Aged to perfection? Can the 2022 Lexus RX hold off fresher premium midsize crossovers?

By Chuck Giametta

What changes will make the 2022 Lexus RX different?

2021 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

Little beyond a fresh paint color or two and maybe a new trim package as America’s top-selling premium midsize-crossover SUV soldiers on against toughening competition. The 2022 RX will return two body lengths – with seating for five or seven, respectively — and with gas- and hybrid-engine options.

Dependability, comfort, and Lexus-brand hospitality will remain ’22 RX selling points. So will lower prices than European rivals like the BMW X5, Audi Q7, and Mercedes-Benz GLE, although the impressive new Genesis GV80 and the redesigned 2022 Infiniti QX80 are strong cost-competitive alternatives.

Should I wait for the 2022 Lexus RX or buy a 2021?

2021 RX 350 F Sport

Buy a 2021. No ’22 RX is apt to change in any way worth waiting for, although they’ll almost certainly cost more. The core model lineup should repeat. Expect gas-only 2022 RX 350 models with seats for five and RX 350L versions with a third seating row and room for up to seven. These gas-only RXs will again be available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). The gas-electric-hybrids should be back as the five-passenger RX 450h and six-passenger RX 450hL, both with AWD standard.

Also returning will be popular F Sport versions of the RX 350 and RX 450h with unique appearance touches and handling-tuned suspensions. Lexus should again offer F Sport Handling Package editions with quicker steering and an adaptive variable suspension, among other tweaks. Premium and Luxury packages with amenities like real-wood and aluminum interior trim should also return.

The 2022 RX line will remain among the oldest in the fiercely contested premium-midsize-crossover class. This generation debuted for model-year 2016. The three-row “L” versions were added for 2018. A model-year-2020 refresh brought some minor mechanical updates and subtly revising styling that remains surprisingly edgy and somewhat polarizing.

Still, demand ought to remain strong. The ’21 RX tightened its grip on the segment sales crown, with a 34-percent increase through first-quarter 2021 in a class up 31 percent. Don’t look for Lexus to alter this customer-winning formula before model-year 2024, when the next-generation RX is due.

Will 2022 Lexus RX styling be different?

2021 RX 450hL

No, and it won’t change until the next full redesign. The ’22 RX will carry over the minor revisions that came with the 2020 refresh. They included reshaped fascia, repatterned grille inserts, thinner headlamps, and new wheels. F Sports will retain their own trim details, including understated aero addenda, black mirrors, and graphite-finish 20-inch alloy wheels. Polished 18-inch alloys will remain standard on other RXs, with 20-inchers included with the Luxury Package.

The ’20 refresh didn’t alter the RX’s most important dimension, its wheelbase, which remains shorter than average for the class. On newer rivals, this distance between the front and rear axles averages about 114 inches. The 2022 RX and RX L will again share a 109.8-inch wheelbase. The L’s body is 4.3-inches longer, but that mostly translates to slightly more cargo room.

Wheelbase is crucial to legroom. All ’22 RXs will continue to provide first- and second-row occupants enough clearance to avoid feeling cramped. But the relatively short wheelbase will again incumber L models with a thinly padded third row confining even for youngsters. In fairness, it is useful as a secure place to carry kiddos. And nothing in this segment has a truly roomy third row. But you could look to the Volvo XC90 and Tesla Model X as alternatives that at least treat their third rows as more than a marketing afterthought.     

2021 RX 350L third-row seat

The ’22 RX’s first- and second-row seats should remain supple and supportive. Expect second-row captain’s chairs to again be standard on the 450hL and optional at round $400 for the RX 350L, reducing its capacity to six from seven. Heated and ventilated front seats were model-year-‘21 options, at $640. For ’22, we’d suggest Lexus make heated rear seats available on the L models, not just the regular-length RXs.

The ’22 RX cabin will again feature satisfyingly solid panels and richly padded surfaces most everywhere you touch. Lexus’s convincing faux-leather NuLuxe upholstery is likely to remain standard on every model, with F Sports boasting extra bolstering and handsome contrasting stitching. Leather upholstery should remain optional.

2021 RX 350 F Sport

Brightly lit instrumentation and a user-friendly dashboard will remain highlights. Less appealing is the center console’s touchpad infotainment-system controller. It’s an interface more appropriate to a stationary laptop than a moving vehicle, where it’s too easy for the on-screen cursor to overshoot your intended icon.

The 2020 refresh reduced reliance on the finicky pad by furnishing the standard 8-inch dashboard screen and the optional 12.3-incher with touch-sensitive symbols. Unfortunately, the touchscreen is a long reach away for driver or front passenger, so most users will probably stick with the console touchpad. Many functions can also be governed via voice command and steering-wheel controls.

