G. Chambers Williams

Regular-length Lexus RX comes in gas, hybrid models for 2019, starts at $43,670

For 2019, the most-popular Lexus vehicle, the RX premium crossover, comes in two sizes, the regular-length five-passenger model and the new extended-length RX-L, which comes with a third row and seating for up to seven.

Both lengths of the RX are offered in gasoline-only (RX 350 and 350L) and hybrid (RX 450h and RX 450hL) versions. The RX entered its fourth generation for 2016, and the extended model made its debut for 2019.

For the current model year, the RX 350 (short version) starts at $43,670 (plus $1,025 freight) with front drive, and $45,070 with all-wheel drive, and runs as high as $50,720 for the all-wheel-drive F Sport version ($49,320 with front-wheel drive).

The gasoline-only RX comes with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine cranking out 295 horsepower and 267 foot-pounds of torque, connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

With the RX 450h – which comes only with all-wheel drive – 2019 prices are $46,095 for the base model and $51,455 for the RX 450h F Sport, which we tested for this report.

Hybrid models come with a combination of a gasoline engine and two electric motors that together generate 308 horsepower, yet achieve EPA fuel-economy ratings of 30 mpg city/28 highway/30 combined. During our weeklong test, driving about 60/40 city/highway, we averaged about 29.7 mpg.

Besides the choice of the gasoline-only or hybrid powertrain, the newest versions of the RX have sophisticated safety, driver-assistance and convenience features that make them among the best-equipped and safest Lexus utility vehicles offered to date.

Among exterior changes with the most-recent makeover were a new, larger version of the Lexus signature spindle grille. L-shaped LED headlights surrounded by 18 individual LEDs, used as turn signals, are included, along with Intelligent High Beams.

The Lexus Safety System-Plus has such features as Pre-Collision Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Auto Braking, using audio and visual alerts and automatic application of the brakes when a possible collision is detected. The system also included All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.

Also, LED L-shaped combination taillights wrap around the rear fender to the chrome finisher across the middle area of the liftgate, and blacked-out C-pillars – the supports behind the rear doors -- give the RX a floating-roof look.

Since shortly after its 1998 introduction, the RX has been not only the Toyota luxury brand's best-selling vehicle, but the top-selling luxury crossover as well.

The RX continues as a luxurious crossover still based on the architecture of the similar Toyota Highlander, just as it has been from the start.

The biggest difference from the Toyota until this year, though, is that the RX didn’t have the option of a third row of seating that the Highlander offered, which allows that vehicle to carry up to seven people.

Both RX 450h models come with the Lexus Hybrid Drive system, which has a 3.5-liter V-6 engine coupled with a pair of electric motors (front and rear, with the rear motor providing the only power to the rear wheels). A continuously variable automatic transmission is standard.

The RX 450h all-wheel drive is an electronically controlled system that automatically kicks in the separate 67-horsepower electric motor for the rear wheels when needed to keep going on slippery surfaces. Otherwise, all torque goes to the front wheels.

Regular gasoline RX 350 models come with an eight-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.

With that transmission, the RX 350 front-drive version has EPA ratings of 20 mpg city/28 highway/23 combined; with all-wheel drive, the ratings are 19/26/22.

In our RX 450h, we had plenty of power from the engine and electric motors, even on the mountain roads we encountered on a weekend family jaunt. Top speed is 112 mph, and the RX 450h can go from zero-60 mph in 7.9 seconds – not exactly sports-carlike, but decent for a family hauler.

Eighteen-inch wheels are standard, with three 20-inch wheel designs available. Our tester, though, came with the special F Sport 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.

Among other standard RX 450h amenities are keyless entry with pushbutton start; a power tilt/telescopic steering column; 10-way power front seats with power lumbar adjustments; leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel with integrated audio controls; a nine-speaker premium Lexus audio system with eight-inch color screen, satellite radio, auxiliary inputs (including USB); Bluetooth audio and phone connections; and dual-zone automatic climate control.

The optional Head-Up Display ($600, included on our tester) projects navigation directions, audio information and vehicle speed on the bottom of the windshield in front of the driver, and the redesigned instrument panel has large, easy-to-read gauges.

