The Lexus RX 350 has always been the standard to which I judged midsize luxury sport-utility vehicles. But there was one problem: It only had seating for five. That changed with the RX 350L, which adds two more seating positions by stretching the body about 4.5 inches.
It’s available in two trim levels, with front-wheel or all-wheel-drive configurations. It’s powered by a 290-horsepower V-6 engine connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission. In the era of high-horsepower engines, 290 horsepower sounds a bit lacking, but it easily moves this 4,600-pound sport-utility vehicle to 60 mph in about eight seconds.
The infotainment system features 15 speakers and a 12-inch display. The front seats are comfortable, as are second-row seats, which can fit two or even three adults.
On faster turns, this SUV feels well-connected to the road. The steering is light enough without feeling artificial. Overall, this SUV would provide the comfort and fatigue-free driving needed for a long road trip, with the bonus of being one of the quietest SUVs around.
Safety is well addressed with standard lane-keeping assist, pedestrian detection, smart cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and some of the best headlights in recent memory. — John Paul
Base Price: $47,870
MPG: 18 city, 25 highway
Crash Test: 4 stars
Based on BMW’S uber-popular 3 Series sedan, the first-generation X1 was arguably the most fun to drive of all compact sport-utility vehicles. Alas, gen 1 is gone, replaced by an X1 that shares architecture with the Mini Clubman. The base version now has front-wheel rather than rear-wheel drive. And no longer is a six-cylinder engine an option; a turbo four-cylinder and eight-speed automatic is the only engine/transmission combo offered.
The upshot? The latest X1 is more practical. A little taller and wider, it’s quite roomy for a compact SUV. The interior is upscale and well-crafted except for the front-seat cushions, which are uncomfortably short and flat. A shorter hood allows excellent forward visibility. Handling is safe and secure. And the engine is silky smooth.
A front-wheel-drive X1 is the least expensive BMW, with a base price just under $35,000. All-wheel drive and option packages can drive the price tag crazy-high. But even the base model comes with plenty of standard goodies, including a power liftgate and Bluetooth. Stick to the basics and you can have this BMW for not much more than you’d pay for a compact SUV from a less prestigious brand. — John Lehrer
Base Price: $35,000
MPG: 22 city, 31 highway
Crash Test: 5 stars
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