2021 Lexus RX

2021 Lexus RX Review: Reliable But Not Much Fun

Following on from a much-needed refresh in 2020, the Lexus RX seems to be resting on its laurels as the top-selling midsize SUV in the US. Available as a gas-powered or hybrid vehicle, the crossover relies on a V6 engine for most of its power - expect between 290 horsepower and 308 hp. While that may be enough for a sportier compact, the hefty midsize won't keep up with rivals like the BMW X5 or Acura MDX. It tries to make up for this with an opulently appointed cabin, loads of safety tech, and a third row of seats on the L-monikered models. But with shoddy handling and lackluster acceleration, it may have trouble keeping up with the competition going forward, both literally and figuratively. Still, it has remained eminently popular for a reason, so it definitely deserves a closer look before we prematurely shut the book on it.

Read in this review:

New 2021 Lexus RX Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 RX?

There have only been minor updates for the new year, but since they fall primarily under the umbrella of safety features, they are well worth mentioning. From the base model up, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are now factory-installed, along with power-folding and auto-dimming side mirrors. The previous Performance Package has been rebranded the Handling Package, while the optional Luxury Package now gets a Glazed Caramel interior instead of the previous Noble Brown. This hue has also been added as an option within the Premium Package. The wireless charging pad that comes standard on the upper trim levels is now offered to the base RX 350 and 450h, and, for 2021, a limited number of special edition Black Line models will be made available.

Pros and Cons

  • Gorgeous cabin
  • Smooth ride quality
  • Loads of standard tech
  • Good safety ratings
  • Competitive mpg in hybrid variants
  • Lifeless driving experience
  • Tepid acceleration
  • Available third-row is barely usable

Best Deals on RX

2021 Lexus RX Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
RX 350
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$45,220
RX 450h
3.5L V6 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$47,820
RX 350L
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$48,050
RX 350 F SPORT Appearance
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$48,700
RX 350 F SPORT Black Line
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
$49,235

2021 RX Exterior

It would be an insult to call the design of the RX anything but bold, but that does not mean that it will suit everyone's tastes. The updated Lexus spindle grille takes up the majority of the front fascia, with available auto-leveling headlights slotting into the middle of the hourglass frame. These can be upgraded to triple-beam LED headlights and matching tail lights. Other options include a power moonroof or panoramic glass roof on specific models, as well as a power rear door with a kick sensor. The wheel arches house 18-inch alloys as standard, which can be upgraded to one of two 20-inch variants, with 20s standard on Black Line iterations. The hybrid models do not vary in appearance from the standard lineup, but the F Sport options do. These come with a unique front fascia and mesh grille, black-capped outside mirrors, and specific badging. They also get 20-inch F Sport wheels. The Black Line variants get black alloy wheels, a black grille surround, and a body side graphic.

2021 Lexus RX Front View CarBuzz
2021 Lexus RX Rear View CarBuzz
2021 Lexus RX Frontal Aspect CarBuzz
See All 2021 Lexus RX Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The Lexus RX SUV is by no means a small vehicle, especially in its most luxurious configuration. For most of the range, the vehicle totals a length of 192.5 inches, but this grows to an impressive 196.9 inches for both the 350L and 450hL. The remaining dimensions are common to all derivatives, with height set at 67.7 inches, and width at 74.6 inches. Similarly, a 109.8-inch wheelbase creates a pretty spacious cabin, even if it is a little shorter than what rivals like the Toyota Highlander are equipped with. Despite its available all-wheel drivetrain, the RX is not truly designed for off-roading, with mild approach/breakover/departure angles of 17/16.8/24.9 degrees, although a ground clearance of between 7.9 and 8.2 inches may seem like enough. Curb weight varies depending on the model and powertrain; the gas-powered 350 ranges from 4,222 pounds to 4,619 lbs, while the hybrid 450h starts off even heavier at 4,740 lbs and maxes out at 4,905 lbs.

