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Best and Worst Lexus Cars in 2020

Reviewing the 2020 Lexus Lineup

2020 Lexus RC-F Track Edition doing what it does best

Toyota’s luxury division is one of the most important Japanese automakers in its own right with well-over 600,000 vehicles sold per year on a global scale. Almost half of that figure falls off on the U.S. market which has traditionally been Lexus’s bastion, while the entire American region engulfs around 53 percent of company’s sales (2017 data).

The luxury division’s U.S. sales for 2018 have fallen below the 300,000 mark for the first time since 2013, but not by much. Compared to 2017 when they had marketed 305,229 units, Lexus’s 2018 figures came to a stop at 298,302 vehicles which is a meager 2.3 percent loss. The company is expected to rebound in 2019 which will be the all-new UX subcompact’s first full year on the market. This time, however, we’ll focus on the 2020 Lexus lineup and company’s fortunes from then on.

The Japanese luxury brand is expected to focus on performance in 2020, with the new Track Edition of their luxury RC coupe already wrapped up. They’ll also fully revitalize their smallest sedan and introduce a sporty version of their other coupe offering. However, most Lexus buyers will again opt for one of the now three available crossovers – not counting the boxy GX and LX which draw an insignificant amount of interest compared to the smaller UX, NX, and the company’s sales champion RX which accounted for over one third of Lexus’s U.S. sales with 111,636 units during 2018.

Electrification has become a major buzz word in the auto industry in recent years, and Lexus needs to pay attention to it as well. A number of Lexus hybrids have been present for a long time now, but they might not be enough to move the company forward. Lexus Canada’s director Jennifer Barron has already announced an electrified version of every Lexus vehicle by 2025 – whether by utilizing plug-in or full EV technology. As far as MY 2020 is concerned, however, we’ll see very little of that plan coming into fruition.

Without further ado, here’s what you should pay attention to when buying your next Lexus in 2020. Don’t forget that Lexus has made some extremely fast cars over the years, and that they might decide to pursue this strategy going forward.

What’s Hot in the New 2020 Lexus Lineup

06. 2020 RC F Track Edition

The compact executive coupe has been with us since late 2014 and is now getting ready for a replacement. The high-performance F version of the 2-door came to market a year later and it took the Japanese almost five additional years to introduce the ultimate Lexus RC F dubbed the Track Edition.

This isn’t your average hard-core track version of a sports car, however. The 2020 Lexus RC F Track Edition isn’t a stripped-down performance car, but a luxurious performance coupe with all the perks you’d come to expect from a refined Lexus interior.

Considering the regular RC F used to tip the scales at more than 4,000 pounds, the Japanese have had have their work cut out for them trying to bring the special edition in shape – especially without stripping it of its heavy luxury equipment. This was achieved by using aluminum suspension components, hollowing out half-shafts, and using numerous carbon-fiber bits all across the body including a full-carbon hood.

What’s more, the more conventional RC F – which also underwent a facelift – has shed 176 pounds compared to its predecessor. The Track Edition, of course, saved even more as it tips the scales at exactly 3,782 pounds.

The RC F Track Edition uses the same 5.0L V8 mill as the conventional RC F models. One of the last remaining naturally aspirated V8s in the performance car world has been updated and now generates 472 horses and 395 pound-feet of twist – a 5 hp and 6 lb-ft upgrade over the previous iteration.

This was enough to shed one-tenth of a second off the new RC F’s 0 to 60 time which is 4.2 seconds from now on. The Track Edition, on the other hand, is more than capable in doing the same in 4 seconds flat, give or take. The remainder of the new RC F’s powertrain remains unchanged.

The Track Edition also gets a few additional unique touches like the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, as well as unique white or matte gray paint jobs with a red interior. Both have gone on sale in April of 2019 as 2020-year models. While the RC F starts from just under $65,000, the more aggressive Track Edition requires as much as $96,000 to begin with.

2020 Lexus RC-F Track Edition doing what it does best

 

05. 2020 UX

The all-new subcompact UX made its debut late in December of 2018 when the first 453 models found their new owners. The petite luxury crossover is expected to help the brand achieve record-breaking sales when it finally hits full stride in 2019 and during MY 2020.

Five inches shorter and lower, and one-inch narrower than the compact NX, the Lexus UX might experience problems when trying to seat larger adults, but Lexus simply had to fill the gap that has existed for years before the smallest of their crossovers finally made its debut.