2021 RX infotainment touchpad controller

This infotainment setup is on its way out at Lexus with introduction of a new multimedia system that ditches the touchpad in favor of touchscreens ranging from 8 inches to 14, depending on the application. The automaker says the new system has five times the processing power and can pair with cloud-based embedded navigation for faster and more accurate directions. It debuts in the redesigned 2022 NX, Lexus’s premium subcompact crossover. Whether it will make its way into the RX before the model-year-’24 redesign, only Lexus knows.   

The RX’s advanced age deserves some blame for some other design compromises. For example, controls for seat temperature, parking brake, and automatic brake-hold are shoehorned awkwardly in front of the gearshift.

2021 RX 350

The RX has a nicely finished cargo bay, but volume is below par for the competitive set. The regular-length bodies have 18.4 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 56.3 with it folded. “L” models get 6.2 cubic feet behind their third-row, 23 behind the second row, and 58.5 with both rear rows folded.

A 60/40 split power-folding rear seat has been available as part of the option that heats and ventilates the front seats and heats the rear seat – but Lexus would do well to make it available on the “L” models for ‘22, not just the regular-length RXs. And hands-free operation for the standard power liftgate should return as a $150 option; we’d propose Lexus make it standard for 2022.

Any mechanical changes to the 2022 Lexus RX?

2021 RX 450hL

Very unlikely. The 2022 RX will benefit from mechanical enhancements that came with the 2020 refresh, including torque vectoring that sharpens handling by applying a touch of braking to the inside wheels during cornering. But major changes won’t occur until the redesign.

The 2022 RX will return with drivetrains developed by Lexus’s parent company, Toyota, and have proven quite satisfying in this luxury role.

The RX 350, RX 350 F Sport, and RX 350L will again employ the corporate 3.5-liter V-6 engine, here with 295 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. Allied with a responsive eight-speed automatic transmission, acceleration is smooth and strong enough for fuss-free merging and passing. Zero-60 mph will again require 7 seconds or so, comparable with direct rivals of similar power.

Most buyers who pick from the 2022 RX 350 line will again choose AWD, which should again add a reasonable $1,350 to the price of a front-wheel-drive counterpart. It’s a conventional crossover system, normally operating in front-drive and automatically shuffling power fore and aft to quell any tire slip. It’s a boon in snow and on gravel but isn’t intended for real off-roading. Ground clearance is shared with the hybrids and at 8.2 inches, is par for the competitive set.   

2021 RX 350

The 2022 RX 450h, RX 450h F Sport, and RX 450hL hybrids will again pair a 3.5-liter gasoline V-6 with electric-motor assist for a net 308 horsepower (Lexus quotes no torque figure). The hybrids will continue with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Like the eight-speed automatic, it comes with steering-wheel paddle shifters to simulate manual-gear control, even though CVTs don’t have stepped gear ratios.

These are not plug-in hybrids and can’t tap the grid for electrical power. They instead rely instead on energy captured during coasting and braking to recharge their onboard battery pack. They will again employ three electric motors: one to start the engine starter and help control transmission ratios, a second to assist the gas engine in driving the front wheels, a third at the rear axle to automatically drive the rear wheels when AWD is required. 

The hybrids outweigh gas-only RXs by about 150 pounds and are roughly a half-second slower to 60 mph.But instant assist from their electric motor means ready power, so throttle response – especially at around-town speeds — is impressive.

All 2022 RXs will profit from improvements to structural rigidity and suspension components that were part of the ’20 refresh. The changes helped erase some impact harshness that occasionally sullied the RX experience. Still, stick with the 18-inch wheels and tires standard on non-F Sport versions for the kind of rough-road absorbency you expect from a Lexus: they better filter bumps and are quieter on coarse pavement.

Nothing Lexus has done or likely will do to this RX generation will elevate its handling to challenge the likes of the Audi Q7, BMW X5, or the redesigned ’22 Acura MDX. Still, road manners are perfectly compatible with this crossover’s mission. Steering is light and linear, and the RX remains composed and predictable in changes of direction.

Count on ’22 F Sport versions to again provide a slim but noticeable margin of handling prowess over the mainstream RXs. Based on our test drives, the performance payoff with the F Sport Handling Package isn’t worth the extra cost, which for model-year ’21, ranged from $2,320 on the RX 450h F Sport to $3350 on the RX 350 F Sport. Oddly, ordering the package has been the only way you could equip any F Sport with a heated steering wheel.

Will 2022 Lexus RX fuel economy improve?

2021 RX 350 F Sport

Only because of any potential alteration to EPA test formulas, not because of changes to the 2022 RX. That means you can expect this crossover to remain among the more fuel-efficient in the competitive set.

Look for the ’22 RX 350 to rate 20/28/23 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 19/26/22 with AWD. The RX 350L should again rate 19/26/22 mpg with front-wheel drive and 18/25/21 with AWD.

With AWD standard, anticipate the 2022 RX 450h to rate 30/28/30 mpg city/highway/combined and the RX 450hL 29/28/29 mpg.   