  • Length 192.5 in
  • Wheelbase 109.8 in
  • Height 67.7 in
  • Max Width 74.6 in
  • Front Width 64.4 in
  • Rear Width 64.0 in
  • Curb Weight 4,222.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

The RX range's palette extends to ten colors, with only Ultra White restricted to models bearing the F Sport badge, although it loses access to three of the standard colors in exchange. Paints available at no extra cost on the base model comprise Atomic Silver, Nebula Gray Pearl, Obsidian, Nightfall Mica, Caviar, and Nori Green Pearl. Eminent White Pearl adds $425 to the bill, while Matador Red Mica and Moonbeam Beige Metallic require specific interior color choices - namely Parchment NuLuxe. On the F Sport derivatives, Nori Green Pearl, Moonbeam Beige Metallic, and Eminent White Pearl aren't available. The only hue we suggest steering clear of is Nori Green, as we feel it creates rather unbecoming images of the RX.

  • Ultra White
  • Eminent White Pearl
  • Nebula Gray Pearl
  • Atomic Silver
  • Obsidian
  • Caviar
  • Nightfall Mica
  • Matador Red Mica
  • Celestial GF
  • Nori Green Pearl
  • Moonbeam Beige Metallic

RX Performance

Quite large, and more than a little hefty, the RX struggles to live up to the 'sport' in its classification. The naturally aspirated V6, producing up to 295 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque, lacks the kick of turbocharged competitors, so the slower 0 to 60 mph sprint time of 7.7 seconds is unsurprising. The heavier AWD configurations take an extra 0.2 seconds to get up to speed. Even though the hybrid RX 450h produces 308 hp, it will go no faster than 7.9 seconds to reach 60 mph. The combustion powertrain offers a maximum speed of 124 mph, while the top speed for the hybrids is 112 mph.

Although performance is not the primary goal of a luxury SUV, the Lexus is disappointing in comparison to competitors from BMW or Mercedes-Benz. Thanks to their turbocharged generators, they are able to hit 60 mph in well under seven seconds. Similarly, the Lexus underperforms as a worker, too. In RX 350 guise, it can only tow a maximum of 3,500 lbs. On the plus side, easy access to AWD means that there are few road conditions it cannot handle, and a mild level of off-roading is possible.

2021 Lexus RX Aft View CarBuzz
2021 Lexus RX Engine CarBuzz
2021 Lexus RX Wheel CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

The same 3.5-liter V6 engine is equipped to every RX built, but its outputs vary slightly depending on the model. The gas-only RX develops 295 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque on all versions besides the 350L, which sees outputs drop to 290 hp and 263 lb-ft. The hybrid takes advantage of its three electric motors to develop a combined 308 hp, regardless of trim. The 350 range comes outfitted with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and front-wheel drivetrain, though access to all-wheel drive is not restricted. The 450h models receive AWD only and trade out the transmission for a CVT.

In any of these configurations, the powertrain is more than capable However, the transmission lacks the eagerness of the engine, taking far too long to transmit throttle inputs. The CVT on the hybrid is a little smoother. It directs the combustion engine's outputs to the front wheels, and directs the electric motors to power the rear.

While we may have a few complaints, the power plants never truly disappoint. The RX is capable in just about any setting, but its slower acceleration times mean that it feels more at home on quieter streets than on the freeway.

  • Engines
    3.5L V6 Gas, 3.5L V6 Hybrid
  • Transmissions
    8-Speed Automatic, Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

If you're looking for a relaxed SUV with good ride comfort, this may be the perfect fit for you. But, if you desire even a little excitement from your car, the RX will only disappoint. While it may be true that luxury SUVs err on the side of compliance, that is no reason for them to be utterly devoid of spirit - rivals like the BMW X5 prove as much. But, Lexus just could not seem to strike a balance between comfort and fun when it came to its midsize offering.

