Crossover & Midsize

Can the 2021 Lexus RX L Really Go Toe-to-Toe With a Porsche?

If you told an owner of an American or German luxury car in 1989 that Lexus would one day compete head-to-head with Porsche, you’d likely hear, “You’re crazy.” But here we are, contrasting the Porsche Cayenne with the Lexus RX L. In a recent review, Consumer Reports gave the 2021 Lexus RX L a score of 82 out of 100, one point higher than the 2021 Porsche Cayenne. However, CR gave the 2021 Lexus RX an 80, one point lower than the Porsche. Let’s take a look.

Dwindling sales drove Lexus to add a third row to the RX

Earlier this year, Consumer Reports published a report with data showing Lexus continues to be the most reliable luxury carmaker. CR conducts annual surveys where vehicle owners share their experiences. In 2020 alone, CR received data from respondents regarding nearly 330,000 vehicles. In Consumer Reports‘ report on which auto manufacturers make the most reliable vehicles, Lexus ranks third, while Porsche ranks only ninth. Either way, the Lexus RX350 midsize SUV remains a favorite among consumers.

Though the Lexus RX has a long history of earning consumer loyalty with its comfort, reposefulness, luxuriousness, and reliability, its lack of third-row seating forced once-loyal buyers to choose other models. In response, Lexus added 4.3 inches in length and about a half-inch in height to accommodate a third row — hence, the “L” designation. Nevertheless, that extra space is mainly for the third row because there are only 23 cubic feet of cargo space behind it, the Lexus RX L’s product page shows. CR gives the model only 3 out of 5 in cargo space.

The 2021 Lexus RX L in a nutshell

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The Lexus RX L front-wheel-drive version starts at $48,000, while the all-wheel-drive variant starts at $49,400, the Lexus product page shows. 

Lexus attempted to give the RX L an aggressive and sporty look, but compared to the Cayenne, its character is more reserved and comfortable. Rather than zipping through turns and treating every stoplight as a challenge, it’s designed for cruising. The RX L features the same standard 3.5-liter V6 engine or hybrid powertrain as the regular RX350 and RX450h. Upgrading to the F Sport model still provides rather sedated acceleration.

Because the Cayenne offers more cargo space — 27.2 cubic feet compared with the RX L’s 23 cubic feet — it’s confusing why CR said the “added cargo space may be the best reason for some shoppers to choose the RX L.”

At least you can keep everyone entertained with their choice of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa compatibility — a feature that allows you to start your Lexus RX L remotely using a smartwatch. With Amazon, you can listen to music or a podcast, watch a movie, or even listen to your favorite audiobook. Plus, there’s a convenient 12.3-inch touchscreen multimedia display that, along with an audio system, “rivals six-figure home systems,” Lexus claims.

How the 2021 Porsche Cayenne compares

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Porsche offers 12 Cayenne models, ranging from $67,500 to $166,200. The Turbo S E-Hybrid is the priciest model. The base model packs a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 producing 335-hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. It can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds and boasts a track speed of 152 mph. Its engine pairs with an eight-speed manual actuation transmission with automatic mode. It gets an EPA-estimated 19 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway, with 20 mpg overall.

As mentioned earlier, the cargo capacity behind the rear row is a decent 27.2 cubic feet. It expands to 60.3 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded, Porsche’s website shows. Both driver and front passenger enjoy eight-way comfort seats. But everyone from front to rear will like the Burmester or Bose surround sound system. Plus, Porsche offers plenty of entertainment options. They include wireless Apple CarPlay and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Unfortunately, Porsche figured that anyone who can afford this car would never use an Android device because Android Auto isn’t an option.