus RX 350 Remain the Best Seller Forever?

2013 lexus rx 350 front
The new face of the 2013 Lexus RX 350 AWD

The Lexus RX has been updated for the 2013 model year.  It has a huge sales lead in the segment.  Is this 2013 Lexus RX 350 AWD still doing all the right things to maintain its dominance?  Lets break it down and find out.

The most obvious change for 2013 is the new Lexus family front “spindle” grill and new headlights with daytime LED running lights.  Other changes are much more subtle.  A keen eye will notice a different tail light treatment, a new trim here or a tweaked crease there.  The overall shape and dimensions are the same, but the new front end gives the RX a more aggressive and modern look.

lexus rx 350 interior dash

The RX is basically the same on the inside as the previous model.  Why mess with success?  My test car was very well appointed with Comfort and Luxury packages.  It included: heated and ventilated front seats, a moonroof, heated wood and leather steering wheel, and even illuminated door sills.  I also enjoyed the premium Mark Levinson surround sound system and the Navigation system with Lexus Enform and every other imaginable multimedia function.

All these comfort and premium features are to be expected in a luxurious vehicle such as this Lexus.  However, the feature content does not set the RX apart from the competition.  In fact, in some areas it falls behind the latest trends.  For example, what surprised me was the lack of a panoramic moonroof, which is par for the course now in this segment.  However, the Lexus does stand out in the overall interior packaging and the high quality fit and finish.

lexus rx 350 40/20/40 split rear seat
Large cargo volume with the seats down.

The interior is cavernous with 40 cu-ft of cargo volume with rear seats up, and 80.3 cu-ft with the seats down.  In addition, the rear seats possess the very best of origami technology.  They are 40/20/40 split with reclining seat backs and back/forth sliding capability.  This is indeed very useful, especially if you have kids. This is surely one of the biggest selling points of the RX.  The child seat LATCH anchors are old fashioned and a bit hard to reach.  However, there is plenty of legroom and the rear floor is perfectly flat, allowing for more storage space.

lexus rx 350 v6 engine bay
There is a 3.5L V6 hiding under there

The tried and true theme of the RX continues with the powertrain.  Under the hood and under all the plastic cladding is the good old 3.5 liter 270 HP V6.  In my test car it was backed up by the traditional 6-speed automatic with manual shift mode.  There are some news for the 2013 model year however.  There is a new F-Sport trim package on the RX, which adds sport tuned suspension and a new 8-speed automatic. My test car did not have this package.  The competitors from Europe are using smaller, more efficient, and high torque motors and 7 or 8 speed transmissions.  Lexus’ approach is reliable, but lacks the flair of the latest cutting edge technology.

Starting Retail Price City/Hwy MPG HP / Lb-Ft Powertrain
2013 Lexus RX 350 AWD $40,710 18/24 270/248  V6 + 6-speed
2013 Acura RDX AWD $34,320 19/27 273/251 V6 + 6-speed
2013 Audi Q5 Quattro $35,900 20/28 211/258 I4 T + 8-speed
2013 BMW X3 xDrive28i $38,500 21/28 240/260 I4 T + 8-speed
2013 Cadillac SRX AWD $45,025 16/23 308/265 V6 + 6-speed
2013 Infiniti FX37 AWD $46,300 16/22 325/267 V6 + 7-speed
2013 Lincoln MKX AWD $41,395 17/23 305/280 V6 + 6-speed
2013 Mercedes ML350 4Matic $49,770 18/23 302/273 V6 + 7-speed
2013 Nissan Murano AWD $32,130 18/23 260/240 V6 + CVT
2013 Volvo XC60 AWD $36,350 18/24 240/236 V6 + 6-speed

Perhaps, the hallmark of the Lexus brand and the RX is the comfortable and quite ride.  And this RX 350 does not disappoint.  The steering is well weighted but is tuned for comfort, not sport.  Body lean in corners is well controlled and confidence inspiring.  And the ride is silky smooth, practically removing all road imperfections from the interior.  All this helps the interior to be super quite, allowing for conversations at whisper levels.  My test car had optional 19 inch wheels and a lockable rear differential for when the going gets tough.  And by tough I mean – snowy or loose surface conditions.  This crossover is not likely to see any significant off-roading.  Although, TFLcar did take it up an off-road trail.

2013 lexus rx 350 profile
Nice and clean profile.

The RX 350 AWD starts at a reasonable $40,710.  My test car stickered at $52,974, yet it was still missing some options such as the Adaptive Cruise Control.  The price is competitive for the segment, but at nearly $53K I expected to have every imaginable option and it was not quite there.

I was also a little disappointed by the fuel economy of my test car.  After a week of mixed city and highway driving, the Lexus averaged 19.9 MPG.  It’s right on the money as far as the 20 MPG combined EPA rating is concerned.  Perhaps, I am getting a bit spoiled by the latest turbo and 8-speed trends, so I expected to get a slightly higher number.  The 8-speed in the RX F-Sport does deliver the better numbers, according to the EPA.

The Lexus RX line outsells it’s next best competitor, the Cadillac SRX, by nearly 40% Jan-Oct of 2012.  No other competitor is even close.  Lexus continues to perfect the formula that made the RX the leader it is today, but without making any big leaps or drastic moves.  Competition is heating up and opponents are putting every resource and every idea into their products on a quest to grab market share.  The RX has a comfortable lead but it needs to continue to improve in the years to come to remain there.

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give it a Lease It! – as a man.  At $52,974 for the test car, there are not enough manly features or styling in the RX 350.  The Heads Up Display (which is a stand-alone $1,200 option) does not make up for the lack of forced induction, average horsepower, and average fuel economy.  Although, I did like the very comfortable and quite ride of this Lexus, as well as its useful interior.  After concurring with my wife and several female friends, they voted for a Buy It! rating.  I would be inclined to give a Buy It! rating to the Hybrid version of the RX (the RX 450h).  The Hybrid has much better fuel economy and the extra kick of the electric motor.

Please enjoy this fun TFLcar Mashup of the three $53,000 luxury crossovers, which includes this Lexus.

Andre Smirnov
Andre Smirnov


Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, writer, and software engineer. On the weekends – you may find him at a car show, an auction, watching a race, or tinkering with a car in the garage. When not working or spending time with the family – he often scours the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.