The steering is about as heavy as the high-rider, but since it offers absolutely no feedback, this is more of a downside than an opportunity for some enjoyment. In fact, it actually means that the crossover is less nimble around town than many of its budget competitors, like the Toyota Highlander. And, if you ever try to take a corner at speeds higher than a crawl, you had best know how to handle body roll, because there will be quite a bit.

But, if you are content to drive everywhere at a leisurely cruise, the RX does a good job of smoothing over any road imperfections. The larger wheels and stiffer suspension on the F Sport reduce comfort but add some much-needed control and composure. But don't let that fool you, it is still far from being a sports car.

RX Gas Mileage

Heavy luxury SUVs are far from being the most frugal vehicles on the road, but the RX is still a thirsty choice. The FWD variants of the 350 bear EPA-estimated gas mileage figures of 20/27/23 miles per gallon, while the AWD will return 19/26/22 mpg. The heavier L-trims lose one mpg in mixed driving conditions. The hybrid 450h range follows the same trend, but with much more attractive numbers. The base 450h returns 31/28/30 mpg, while the L is slightly less efficient at 29/28/29 mpg. The size of the tank depends on the powertrain selected - 19.2 gallons for the gas-only versions and 17.2 gallons for the hybrid. This means that the most efficient configuration is capable of traversing 516 miles between refills.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    19.2 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 20/27 mpg
* 2021 Lexus RX 350 FWD

RX Interior

The interior is just what you would expect from the Lexus brand, which means top-notch materials and loads of style. There is enough space for five passengers, although the captain's chairs and third-row bench on the top-tier L increase this to six and seven, respectively. Regardless, everyone is accommodated in optimum comfort, with available heated seats and standard automatic climate control ensuring as much. The infotainment system boasts a large touchscreen and plenty of speakers, and there are a variety of other conveniences and driver-assist features. However, with so many features on offer, the controls for some of these are not within easy reach.

2021 Lexus RX Dashboard CarBuzz
2021 Lexus RX Steering Wheel CarBuzz
2021 Lexus RX Seat Details CarBuzz
See All 2021 Lexus RX Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

In its base setup, the RX can seat up to five in a great deal of comfort. Both rows of seats offer plenty of head- and legroom, but this changes when you opt for the three-row L-model. While the RX 350L seats seven, the RX 450hL trades the second-row bench for a pair of captain's chairs so it becomes a six-seater. Headroom in the third row is still decent, but that won't matter to the tiny children you place there, since there is not enough legroom for anyone else. Installing this third row also means those in the middle have to sacrifice some legroom, so it is not really worth it.

Standard power-adjustable front seats make it easy for the driver to find an optimal position in a vehicle that already offers a commanding view. Optional features include heated and ventilated front seats, as well as heated second-row seats. The F Sport receives unique front seats with enhanced bolsters, and optional packages offer cushion extenders for the front seats.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 44.1 in
  • Front Head Room 39.4 in
  • Rear Leg Room 38.0 in
  • Rear Head Room 39.1 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The materials used in the construction of the Lexus are without reproach. Even the door panels and dashboard are padded with soft-touch surfaces. Standard upholstery on every purchase is NuLuxe leatherette, but semi-aniline leather is available to even the base RX. The default trim is a little basic if you do not spring for something more elegant. Color options include Birch, Parchment, and Black, each paired with Striated Black trim. The Premium Package expands your options with the same hues paired with trim inlays like Matte Walnut, as well as the addition of Glazed Caramel NuLuxe. On the 350L and 450hL, the same Package instead pairs Black or Glazed Caramel with Open Pore Walnut. Semi-aniline leather is added via the Luxury Package. No extra colors are added, but the trim is replaced with Sapele Wood and Aluminum. The F Sport variants get exclusive access to Circuit Red NuLuxe, but can still choose Black, which is paired with Scored Aluminum trim. A wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel is available, while Black Line editions get unique black seating with white accents and blue stitching, and bespoke floor mats.

