There are two ways to enhance the utility of a vehicle: make it so it can carry more stuff, or make it so it can carry more people. Lexus has introduced a pair of lengthened RX models at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, the 2018 RX 350L and 2018 RX 450hL, which expand seating capacity to six or seven passengers. Whether that added length means more cargo room remains to be seen considering we don't have apples-to-apples specifications to compare the L-versions to the regular RX at this time.
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The RX 350L goes on sale in January 2018 and the RX 450hL hybrid launches in the spring of 2018. Spring will also be when the captain's chairs become an option in the RX 350L (they're standard in the RX 450hL), which reduces seating capacity from seven to six.
Lexus representatives say the captain's chairs won't slide forward or tilt for entry to the third row, so passengers will have to climb through the middle of the seats to reach the back, which is odd. The bench seat does offer tilt-and-slide functionality on both sides of the vehicle, however, for an easier path to the third row.
The RX 350L earned the last letter of its name for added room Lexus tacked onto the rear to accommodate an extra row of seats. Length jumps to 196.8 inches, up from the 192.5 inches of the standard RX. The RX is already a sneaky-big car, measuring just as long as a Toyota Highlander, and the longer version blows right past it. The Highlander offers 27.7 inches of legroom in its tight third row, however, while the RX 350L only offers 22.6 inches.
Accessing the third row isn't too difficult. Getting the second-row seat back into place once I was back there, however, was. The seat kept hitting my legs, so to get it locked in, I had to turn my body nearly 90 degrees. This third row isn't meant for adults; kids may fit back there better, and there is some wiggle room with second-row travel, but it's not enough to help adults. The third row also features clamshell head restraints that in the past have given taller editors trouble (they push your head forward so you can't fully lean back into the seat comfortably). I can't confirm this, though, because I couldn't lean back far enough to see how they were — my head hit the ceiling.
The added length doesn't do any favors to rear styling. To accommodate it, there is a long, sweeping piece of roof that dips down to almost touch the lower bodywork. This hurts third-row visibility, as those passengers get a very small window.
The rest of the RX 350L is closer to the standard RX: great materials, comfortable seats and that boldly styled spindle grille up front. I get the logic behind offering a third row in the RX to expand its usability, it's just a shame it doesn't fit adults. The RX 350L will start at $48,665 for front-wheel-drive models (including destination charges) when it goes on sale in January, while all-wheel-drive models bump that up to $50,065.
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