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The Lexus RX 350L comes with third-row seating. Photo: Lexus

This week I'm driving the Lexus RX 350L, a stretch version of the luxury carmaker's best-selling RX crossover utility.

Why it matters: Lexus needed to add a third row to the RX to keep up with competitors, but it's probably best to park little kids back there, not grandma or teenagers.

What's new: The 2020 RXL gets rid of Lexus' annoying mouse-like Remote Touch controller on the center console and replaces it with a slightly less awkward touchpad. At least the infotainment system now has touchscreen capability. None of the interfaces are ideal, which is true in most cars today.

  • The RXL starts at $47,300. My loaded version was $63,540, including delivery and handling charges.

Many assisted driving features are standard in the RXL, including more sensitive camera and radar systems that can detect daytime bicyclists as well as pedestrians even in low light.

  • I liked that road signs are clearly displayed in the instrument panel, too.

I had a little more trouble with Lexus' "lane tracing assist" technology, which is designed to keep the vehicle in the center of the lane while using dynamic cruise control.

  • If road markings are not detected, the system is also capable, in certain conditions, of following the car ahead of it.
  • During my drive, it was cloudy, the roads were wet and there were snow flurries. I saw no reason why the system shouldn't work.
  • Still, the car annoyingly slowed down and sped up with each rise or dip in the road, and it frequently latched on to cars in other lanes when the road curved ever so slightly.

My thought bubble: This is why drivers turn off driver-assistance technology that doesn't inspire confidence, defeating its potentially life-saving benefits.

Go deeper

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Higher education expands its climate push

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New or expanded climate initiatives are popping up at several universities, a sign of the topic's rising prominence and recognition of the threats and opportunities it creates.

Why it matters: Climate and clean energy initiatives at colleges and universities are nothing new, but it shows expanded an campus focus as the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, and the world is nowhere near the steep emissions cuts that scientists say are needed to hold future warming in check.

Ina Fried, author of Login
50 mins ago - Economy & Business

The pandemic isn't slowing tech

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Thursday's deluge of Big Tech earnings reports showed one thing pretty clearly: COVID-19 may be bad in all sorts of ways, but it's not slowing down the largest tech companies. If anything, it's helping some companies, like Amazon and Apple.

Yes, but: With the pandemic once again worsening in the U.S. and Europe, it's not clear how long the tech industry's winning streak can last.

Texas early voting surpasses 2016's total turnout

Early voting in Austin earlier this month. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Texas' early and mail-in voting totals for the 2020 election have surpassed the state's total voter turnout in 2016, with 9,009,850 ballots already cast compared to 8,969,226 in the last presidential cycle.

Why it matters: The state's 38 Electoral College votes are in play — and could deliver a knockout blow for Joe Biden over President Trump — despite the fact that it hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1976.