The UX is stylish and well-appointed – much like any other Lexus on the market at the moment. It might not be stacked with the same level of features some of its competitors offer, but at $33,000 or thereabouts, it still offers respectable value for money. There’s also a hybrid version available straight from the gates which further raises subcompact’s appeal and functionality score alike.

The base UX rides smoothly, but evidently lacks power – at least for now. The base 2.0L inline-four develops 169 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque, and with a little help from a CVT gearbox, manages to return up to 33 miles to the gallon combined.

One wouldn’t even need a hybrid version with those kinds of numbers, but the 250h version raises the bar further by providing up to 38 mpg combined. It pairs the same engine, albeit on a lean Atkinson cycle with dual electric motors and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack, for a combined output of 181 horsepower.

While the former models ride the front wheels, the hybrid’s dual motors provide an all-wheel drive mode, albeit only at speeds lower than 45 mph. The UX might not be the most feisty of Lexus vehicles – especially thanks to that anemic 4-cylinder engine – but it still ticks more of the right boxes than many of its competitors.

Lexus UX front 3/4 view

 

04. 2020 RX

The best-selling Lexus model in the U.S. hasn’t changed much since it was introduced for MY 2016, but the Japanese have still addressed a few issues the original model suffered from which is commendable.

For starters, there’s now a new long-wheelbase version of the luxury intermediate crossover that offers a third-row option. There’s very little room back there, but some families will certainly appreciate it. The RX’s ride has always been silky smooth and its cabin never suffered from sub-par materials. After all, it costs at least $44,500 which is a region in which you expect some flair from your car.

To top it all off, the RX offers a number of standard electronic safety systems like active lane control, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, a forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking. That’s a lot more than you’d get pretty much anywhere else.

Finally, the intermediate crossover has gone through a mid-term facelift which gives it a sharper look and a revised infotainment system among other things. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are now finally standard from the get-go.

There are two powertrain platforms to choose from. Both rely on the same 3.5L V6 engine, but that’s where the similarities end. The conventional Lexus RX units squeeze 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque out of it, while the hybrid models draw 259 horses and 247 pound-feet. The latter units also sport a couple of electric motors at the rear axle for a mandatory all-wheel-drive setup and a 1.9-kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack for some improvements on the fuel economy part.

Speaking of which, the hybrid RX’s return up to 30 mpg combined even with all four wheels engaged most of the time. The base models manage 23 mpg combined at most, while all-wheel drive and long-wheelbase both impose additional penalties. The Lexus RX might not be the most fun-to-drive or striking mid-size luxury crossover on the market, but it does its job quietly and does it well.

05. 2020 IS Although it's lost much of its popularity over the years, the compact IS is expected to become cool again after the proposed makeover that's just around the corner. However, that corner is still far away from MY 2020's perspective. The IS's sales have split in half since 2015 and the Japanese are hoping to stop the bleeding with the next-gen model that should replace the outgoing IS which dates back to 2013. Again, that won't happen during model year 2020. The new model is expected to arrive during the Spring or Summer of 2020 at the earliest, probably as an early 2021-year model. It's also expected to revive the performance version of the compact sedan which we've had the opportunity to buy between 2007 and 2013. At the moment, however, we've got a once-compelling but now definitely outdated compact luxury sedan that doesn't even come cheap. At just shy of $40,000, the entry-level Lexus IS doesn't exactly manage to beat its German rivals in terms of affordability although it is a few hundreds cheaper. Thing is, it fails to mimic the new BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C Class in every other way. Performance-wise, the base Lexus IS 300 uses a 241-horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque 2.0L turbocharged inline-four mill paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. The IS 300 can also be opted with a thirsty 3.5L V6 which makes 260 ponies, but comes exclusively with an older 6-speed automatic transmission. At least it comes with a mandatory all-wheel drive. The more expensive and powerful Lexus IS 350 and IS 350 F Sport are definitely the way to go. They make 311 horsepower by using the larger of two engines mentioned above. Again, both can be ordered in both the rear and all-wheel drive configurations, and their respective transmission choices remain predetermined as well. The F Sport adaptive dampers and stiffer suspension can be ordered with the turbo four IS 300 model too. There's also a possibility the company will kill off the compact executive car entirely in favor of the similarly positioned ES and a new batch of small crossovers like the aforementioned UX. We'll have to wait and see how things unfold.

03. 2020 LC F

The most expensive of Lexus cars is getting ready for an expansion. The $93,000 grand tourer will get a performance version only three years after its inauguration. The F version of the 2-door coupe should easily break the six-digit barrier when it comes out, and fully stacked models might end up costing upwards of $150,000.

