2020 was a steady year for the Lexus brand

2020 Lexus RC. Metro News Service photo
2020 Lexus RC. Metro News Service photo

Toyota’s luxury brand continues to churn out solid, quality SUVs and sedans

It’s that time of year when we look toward a new year. And now more than ever, we want to put 2020 in the books. This week, I will wrap up the 2020 model year, but do so in a less traditional way.

I was lucky to be put behind the wheel of several Lexus vehicles, ranging from sedans to SUVs. So, here, this week’s Driver’s Side column will encapsulate several of these luxury vehicles, especially when not one of them received anything too new for the 2020 model year.

So let’s take a look at these four vehicles to wrap up 2020, and fingers crossed that 2021 is much better for us all.

2020 Lexus RC

For this model year this small sporty coupe remains mostly intact, although the RC F model is new and refreshed. Thankfully that was the trim I reviewed, and the color was a vibrant, eye-catching yellow. It reminded me of the Toyota Supra I drove as well (more on that in coming weeks).

That youthful, playful side is where the RC excels. There’s even a track edition added to the lineup. My tester was plenty powerful with a 5.0-liter V8 engine and 472 horsepower. The 8-speed transmission holds its own in all gears and even through switching to sport mode, where revs are held a little longer. In normal mode, the RC F did exceedingly well, inspiring goosebumps and heart-pounding performance.

This is the best Lexus I’ve driven in the 2020 model year (I had to clarify with model year as coming up in future weeks is my review of the 2021 LC500 convertible which — spoiler alert — is amazing).

The RC F’s interior matches its sporty and youthful persona. While the racing-style seats are firm they have a great angle for driving and are reasonably supported. Of note, I generally dislike sport-style seats as they don’t support my crickety old back very well. The F-Sport features are outstanding, including the good-to-the-touch leather steering wheel and shift knob.

Lexus continues with their confounding infotainment system — alas, with the overly sensitive and not intuitive joypad. This will be common theme in this review. Note to Lexus: Get this touchpad out of your vehicles as quickly as possible. It’s time for something else. Anything else!

All in all, the RC F was memorable and enjoyable. Performance is where it’s at with this small car which is the right size and right balance of luxury and power for me. The 2020 Lexus RC F had a MSRP of $64,900 and a final price of $89,654.

2020 Lexus ES 350 F-Sport

The ES 350 is one of the stalwarts of the Lexus lineup. It’s a steady performer and a great introduction to Toyota’s luxury brand. But, for 2020 especially, the ES 350 is wholly forgettable. It has been ever-so-gently updated, almost too subtly.

This sleepy, conservative midsize often earns the reputation of being a “glorified Toyota.” And honestly, for the 2020 model year it has just enough niceties to deserve the Lexus badging, but very little else about this sedan is inspiring.

A 3.5-liter V6 puts out 302 HP. That is hardly exhilarating but is also just adequate enough to be without flaws. The interior is equally solid, but too conservative. Once again, the infotainment system does its job, but that touchpad detracts from the technology and the overall infotainment system. Thankfully the ES comes equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to redeem itself a little.

My tester had a MSRP of $44,635 and a final, as-tested price of $53,950. As a startup, or beginner’s entre to Lexus, it does its job, but oomph and excitement would serve the brand well.

2020 Lexus UX 250h

The Lexus naming convention, especially on their SUV line, is confusing. I prefer names over alpha-numeric naming systems. Lexus SUVs are especially hard to determine which one is which. Furthermore, each one is solid and conservative and many have a hybrid variant — just like the UX that I drove.

To truly appreciate this crossover, you have to look past the output numbers of this hybrid engine. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine also has two electric motors to assist it. However, the total output is still only 181 HP which feels poky. Likewise, the overall performance is stale and uninspiring.

But with a rating of 41 mpg/city and 38 mpg/highway, suddenly the point and purpose of this crossover becomes crystal clear. If you want a quiet, smooth crossover with good touchpoints and luxury features, that also gets tremendous fuel economy then the UX 250h is the right vehicle.

My tester had an MSRP of $39,550 and final price of $43,625, making it a value buy and one that will save money on gas, too.

2020 Lexus RX450h

Yet another hybrid offering from a Lexus SUV. Much of the new features for this hybrid SUV are on the inside. Hallelujah and a hat tip to Lexus for doing something about the confounding touchpad. That is still present in this SUV, but they also implemented a touchscreen interface which allows you to bypass many of the annoying features of that touchpad. For now, we will chalk this up as a win.

They also added a WIFI hot spot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to this SUV. This hybrid is smooth as silk. The power is just enough. It won’t be aggressive, but it also isn’t a sloth off the line either.

The 3.5-liter V6 engine has three electric motor assists for a total output of 308 HP. For a vehicle that size, that just gets to the good-enough plateau. But the 31 mpg/city and 28 mpg/highway EPA rating redeems that a little for an SUV this size.

My tester had an MSRP of $46,750 and a final price tag of $59,440, making this another affordable, albeit conservative, fuel-sipping hybrid SUV from Lexus.

So that’s it for the 2020 model year from me. I have some really exciting 2021 models already lined up and there are some really exciting new vehicles coming to us for 2022 as well.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.

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