RX SUV Trunk and Cargo Space

There is not a lot of utility to this SUV, sadly. Its bold design may look good from the outside, but it negatively impacts on practicality in terms of cargo space. In the usual five-seater configuration, a total of 16 cubic feet of cargo space is presented, growing to 32.7 cubic if you fold down the rear seats. Since the vehicle was never truly designed to accommodate seven seats, jamming in a third row consumes the majority of the trunk, leaving only 7.5 cubes remaining. When the third row of seats are folded down, which we suggest should be their natural state, the RX L variants can match most other luxury utes with 23 cubic feet of capacity. Finally, the RX L offers a total of 58.5 cubes when the second and third rows are folded. These figures do not vary on the hybrid, despite the addition of an under-seat battery. At least accessing the cargo bay is easy, courtesy of a power tailgate, which is complemented by an optional kick sensor.

In-cabin storage is par for the course on a luxury midsize. A standard glove compartment is supplemented by a spacious center console, while door pockets provide room for smaller items and water bottles. Each row of seats receives a pair of cupholders, and the seatback pockets can accommodate tablets or mobile phones. The three-row L variants add a second-row armrest cubby.

2021 Lexus RX Second-Row Seats CarBuzz
2021 Lexus RX Rear Seats Folded CarBuzz
2021 Lexus RX Maximum Cargo Space CarBuzz

RX Infotainment and Features

Features

Never forget that Lexus is a luxury badge, and if you do, the list of features on the RX happily reminds you. In its cheapest guise, the SUV is jam-packed with tech. The front seats are power-adjustable, complementing the power tilt-and-telescoping steering column. Dual-zone climate control keeps the occupants comfortable, while the keyless ignition, a rearview camera, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror mean less time prepping before getting on the road. Of course, the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 is replete with driver aids, too. These include road sign assist, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane tracing assist, and collision avoidance. New for 2021, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are now standard, too.

The F Sport tries to live up to its name by swapping out the instrumentation for sportier gauges, while the front seats are replaced with bolstered Sport variants. The L versions are the most luxurious, so tri-zone climate control and a power-folding third row are added here. If you want the heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, or heated steering wheel, you will need to spec them each on separately or as part of a package. Other optional equipment includes a power moonroof, automated parking assist, and a color head-up display.

Infotainment

The infotainment suite has not been touched for the new year, since the automaker seems to have perfected the recipe with its updates in 2020. An eight-inch multimedia display is the center of the arrangement, from which users can access Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or Amazon Alexa. Other listening options include SiriusXM, HD Radio, or Bluetooth audio streaming. All this is channeled through a nine-speaker sound system. Smart device conveniences include six USB ports, with an available wireless charger. Beyond this, the touchscreen can be upgraded to 12.3-inch version, with optional navigation and dynamic voice commands. A pricey but desirable option is the 15-speaker Mark Levinson premium surround sound set-up. Despite all this, the infotainment can be finicky to operate, with a mix of touchscreen interactions and hard button inputs, and the menus are less than intuitive.

RX Problems and Reliability

J.D. Power has already subjected the standard 2021 Lexus RX and the RX hybrid to review for their reliability. And, while their scores have dropped slightly over the past couple of years, the 2021 iterations still boast a pretty high rating of 83 out of 100. This is a fair bit higher than competitors like the Mercedes-Benz GLE. The automobile is also likely to continue its trend of receiving few complaints. In terms of recalls, this too is a mostly clean record for recent years. The last recall was issued in 2019 for fuel pump failure, although it affected a significant number of vehicles. This aside, it is a highly reliable machine, backed up by a respectable warranty. The bumper-to-bumper coverage lasts four years/50,000 miles, while the powertrain warranty extends for six years/70,000 miles. The hybrid components get the industry-standard eight-year/100,000-mile warranty.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    6 Years \ 70,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    6 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    4 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Maintenance:
    1 Years \ 10,000 Miles