Design-wise, the LC F won’t differ that much from the current LC 500 and 500h hybrids. The performance model should boast a unique aero kit, however, which will make it look more aggressive. A number of carbon-fiber bits are also expected to don the personal luxury car. The performance version will also get its own suspension tuning, larger brakes, and unique wheels on a special set of tires.

The current Lexus LC lineup uses two very different powertrains for motivation. The hybrids utilize a 3.5L V6 with dual electric motors and a battery pack for 354 total horsepower, while the regular LC 500 benefits from a 471-horsepower 5.0L naturally aspirated V8 mill.

The forthcoming 2020 Lexus LC F will either find its motivation behind an upgraded version of the naturally aspirated engine or a new 4.0L twin-turbo V8 that’s recently been developed. Expect it to provide around 600 horsepower and nearly 500 lb-ft of twist when it finally arrives.

It’ll also borrow the regular LC’s 10-speed automatic transmission which should be able to route all of that power to the rear without any difficulties. We’ll know more after one of the major upcoming car shows in late 2019 or early 2020. On a side note, a drop-top version of the regular Lexus LC is also expected to show up by then.

2020 Lexus LC F test mule

 

02. 2020 ES

Introduced for MY 2019, the all-new seventh-generation ES is expected to provide some excitement in a dying segment. The mid-size luxury sedan is the company’s oldest nameplate alongside the flagship LS line. They’ve had their share of ups and downs over the course of three decades they’ve been on the market, and the Japanese will be hoping that the fully redesigned ES can mitigate the negative sales trend their sedans have been experiencing of late.

Apart from a fresh and exciting new look, the new ES sedan offers a smooth and comfortable ride and a plushy cabin well-worth the $40,000 price tag. Also, the Japanese have introduced the F Sport version of the car for the very first time in the ES’s 30-year history. This should further enhance the luxury sedan’s appeal among potential buyers.

In order to showcase their commitment to following trends, they’ve also fitted the new model with a host of advanced electronic gear like the automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control which are all standard across the board. Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, and Android Auto are finally standard from the get-go with the latter of the three added as od October 2019.

Most ES models, including the F Sport grade, are optioned with a 3.5L V6 engine capable of raising 302 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque which is quite an improvement over the outgoing model that only had 268 ponies and 248 lb-ft.

Both the regular ES 350 and F Sport models are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, but the latter throws in adaptive dampers with additional Sport+ driving mode alongside unique interior touches. It’ll be interesting to see how it fares against rear and all-wheel drive opponents considering it’s consigned to a front-wheel-drive configuration.

The optional engine is, of course, a hybrid one. The Lexus ES 350h uses a 2.5L 4-cylinder mill alongside a nickel-metal hydride battery and an electric motor for a net hybrid output of 215 ponies. More importantly, it’s capable of providing up to 44 miles to the gallon combined. The next-gen Lexus ES looks like a much-improved car over its predecessor – it’s certainly more beautiful – but we’ll have to wait and see if it makes a meaningful difference in the end.

Lexus ES front 3/4 view

 

01. 2020 LS

The full-size sedan has received a substantial makeover for MY 2018 which has helped it to a great year sales-wise. Exactly 9,301 new models were sold during 2018 in the U.S. which is almost a combined total of 2016 and 2017 together.

The fifth-generation LS inspires newfound confidence in the luxury flagship sedan segment but the Japanese mustn’t rest on their laurels just yet. There were some issues that need ironing ASAP and the Japanese delivered. For instance, it’s hard to grasp the fact that a luxury company’s flagship model which costs $76,000 at the very least doesn’t support Android Auto integration, but prior to MY 2020, it didn’t. Even Apple CarPlay was unavailable prior to MY 2019. Now, however, both the Apple and Android integration are standard across the board and so is Amazon Alexa.

With the aforementioned issues rectified, the 2020 Lexus LS is now one refined, beautiful, well-equipped, and comfortable car. Exactly what you’d expect from a luxury flagship sedan. Model year 2020 even gives us the all-new 500 Inspiration Series special edition in mesmerizing Deep Garnet paint and with additional distinctive details like unique wheels and interior appointments.

There are two powertrain choices for prospective Lexus LS owners to choose from. The conventional LS 500 models are motivated by a potent 3.5L twin-turbo V6 mill that easily delivers 416 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. It can be had with either a rear or all-wheel-drive configuration and boasts a contemporary 10-speed automatic transmission as its only choice.

