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2020 Lexus RX 350 Addresses SUV’s Biggest Problem, But Doesn’t Fix It

The fourth-generation 2020 Lexus RX 350 gets a needed mid-cycle refresh that tweaks the styling and attempts to fix the quagmire that was the mid-size luxury SUV’s multimedia system. While there are many changes coming with this refresh, my focus is on tech updates — which could be a sign of things to come for the rest of the Lexus lineup, as well.

Related: 2020 Lexus RX and RXL Preview: Rejuvenating an Aging Icon

Lexus’ multimedia offerings have been pretty bad, to be frank. There were too many menus, and the screens looked pixelated with navigation pulled. To make matters worse, the screens could only be controlled by a small rectangular controller or via a touchpad that was equally difficult to use (especially when in motion).

That makes it a big step in the right direction that both of the 2020 RX’s screens — the 8-inch standard screen or the 12.3-inch optional screen shown in photos — will now be touchscreens. There are also updates to the multimedia system, which now features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. This will be the first Lexus model to offer Android Auto, and it’s about damn time.

I only got to see updated RX 350 models that featured the 12.3-inch screen, but Lexus has confirmed that both of the screens will be mounted in the same place, high up on the dashboard where it sits closer to the driver’s line of sight. That’s good for minimizing the time it takes to look down and process the screen’s data, but it has one huge drawback: It’s way too far to reach from the driver’s seat. I extended my arm all the way toward the screen from my driving position and I barely hit the lip of the dash below the screen — 3 to 4 inches short of the mark. Unless you’re Inspector Gadget, to use the screen via touch you’re going to have to lean forward quite a ways.

The good news is: There’s still a touchpad in the space behind the gear shifter. The bad news is: There’s still a touchpad in the space behind the gear shifter. Overall, the touchscreen capability and connectivity additions are a big upgrade for the system. I just wish it were more within reach.

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Lexus also says that all of the RX models will get NuLuxe seating standard, not real leather, which might concern me more if not for the fact that Lexus’ NuLuxe is great. The seats in the 2020 RX envelop you comfortably; each time I get to climb back into one it’s like settling into a warm blanket.

We’ll have to get on the road to test out how the new multimedia setup fares while the vehicle is in motion, and to see if Lexus’ claimed improvements to driving dynamics bear out — especially on F Sport models, which now add an adaptive suspension. But the way the RX drove was not what was holding it back; it was its dated multimedia system with a poor control scheme — and that’s precisely the problem that Lexus hopes is now fixed.

The 2020 RX 350 will be out sometime in late summer, once production of the vehicle ramps up.

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