RX Safety

The latest iteration of the Lexus has not yet undergone crash-testing. However, the NHTSA's review of the Lexus RX in 2020 returned favorable results. Every side crash test earned a top five-star rating, while the frontal and roll-over tests each scored four stars. The IIHS was equally impressed, awarding the 2020 vehicle top marks of Good in every category, as well as the coveted Top Safety Pick. However, the agency did note that the RX's headlights were either Acceptable or Poor, depending on the trim.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Key Safety Features

Safety features are not in short supply here. In fact, almost everything available is thrown in from the entry-level 350 upwards. This includes mechanical systems like ABS, EBD, and stability and traction control, as well as ten airbags - covering the front, front side, rear side, side curtain, and driver knee positions, among others. The majority of the tech falls under the umbrella of the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, comprising lane departure warning and tracing assist, road sign assist, pre-collision mitigation, and pedestrian detection. The newly standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are separate features, as well as the optional parking assist with panoramic view monitor and auto braking.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Lexus RX a good car?

Looking at public opinion alone, it would be hard to answer in the negative. The RX sells like hotcakes in the USA, so it must be doing something right. So, before we poke holes in the mass delusion, let us at least point out some of the vehicle's strengths.

The interior is nearly flawless. The build quality and choice of materials make for a very pleasant environment to enjoy your daily commute or for carpooling the kids to school. The numerous safety specs also ensure that doing so is remarkably safe, while the infotainment suite should keep everyone entertained. We'd like to say that it offers even more practicality as a three-row in the L-trim, but that would be a bald-faced lie.

And with that shot fired, let us not hold back any longer. The powertrain lacks any real fire, which goes perfectly in hand with the lifeless steering. There is absolutely no fun to be had with the SUV, even in F Sport guise. And, if you want even slightly reasonable mileage figures, you will have to go the hybrid route.

If you must have a new Lexus, the RX is acceptable, so long as you stick to the five-seater configurations. But there really are so many better choices out there, both in terms of fun and affordability. Just a few names that spring to mind are the Volvo XC90, the Acura MDX, or the Genesis GV80. We suggest taking a few of these for a test drive before you commit to an RX.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 Lexus RX?

Hailing from the luxury wing of the Toyota brand, the price of the Lexus RX is set well above the more modest models from the standard collection. The base model RX 350 opens bidding at $45,070, while the 350L ups the ante to $47,900. The F Sport is actually a bit more expensive, despite having fewer standard features, priced at $48,550. The basic FWD can be traded out for AWD on each machine in exchange for an extra $1,400. The hybrid options are naturally more expensive to start with, and they each come equipped with AWD right off the bat. The trims remain the same, though, with the 450h, 450hL, and F Sport variant bearing pricing of $47,720, $51,110, and $51,200, respectively. Special editions include the RX 350 F Sport Black Line at $49,235 and the 450h version at $51,885. These prices are MSRP and do not include tax, registration, licensing, or the $1,025 destination fee.

2021 Lexus RX Models

Eight trim options make up the RX lineup. The gas-powered RX 350, 350L, 350 F Sport, and 350 F Sport Black Line special edition, as well as the hybrid RX 450h, 450hL, 450h F Sport, and 450h F Sport Black Line. Each gets a 3.5L V6 in various states of tune, with the latter equipped with three electric motors, too. An eight-speed automatic transmission handles gear shifts for the gasoline motor, while an ECVT does duty on the hybrids. Front-wheel drive is standard on the 350 but AWD is available. The 450 gets this right off the factory floor.

The base-level 350/450 rides on 18-inch alloys and is equipped with auto-leveling headlights and a power tailgate. Inside, it is dressed in soft NuLuxe upholstery and offers seating for five. Those up front get power-adjustable seats, while the rear seats fold down in a 40/20/40 split. Standard features include dual-zone climate control, push-button start, and cruise control. The infotainment system comprises an eight-inch interface, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, HD Radio, and SiriusXM, paired with a nine-speaker sound system. Safety is covered by Lexus Safety System+ 2.0, including collision avoidance, as well as blind-spot monitoring.