F Sport versions will carry the same ratings as the models upon which they are based.
For all ’22 RXs, regardless of powertrain, expect Lexus to continue to recommend 91-octane or higher gasoline.

Will the 2022 Lexus RX have new features?

2021 RX 350 F Sport

Nothing major unless the ’22 RX is in the que for Lexus’s improved new multimedia system discussed above. And we’ve already noted other changes we’d suggest, such as heated rear seats for the “L” models. Otherwise, the ’22 RX will return with a laudable array of standard and optional features., although making an important driver assist standard instead of optional would better serve this upscale automaker’s clientele.

Every ’22 RX will again come with the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0. This includes forward-collision warning as well as autonomous emergency braking designed to automatically slow or stop the crossover to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle, object, pedestrian, or bicyclist.

Adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead is part of the system, as is automatic high-beam headlight control. Lane-departure warning with lane-maintaining automatic steering correction is included. So is driver-monitored semi-autonomous steering designed to place the RX between lane markings and where markings are not detected, to follow the vehicle ahead.

Missing from the standard-equipment list for model-year 2021 was blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection with automatic braking. This valuable assist was optional at $565, and we’d urge Lexus to make it standard for 2022. It’s standard on many less expensive vehicles, include a host of cars and crossovers from parent-company Toyota.

Overall, two- and three-row versions of the 2022 RX 350 and RX 450h will largely mirror each other for standard and optional equipment. All will come with keyless access and pushbutton engine start, power front seats with 10-way adjustment for the driver and 8-way for the passenger, a power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and dual- (RX) or tri-zone (RX L) automatic climate control.

LED daytime running lights and fog lights will again be standard, along with LED low- and high-beam headlamps. Triple-beam self-leveling LED headlamps should return as an option at around $1,975.

In addition to features already noted, F Sport grades of the 2022 RX 350 and 450h will again add a custom instrument cluster, ambient interior lighting, and auto-dimming exterior mirrors. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and six USB ports will return as standard across the board; expect wireless phone charging to return as an option at around $200.

Imbedded navigation will again be available via the Navigation Package and will include the 12.3-inch widescreen, a 12-speaker audio system, and a climate-system smog sensor. The package should also continue to include Lexus Enform Remote, which allows users to control certain vehicle features, such as remote engine start, with a smartwatch or Amazon Alexa. It also comes the automaker’s Dynamic Voice Command, which responds brilliantly to even the most casually spoken requests and orders. The package was priced at $2,285 for 2021, or $3,365 with an audiophile-pleasing Mark Levinson-brand 15-speaker audio upgrade.

How much will the 2022 Lexus RX cost?

2021 RX 450h

Expect 2022 RX base prices to continue track a bit higher than those of its American- and Japanese-brand rivals but to generally undercut those of European competitors. Lexus increased base prices around $1,000 for model-year 2021, and a similar hike for ’22 wouldn’t be a surprise.  

For reference, here are 2021 RX base prices, including Lexus’s $1,025 destination fee. The 2021 RX 350 was priced from $46,245 with front-wheel drive and from $47,595 with AWD, the ’21 RX 350L from $49,075 and $50,425, respectively. The 2021 RX 350 F Sport started at $49,725 with front-drive and at $51,125 with AWD.

With AWD standard, base prices were $48,945 for the 2021 RX 450h and $52,335 for the RX 450h L.

In addition to options already discussed, notable extras should again include aa Premium Package for non-F Sport models with genuine wood interior trim (including matte walnut or bamboo), driver-seat memory, power sunroof, and a storage compartment in the rear armrest. Expect it to cost a reasonable $800 or so on five-passenger RXs and $1,580 on L versions. Regular-length ’21 RXs should again be available with a panoramic moonroof as a $500 option

Expect a Luxury Package to return at around $3,890 on the RX 350 and RX 450h and around $6,000 on the RX 350L RX 450hL. It should again include the Premium Package content, plus 20-inch wheels, power-adjustable thigh support for the front seats, upgraded leather upholstery, Sapele wood and aluminum interior trim, rear-window sunshades, and a heated wood/leather steering wheel.

All 2021 RX models should again offer the $315 Cold Weather Package that includes a windshield wiper de-icer, auto-leveling headlights, and a special heater designed to warm the cabin more quickly. The $265 Towing Prep Package adds a heavy-duty radiator and coolers for the engine and transmission oil systems, for a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.

When does the 2022 Lexus RX come out?

2021 RX 450hL

Look for a 2022 Lexus RX release date in the third quarter of 2021.

What are the best competitors for the 2022 Lexus RX?

Acura MDX, Audi Q7, BMW X5, Cadillac XT6, Genesis GV80, Infiniti QX60, Lincoln Aviator, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Porsche Cayenne, Volvo XC90

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]