In order to remain competitive in the crossover segment, it’s important for any automaker to have a three-row option on hand for families that need more the five seats. Lexus was privy to this fact as its Toyota arm has offered three rows in the Highlander and RAV4 for a while, however, the only seven- or eight-seat options in the luxury line were limited to the body-on-frame GX and LX models. However, in 2018, Lexus added a third row to its RX crossover without adding more room, but is it good enough to be a competent three-row SUV?
2020 Lexus RX 350L
We have the 2020 Lexus RX 350L as a loaner and during our time with it so far, we still can’t wrap our heads around why the brand decided not to stretch out the wheelbase to accommodate the third row. Sure, the cost of tooling and re-engineering the platform is probably pretty steep – so we understand – but it’s still interesting that they just threw in a third row without really thinking too much about who could actually fit in it.
First of all, getting into the third row is a slightly awkward affair, even for someone who is 5 feet 8 inches tall and once you’re back there, it’s not exactly comfortable. According to Lexus, there are 23.5 inches of legroom and 34.8 inches of headroom in the third row, which apparently translates to “you must not be taller than 3 feet” because, truthfully, you will have a hard time fitting most adults back there. One saving grace of the way-back position is that there is a climate control panel for the third-row passengers.
The captain’s chairs don’t make much sense
Another option that our Lexus RX tester came with is the second-row captain’s chairs, which effectively turns the car into a six-passenger vehicle. We actually like the look of the segregated second row as it gives the interior an airy and upscale feel in addition to giving dueling siblings a chance to sit apart from each other. There is adequate leg and headroom and obviously the lateral space feels much more open, we also like the flip-up cupholders that are fixed to the sides of each seat.
But we’re still wondering why they would even go to such lengths to provide a captain’s chair configuration. Is it supposed to give passengers easier access to the super-cramped third row? Most likely, however, it just seems unnecessary given the confined restraints of the car’s interior.
The Lexus RX is definitely not a minivan
While the 2020 Lexus RX 350L works well conceptually as a three-row SUV, we feel like the automaker failed in its execution. Although it might cost a lot more for them to extend the wheelbase and actually offer the right amount of space to accommodate up to seven passengers, it likely would have money well spent. For now, we don’t feel like the RX 350L really does the job that it is intended for, but we give them a “C” for effort because it at least looks really nice.