We tend to take notice when a vehicle undergoes a major uer-experience makeover, and it’s safe to say the ’20 Lexus RX 350 represents a light-year leap for the best-seller in Toyota’s luxury lineup.
In one fell swoop, the RX 350 corrects a slew of UX deficiencies by adding touchscreen controls and incorporating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for the first time in the crossover. Need more gee-whiz? How about being able to interact with the system via Amazon Alexa or project Waze crowd-sourced mapping to the touchscreen?
Our well-equipped F Sport Performance AWD model checked in at $51,750 and included the central-nervous system of the RX’s interface, the optional 12.3-in. (31.2-cm) horizontal touchscreen perched at perfect eye level atop the dashboard.
Credit the Japanese automaker’s UX designers’ careful attention to detail in pulling the entire screen and center stack 5.5 ins. (14 cm) inward to make it easier for driver and passenger to reach the controls and touchscreen.
Although the vehicle’s touchpad operation remains unchanged, access via the new touchscreen takes the pressure off the mouse-like controller for managing every screen function, automatically making the touchpad seem much more user friendly.
Keeping pace with the best of the premium competition, our RX’s extra-large high-resolution, split-display touchscreen is backed by Dynamic Voice Command, allowing natural voice recognition for millions of common phrases. Need coffee or fuel? Just say so and within a few heartbeats the touchscreen populates with lists of the nearest options. The screen also can provide full-color maps of area weather and traffic flow at the touch of a button.
Additional premium search features are available through the Lexus Enform app suite, included for three years with the vehicle.
When we weren’t being wowed by the center screen and its supporting switchgear, the RX was winning kudos from our judges for its bright and informative gauge cluster and head-up display.
“That is one of the better HUDs, with good resolution and lots of information – and it stands up to bright sun and polarized lenses,” says editor Drew Winter.
Adds judge Tom Murphy: “I like the ability to see the entire weather map for the U.S., or metro Detroit. The HUD is vibrant as well, with turn-by-turn navigation directions, if you want them.”
The RX also showcases the automaker’s premium driver-assistance features, adding daytime bicyclist detection and low-light pedestrian detection for extra safety. Especially impressive is the new Road Sign Assist to highlight freeway sign information packaged with Lane Tracing Assist that does an excellent job of detecting road markings or following the car ahead to keep the vehicle centered in the travel lane. The full-range adaptive cruise control is equally impressive in managing vehicle speed and following distance.
“Odd construction-zone lane markings didn’t cause it to lose ‘sight’ of the road,” noted one tester. “I felt very confident that the vehicle had my back, both to react to slowing or stopped traffic, but also to hold the lane without nannying me to death.”
Consider the ’20 Lexus RX 350 a case study in how UX improvements can push an already good vehicle into a spot among the best in the business.