The F Sport models get almost all the same tech, but look slightly different thanks to their unique design elements. These include larger 20-inch wheels, a mesh grille, and F Sport badging. The F Sport is also available in a limited Black Line Special Edition, which blacks out many exterior elements. Inside, the front seats are replaced with bolstered Sport seats, and LED ambient lighting and Sport instrument clusters replace the standard fare.

The 350L/450hL trims gain a few inches to make room for the third-row of seats needed to turn it into a 6-seater or 7-seater, though it reverts to 18-inch wheels. It also swaps out the second-row bench for captain's chairs on the 450hL. Tri-zone climate control is installed to accommodate the extra passengers, along with some extra USB ports.

See All 2021 Lexus RX Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

As is the wont of premium brands, Lexus offers a great deal of customization for the RX. In terms of packages, there are numerous choices. However, it is important to note that the prices shown are for the selected option only, and do not include the ancillary upgrades that need to be in place first. The Luxury Package ($3,810 - $6,000) comprises semi-aniline leather upholstery, driver- and passenger-seat cushion extenders, a power moonroof, a heated wood- and leather-trimmed steering wheel, and larger 20-inch wheels, if they are not already installed. The Navigation Package ($2,285) upgrades the speaker system to 12 units and adds a 12.3-inch touchscreen with built-in navigation. Noteworthy standalone options include heated and ventilated front seats ($640), a color head-up display ($600), a wireless charger ($200), and an intuitive parking assist ($565). The F Sport offers a slightly different array of packages, including the F Sport Handling Package ($1,050), comprising an adaptive variable suspension, a heated steering wheel, and drive mode select.

🚗What Lexus RX Model Should I Buy?

Right off the bat, we'd suggest looking towards the hybrid models. At this price point, they are not that much more expensive, and their fuel economy figures are appreciably better than the gasoline-only models. That said, you still have three options. The base RX 450h is certainly well-equipped, and you could still option on a few extras while keeping the final bill below $50k. Quite frankly, the F Sport just seems like a waste, because the RX will never be a lively SUV, and the increase in price does nothing to change that. The extra row of seats on the 450hL may tempt some buyers, but if you have children larger than toddlers, you won't get much use out of it. At the end of the day, the base-model RX hybrid with a few extras, such as climate-controlled front seats, the wireless charger, and perhaps the color head-up display, should more than satisfy most buyers' needs without asking more than the actual value it offers.

Check out other Lexus RX Styles

2021 Lexus RX Comparisons

Lexus NX Lexus
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Lexus RX295 hp20/27 mpg$45,220
Lexus NX 235 hp22/28 mpg$37,610

2021 Lexus RX vs Lexus NX

The smaller sibling to the RX, the NX has no delusions of being grander than it is. Bearing a price tag nearly $10k lower than the cost of the Lexus RX, it focuses on being the best compact it can be. As will most of the competition, it is outfitted with a four-pot - developing 235 hp and 258 lb-ft. And while these figures may be lower than those from the RX's V6, the smaller crossover makes the 0-60 mph sprint a lot faster. It is also more maneuverable around town but it suffers from a similarly unengaging driving experience. Inside, it is not quite as spacious, but it still works wonderfully as a five-seater and still beats the standard cargo capacity of the RX. With pretty much all the same tech, albeit with more limited upgrades to the infotainment, the Lexus NX is almost the same value for much less money. It also offers a hybrid option for those that want better fuel economy or a smaller environmental footprint.

See Lexus NX Review

Lexus RX Popular Comparisons

The most popular competitors of 2021 Lexus RX:

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$45,220 - $55,450
Price Range (MSRP)
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