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Lexus RX350 2019 review: Crafted Edition

The RX 350 is a good looking and distinctive SUV.

Lexus has built a brand reputation around producing well-constructed, reliable cars capable of moving passengers in supreme comfort and silence. So, when Lexus introduces an SUV with 'Crafted Edition' in the title, buyers have good reason to expect something extra special, don't they?         

With a mid-life update imminent, Lexus has gifted the RX 350 Luxury with a number of premium 'Crafted Edition' options,  designed to help shift current stock. This is not a gifted value add, however, with buyers being asked to shell out an additional $8,000 more for the privilege, bringing the total price to $88,909. 

The RX 350 does come with a whole host of standard features, including dual-zone climate control, 10-way powered front seats and steering column, leather and faux-leather seat trim, push-button start, powered tailgate, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, distance-keeping cruise control, LED headlights with auto high beam, and a rear-view camera. 

So, how will the Crafted Edition luxury SUV handle playing the role of family taxi, and are the $8000 of additional goodies worth the investment? My kids and I had the weekend to find out.

Saturday

With soccer season over, it was our first Saturday free in a while so I decided to plan a day that included a trip to the Powerhouse Museum, lunch and a few games of indoor putt-putt golf. A full day of city and suburban driving.

The black-on-black look of this Lexus dials up the street presence. The black-on-black look of this Lexus dials up the street presence.

The RX 350 is a good looking and distinctive SUV that successfully translates the bold styling that is a hallmark of the Lexus brand. The black-on-black look of our test car dials up the street presence even further and works well to set this SUV apart from its European counterparts. 

There are a number of key exterior styling features that distinguish this Crafted Edition from the RX family, including a moonroof, front-door puddle lamps, black 20-inch alloy wheels, and a black grille insert.

The Crafted Edition scores black 20-inch alloy wheels. The Crafted Edition scores black 20-inch alloy wheels.

Inside, we were greeted by a cabin featuring a blend of soft and hard finishes, decked in an unusual mix of beige and brown - if that's not your cup of tea there is a basic black option available.

Looking past the colour palette, there are plenty of premium features to catch the eye with a well laid-out yet slightly dated dash, complemented by quality materials throughout. The leather used across the doors and seats looks top notch and definitely adds to the comfort factor.

The Crafted Edition adds a number of notable extras to the cabin over the standard Luxury pack, including a colour head-up display, keyless entry, upgraded 15-speaker premium audio and a 12.3-inch multimedia screen.

Inside is a 12.3-inch multimedia screen. Inside is a 12.3-inch multimedia screen.

Despite looking like a serious piece of tech, the big screen was quick to reveal its shortcomings, starting with a poorly designed interface that makes it difficult to glean information at a glance while driving. Worse still, the joystick used as the sole means to navigate the system is fiddly and difficult to master,  creating an unnecessary distraction behind the wheel.

Conversely, the premium 15-speaker Mark Levinson system was excellent and provided a crystal-clear sound track to our weekend. This was helped in no short measure by the well-insulated cabin, which kept road, wind and engine noise to barely detectable levels.

There's plenty of room up front and in the rear, with the kids given ample space to call their own in the leather-appointed back seats. Sitting behind my driver's seat there was more than a hand width of space in front of my knees and the same again above my head. The rear of this car is an incredibly comfortable place to sit for short hops or extended periods, just like the front seats. 

Sitting behind my driver's seat there was more than a hand width of space in front of my knees and the same again above my head. Sitting behind my driver's seat there was more than a hand width of space in front of my knees and the same again above my head.

Sunday

It's an early start, with all four of us competing in a fun run in the morning, plus various trips, including a grocery run to the local supermarket in the afternoon.  

Under the bonnet of the Crafted Edition lies the same 3.5-litre V6 as other RX 350s, producing  221kW/370Nm, and sending power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission

On the road, the acceleration and handling of the RX 350 does not approach anything close to performance. While the V6 makes all the right noises, it never feels particularly punchy under the right foot and is much happier comfortably cruising to its destination.

The RX 350 offers a pleasurable drive around the 40-50km/h speed zones. The RX 350 offers a pleasurable drive around the 40-50km/h speed zones.

The suspension set up on the RX 350 is well suited to soaking up the lumps and bumps of suburban back streets, making for an easy and pleasurable drive around the 40-50km/h speed zones. The eight-speed transmission was smooth and seamless when switching between gears, regardless of the driving conditions.

Throughout the weekend my kids made good use of the two cupholders and storage bin within the centre armrest. Other features back there include air vents, decent door pockets that will fit large water bottles and a 12V outlet.

It's a similar story up front, with a large centre-storage bin, two cupholders and large bottle holders in each door.  

Storage is a strong point of the RX with two sizable cupholders up front. Storage is a strong point of the RX with two sizable cupholders up front.

Boot size is compromised somewhat by the sloping roof line and sits at 453 litres, which is good but not great. It provided more than enough space for the weekly groceries and various odds and ends transported over the weekend. The load space increases to 924 litres with the 60:40 split-fold seats tucked down.

Boot space is rated at 453 litres with the rear seats in place. Boot space is rated at 453 litres with the rear seats in place.

This five-star ANCAP-rated RX 350 comes with a long list of safety features, including 10 airbags, a reversing camera, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, AEB, lane assist and parking sensors (but no park assist). You’ll also find twin ISOFIX mountings and three top-tether restraints for your baby and/or child seat.

Fuel consumption after our weekend of suburban driving was 12.8L/100km, a fair bit higher than the claimed 9.6L/100km. Lexus recommends using 95RON or higher to fill up the 72-litre tank. 


The Wrap

With comfort, safety and refinement in spades, the RX 350 Crafted Edition does a number of things really well and is thoroughly deserving of its reputation. Further adding to its appeal are the $8000 of Crafted extras which are, for the most part, worthwhile additions. A slightly outdated dash design and frustrating tech does take the shine off this vehicle, however.

Given the price, however, this Lexus is still worth considering over similar, more-expensive European SUV offerings. 

Likes

Exterior styling
Comfy ride
Crafted Edition extras

Dislikes

The 12.3-inch screen
No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
Dated dash design

Scores

Dan:

3.6

The Kids:

4

$88,909

Based on new car retail price