For those in need of slightly better fuel efficiency (and LS’s figures are far from stellar), there’s the hybrid LS 500h option. It pairs a 3.5L V6 with two electric motors and a 44-kWh lithium-ion battery pack for a combined total of 354 horsepower. It can also be had in both rear and all-wheel-drive configs and returns up to 28 mpg combined thanks to a CVT gearbox.

There’s also the F Sport package for conventional models, but it doesn’t change anything specifications-wise. It does provide a special suspension tuning but one that’s far from being truly sporty, however.

Lexus LS 500 Inspiration Series front 3/4 view

What’s Not in the New 2020 Lexus Lineup

05. 2020 IS

Although it’s lost much of its popularity over the years, the compact IS is expected to become cool again after the proposed makeover that’s just around the corner. However, that corner is still far away from MY 2020’s perspective. The IS’s sales have split in half since 2015 and the Japanese are hoping to stop the bleeding with the next-gen model that should replace the outgoing IS which dates back to 2013. Again, that won’t happen during model year 2020.

The new model is expected to arrive during the Spring or Summer of 2020 at the earliest, probably as an early 2021-year model. It’s also expected to revive the performance version of the compact sedan which we’ve had the opportunity to buy between 2007 and 2013.

At the moment, however, we’ve got a once-compelling but now definitely outdated compact luxury sedan that doesn’t even come cheap. At just shy of $40,000, the entry-level Lexus IS doesn’t exactly manage to beat its German rivals in terms of affordability although it is a few hundreds cheaper. Thing is, it fails to mimic the new BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C Class in every other way.

Performance-wise, the base Lexus IS 300 uses a 241-horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque 2.0L turbocharged inline-four mill paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. The IS 300 can also be opted with a thirsty 3.5L V6 which makes 260 ponies, but comes exclusively with an older 6-speed automatic transmission. At least it comes with a mandatory all-wheel drive.

The more expensive and powerful Lexus IS 350 and IS 350 F Sport are definitely the way to go. They make 311 horsepower by using the larger of two engines mentioned above. Again, both can be ordered in both the rear and all-wheel drive configurations, and their respective transmission choices remain predetermined as well. The F Sport adaptive dampers and stiffer suspension can be ordered with the turbo four IS 300 model too.

There’s also a possibility the company will kill off the compact executive car entirely in favor of the similarly positioned ES and a new batch of small crossovers like the aforementioned UX. We’ll have to wait and see how things unfold.

Lexus IS front 3/4 view

04. 2020 NX

Up until recently and especially since the introduction of the subcompact UX, the smallest Lexus crossover accolade belonged to the NX introduced back in 2014. The compact NX hasn’t been redesigned since which isn’t a usual practice in its segment.

Still, the Toyota luxury division has been chipping away at its shortcomings little by little over the years. First it received standard navigation, then the Lexus Safety System became standard alongside a larger 8-inch touchscreen and finally, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa became standard across the board as well. Latest addition to the family is Android Auto integration. Also new is the Mark Levinson sound system which can be obtained on more upscale models.

The NX is still good-looking despite being on the market for five full years. It’s also got an interior to match. However, a lack of any real advancements could cost it dearly in terms of sales considering how it’s pitted against some illustrious opposition. Moreover, the NX is one of the dullest compact luxury crossovers on the market, driving dynamics-wise.

Like it is the case with most of Lexus’s lineup, the NX offers both a conventional and a hybrid powertrain to choose from. The regular NX 300 and F Sport models generate 235 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of twist thanks to a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder mill and a somewhat outdated (especially in a luxury segment) 6-speed automatic transmission. While base models drive via the front wheels, an all-wheel-drive option is also available.

The Lexus NX 300h hybrid uses a 2.5L naturally-aspirated four paired with a CVT gearbox, a small battery, and a rear axle-mounted electric motor which provides permanent all-wheel drive. The net system output comes to 194 horses, but more importantly, the NX hybrid returns up to 31 miles to the gallon combined. The Lexus NX is far from being the worst luxury compact option out there, but it does very little to distinguish itself from the colorful crowd.

Lexus NX front 3/4 view

 

03. 2020 GX

The full-size body-on-frame SUVs have a longer lifespan than their smaller unibody counterparts, but a full decade without a major redesign is still a long time for the luxurious Lexus GX. Apparently, the luxury automaker wasn’t content on letting the GX carry over unchanged for the foreseeable future after giving it a facelift for MY 2020. What’s more, they’ve sold 26,724 units in 2018 which is the GX’s second best result in almost 15 years, and means they must be doing something right.