My RX 450h F Sport had several other options, including a package with Triple Beam Auto-Leveling LED headlights with washers, along with Intuitive Parking Assist ($1,615); a package with Blind-Spot Monitor, automatic braking, auto-dimming power/folding outside mirrors and Panoramic View Monitor ($1,865); Power Tilt/Slide Moon Roof with aluminum roof rails ($1,350); Touch-Free Power Rear Hatch ($200); Paint Protection Film ($429); and all-weather floor and carpet mats ($190).

Also included was a navigation system with Mark Levinson 15-speaker Premium Audio Package with 12.3-inch screen ($3,225), which featured voice recognition and a backup camera system, Bluetooth hands-free phone and phonebook download, and Lexus Enform App Suite, with Destination Search and more.

The F Sport option brought exclusive F Sport leather interior with aluminum pedals, shift knob and meters.

Other F Sport features included the sport-tuned suspension with front and rear performance dampers; unique exterior trim; and heated and ventilated sport front seats with side bolsters.

Our test vehicle came in the Matador Red Mica exterior color, and a black leather interior.

Safety features included driver’s knee air bags, front and rear seat-mounted side air bags, and full-length roof-mounted side-curtain air bags for both rows.

The front bucket seats were very comfortable. A storage space in the front of the center console area is perfect for smartphones. There are four 12-volt power outlets, including one on the instrument panel, another in the center console box (along with two USB ports), one at the rear of the center console (accessible to rear passengers) and one in the cargo area.

There are two decent cupholders in the center console tray. There are front and rear map lights, and a cargo-area light. The center console also is lighted, including the cupholders, which was a nice feature while driving on a highway trip at night.

The 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat is nearly as comfortable as the front seats, with plenty of legroom in the two outboard positions. A smallish adult or child could sit in the middle position, but there is a pull-down armrest there that includes two cupholders and a storage box.

In the RX 450h, there is 18 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, which expands to 55.9 cubic feet with the rear seatback completely folded.

The RX can tow trailers weighing up to 3,500 pounds.

Total sticker price for my 2019 RX 450h F Sport was $61,954, including freight and options.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com or on Twittter @gchambers3.

2019 Lexus RX 350/450h

The package: Premium, midsize, front- or all-wheel-drive, four-door, five-passenger, V-6 gasoline or V-6 gasoline/electric-powered-hybrid crossover utility vehicle.

Highlights: This luxury crossover also comes in a hybrid version, and offers a variety of high-tech features, along with decent fuel economy, good power, and lots of standard or optional amenities. A separate, longer model new for 2019, called the RX 350L/450hL, has three rows of seating and space for up to seven people.

Negatives: Price climbs significantly with navigation and other extras.

Overall length: 192.5 inches.

Curb weight range: 4,222-4,387 pounds (gasoline); 4,740 pounds (hybrid).

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6 (RX 350); 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline, plus two electric drive motors (RX 450h).

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic (RX-350); continuously variable automatic (hybrid).

Power/torque: 295 HP./267 foot-pounds (gasoline models); 308 HP. (hybrid, combined gasoline and electric).

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Cargo volume: 18.4 cubic feet (rear seat in place); 56.3 cubic feet (rear seat folded), RX 350; 18 cubic feet (behind rear seat), 55.9 cubic feet (rear seat folded), RX 450h.

Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds.

EPA fuel economy: 20 mpg city/28 highway/23 combined (front-drive, gasoline); 19/26/22 (all-wheel drive, gasoline); 30/28/30 (hybrid).

Fuel capacity/type: 19.2 gallons/unleaded regular; (17.2 gallons, hybrid).

Main competitors: Infiniti QX60, Acura MDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Land Rover LR2, Range Rover Velar, Lincoln MKT, Cadillac XT5.

Base price range (2019): $43,670-$50,720, plus $1,025 freight), RX 350; $46,095-$51,455, RX 450h.

Price as tested: $61,954, including freight and options (2019 RX 450h F Sport).

On the Road rating: 9.2 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.

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