The latest generation of the Lexus RX range was launched in traditional five-seater guise in 2016, but apparently there was a demand from customers for a seven-seater derivative, hence Lexus decided to launch the RX350L.

Will seven be the lucky number that will provide a significant turnaround for sales? Lexus is obviously hoping so.

The exterior design of this luxury SUV hasn’t changed much from the normal-size RX though. LED headlamps, daytime running lights and that signature chiselled spindle grille give the RX a distinctive look.

Despite its longer dimension, the RX350L doesn’t look cumbersome due to clever design that includes a slick continuation of the glass from the A-pillar right to the D-pillar as it tapers off to provide enough light and a sense of roominess inside. The tailgate is hands-free; just move your hand around the handle area and it pops open.

The inside cabin is quite luxurious with lots of leather. The rear windows have a manually operated curtain which I found a bit cheap for a vehicle at this level.

The three-zone climate control system caters for the front seats and the middle ones, plus there are vents for the last row of passengers, which made for a pleasant reprieve from the heat in the Cape.

A longer cabin that allows you to stretch your legs for a long-distance drive is always a relief. My 1.8m frame didn’t fit snuggly in the confines of the third row of seats, but then it’s not really meant for an adult.

What I liked though is that the second row of seats is slightly raised to make room for the feet of the third-row occupants. The third row comes with two cup holders and vents from the three-zone air-conditioning system that keep passengers well ventilated.

Ample space

The third row of seats is not going to seat adults for long even with their own climate control buttons and cup-holders. Picture: MOTORPRESS
The third row of seats is not going to seat adults for long even with their own climate control buttons and cup-holders. Picture: MOTORPRESS

The third row of seats is operated at the touch of a button and even when they are up, there is a claimed segment-leading cargo length of 566mm providing ample space that can easily gobble bags of groceries.

Passengers can access the last row by using one-touch levers to slide and fold the second row forward. Once the seats lie completely flat a sizeable 432l of space is liberated. This can comfortably fit a folded bike and a whole lot of bags. This f is what makes the RX350L desirable as you don’t have to fuss much about the availability of space.

The front seats are heated with a 10-way power adjustment and the driver’s seat has a memory setting that allows the seat to move back to its previous setting when the driver switches on the car.

The second row is also heated with cupholders, but what I liked most here is the seats can recline by a few millimetres due to the extended legroom. This allows the occupants to recline and rest, especially on long drives.

The dash and equipment design reflect the typical Lexus luxury and themes. Picture: MOTORPRESS
The dash and equipment design reflect the typical Lexus luxury and themes. Picture: MOTORPRESS

The only thing I found peculiar was the lack of foot room underneath the front seats which would have made sitting here even more comfortable, but this could depend on the height the front passengers choose. For convenience second-row passengers also have access to USB sockets in the central armrest for charging devices.

Every luxury manufacturer pulls out all the stops to make sure occupants are not only ensconced in a luxurious cabin but are also safe when a mishap happens. Lexus has included curtain-shield airbags and an array of other safety features such as vehicle stability, traction control, antilock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, tyre pressure assist and a reverse camera.

We drove along the picturesque and winding Clarence Drive from Gordons Bay towards Hermanus, a route that made me realise why this part of our country attracts hordes of tourists from home and abroad.

We occasionally encountered slow-moving vehicles that struggled to climb the inclines but the V6 petrol motor with 216kW and 358Nm of torque was able to zip by those vehicles with ease.

The Lexus is up there with its European competitors in terms of quality, refinement and overall appeal. Personally I would go for the Land Rover Discovery Sport, but the Lexus would be a strong second option.

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