The three-row SUV definitely boasts the previous generation Lexus’s level of refinement and comfort, and great off-road capability does little to turn our attention from these problems. Especially considering the entry-level models cost a whopping $53,000 with the Luxury trim commanding an additional $11,500.

At least the previously consigned to upper tiers off-road package is now available as a separate option across the board. It adds a Torsen limited-slip diff and a two-speed transfer case, and the Lexus Safety System+ even in entry-level models which fixes one of large SUV’s biggest shortcomings – lack of advanced safety gear.

There’s only one available powertrain and, as you might have guessed, it also stems from a different time. A burly 4.6L V8 is more than capable of moving the 5,240-pounder around and allowing it to tow up to 6,500 pounds. It makes 301 horsepower and 329 lb-ft of rotational force which are routed to all four corners via a 6-speed automatic gearbox.

Another one of the GX’s apparent issues is its dreadful fuel economy which can’t be fixed the way things are standing at the moment. The large SUV only manages 15 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway, and lacks any fuel-saving gear including a stop/start system. The company’s best-selling body-on frame SUV is definitely due for a major overhaul but a lack of any real info on it suggests that this won’t be happening in 2020.

Lexus GX front 3/4 view

 

02. 2020 LX

The largest vehicle the Japanese manufacturer has ever put to market has had a slow-selling 2018, managing to find only 4,753 new owners – a 20-percent drop compared to 2017 when 6,004 units were sold in the U.S.

Derived from the current-generation Toyota Land Cruiser which was introduced back in late 2007, the full-size LX is now the oldest of all Lexus models, taking into account all the major redesigns. It has to be said that the car has aged gracefully, however. Especially when it received the company’s now-signature spindle grille back during MY 2013.

Much like its Toyota stablemate, the LX thrives off-road and there are precious few luxury SUVs that can compete with it in that habitat. Still, the LX doesn’t offer the soft and smooth ride of a Range Rover, and it still commands a hefty $86,500 fee in its basic form. What’s more, it fails to provide the cargo space expected from such a large vehicle and its third row can become cramped as well.

Like it is the case with the slightly smaller GX, the Lexus LX also offers only one powertrain choice. Here, however, it’s an even more powerful 5.7L V8 – an engine more than capable of providing 383 horses and 403 lb-ft of torque. Needless to say, the LX also offers a permanent all-wheel-drive system and a contemporary 8-speed automatic gearbox to go alongside it.

Fuel economy is, as you might expect, horrendous for today’s standards. 13 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway are low scores even among full-sized luxury body-on-frame SUVs nowadays. One peculiar difference between the Lexus LX and the Toyota Land Cruiser is the fact the former requires premium fuel while the latter manages to save you at least a pittance by running without issues on conventional unleaded.

Lexus LX front 3/4 view

 

01. 2020 GS

The mid-size luxury Lexus GS, simply put, isn’t long for this world. It’s been scheduled for axing in order to allow more breathing space to the slightly more affordable ES sedan. The same fate could befall the IS as well, but the latter will likely grow in size and live to see another day.

Considering the GS has been a part of the Lexus portfolio since 1991, this is indeed sad news. MY 2020 will likely be the last for the intermediate luxury car and no significant changes have taken place for it. The entry-level 4-cylinder-powered GS 300 and GS 300 F Sport models have been axed from the lineup, however.

The Japanese will let the sedan die on the vine which they’ve been doing for a while now anyway. After all, the last major GS revision took place in now-distant 2011. The entry-level GS models still offer a good value for money, starting from $51,500. They’re not as well-appointed as some newer Lexus models, however, and their tech is slightly outdated too.

There’s now only one engine motivating the entire GS lineup as of MY 2020 (not counting the full-blooded powerful GS F). The GS 350 and GS 350 F Sport utilize a potent 3.5L V6 capable of putting up 311 horses and 280 pound-feet of twist. It’s paired with an 8-speed automatic gearbox and can be ordered in both a rear or all-wheel drive.

The $85,000 GS F, on the other hand, generates a whopping 467 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque thanks to a powerful 5.0L V8. These figures fall short when compared to the GS’s German rivals and even money savings are doubtful in this instance which is worrisome. If you’re willing to give the Lexus GS one last bang, this would be the perfect opportunity.

 

Lexus GS front 3/4 view







Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much!