Lexus RX350L pampers up to seven at one go, with a third row that is ideal for children
The seven-seat Lexus RX350L pampers passengers The RX350L's top-notch amenities for third-row occupants include seats which can be flipped up and down with a touch of a button and a separate air-conditioning control panel. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

For those looking to acquire a luxurious and reliable multi-seater, there's good news and bad news.

The good news is that Borneo Motors has launched the RX350L, its first seven-seater bearing the solid Lexus nameplate.

As expected of Lexus, the car comes with top-notch amenities for its third-row occupants. Their seats can be flipped up and down with a touch of a button. The operation is a tad leisurely, but when you are in this bling-bling class, what's the hurry?The third row also gets its own airconditioning control panel - not just blowers. This is another rarity among seven-seaters, even the premium choices.

And characteristic of all Lexus models, ride comfort and a hushed cabin can now be enjoyed by seven.

Another positive thing is that the car looks sleeker because of its extended length. It now has a bigger road presence.

Now, the bad news. Legroom and headroom in the third row won't be something you'd write home about. They are rather restricted. Even the compact Toyota Wish - a long-established benchmark among seven-seaters - has significantly more space at the back.

But, of course, the Wish is not an SUV.

Realistically, the Lexus RX350L is equivalent to the seven-seater SUVs offered by Land Rover. If a decently spacious third row is a must-have, you will do better with cars like the Audi Q7 or Volvo XC90.

The RX350L measures 5,000mm long and 1,700mm tall, making it 110mm longer and 10mm taller than the standard RX.

Width and wheelbase remain unchanged though. Which explains the cosy quarters at the back.

That aside, there is very little else you need to compromise on. It is up to 110kg heavier, which makes it a mite thirstier. But performance is still above par. On paper, the longer RX is slightly slower, clocking an 8.1-second century sprint, versus 7.9 seconds by an equivalent RX350. Top speed is unchanged at 200kmh.

But at the wheel, you will be hard put to notice the difference. The seven-seater is wonderfully responsive, with a light and linear throttle and a transmission which makes the best of the car's beefy V6.

The car feels surprisingly like a turbo, even though it is one of the few normally aspirated power plants in town. There is none of the associated lethargy at low revs despite the heftier body.

The real beauty of this car is its heightened versatility - the main proposition of an SUV. The third row will accommodate small children comfortably and adults on short hauls.

But when there is no need to ferry the entire clan, the extra seats can be folded flat to free up an enormous cargo area. And because the operation is all push-button, tai-tais need not worry about their manicured nails.

The car is generously equipped with premium features (although not quite as well equipped as the standard RX350).

Cool ventilated seats are still available in front, but not in the second row. The seats no longer have a heater function, but no one here will miss that.

Another gadget which won't be missed is the stop-start function. There are three drive modes instead of four and there is no head-up display (again, no biggie). Other minor omissions include panoramic glass roof and 360-degree camera.

The biggest upside is that the car is less expensive than the five-seat RX350. Not a bad deal, really.