Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: December 14, 2020
What do you do when a product is near the end of its life cycle? Add some flair and special editions. For 2021, that’s exactly what Lexus has done with their iconic RX SUV, adding a new Black Line Edition ($8,850). It’s an aesthetic upgrade for either the gas-powered RX 350 or RX 450h hybrid, and while it doesn’t affect performance or handling, Black Line is essentially an F-Sport Series 1 with black 20-inch wheels, black side mirrors, a dark front grill surround, black panel graphic on the lower side fenders, and a new paint colour called Grecian Water, a shade that looks stunning in person, and refreshes the RX silhouette to appear almost brand new.
To match it, there is blue stitching embedded along the unique black and white leather interior. You will also find similar Black Line Edition models available on the Lexus IS and LX models. Of note, the Black Line Edition lacks the adaptive variable suspension in the F Sport Series 2 package ($9,000).
The rest of the RX 350 remains the same as the 2020 model, which is a very good thing. One of the most balanced, comfortable, and reliable luxury SUVs on the market, it’s a clear winner in our books, highly sought after not only by us, but by thieves across Ontario apparently, topping the charts of the most stolen vehicles of the year.
It only takes an hour or two behind the wheel to see why. The interior is upscale and feature-rich. Leather is the dominant material, with fit and finish at the top of its class. There’s not a panel gap in sight. It’s the little things that win buyers over, like how the heated seats are the fastest in the business, barely taking a minute to reach toasty temperatures, or the adjustable-depth cupholders so you can fit cups and mugs of any size without spillage. The side door pockets can swing outwards so you can grab and store larger items much easier, the heated and ventilated seats can automatically detect the temperature and tune your seat to the perfect setting, and the power windows slow down right before they close so the action is quieter and less intrusive to passengers.
Yes, the perfection of the interior is heavily marred by the frustrating trackpad that does little to excite or invoke user friendliness. It just doesn’t feel natural to operate. This is a trackpad-controlled unit that should have been a touchscreen - ask the Toyota Camry and Avalon which use the same infotainment but are less nerve-wracking to use thanks to its touch operation. Well, it’s not like the RX’s competitors fare much better - the horrid unit in the 2020 Acura MDX and new RDX are just as disappointing.
But it drives like a peach. The naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 has been around for ages, and for a good reason. It’s buttery smooth, unbelievably polished, and its linear approach to power delivery has us missing a world without turbochargers. The RX 350’s 295-hp power output is more than enough for the city and suburban dweller, and punchy enough for aggressive maneuvers on the highway.
And there’s a gentle sense of suave and control when you push it over bumps and pockmarked roads. It’s not as absorbent as a BMW X5 loaded with air springs, but it’s competent and more than acceptable for daily use or long distance road trips. There is a hybrid available in the form of the RX 450h but we’ve driven that, and found that it lacks any sort of driver involvement. Everything the RX does well is there but the drive is gone, making you feel like a surrogate controlling the vehicle via a Playstation controller. The brakes are springy, the powertrain is slow, and the steering is whack. Though the fuel savings are noteworthy, you’d have to be frequently driving long distances to truly reap the benefits of electrification.
The Black Line edition does little to change the RX’s winning formula, but it’s for the better, reinforcing our opinions of this being one of the most complete and well-rounded luxury SUVs on the market. The Grecian Water paint refreshes the palette nicely, and should keep the RX relevant for another couple rounds.
Model: 2021 Lexus RX 350 Black Line Edition
Paint Type: Grecian Water
Base Price: $56,150
Price as Tested: $65,000
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,890 / 1,895 / 1,720
Curb weight (kg): 1,990
Engine: 3.5-litre V6
Horsepower: 295 hp @ 6,300 rpm
Torque: 267 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 13.2