Every luxury brand on the planet wants you to think of it as more painstakingly handcrafted than its peers. By the same measure, in the automotive world craftsmanship equates to prestige in a modern mass-produced market.
Lexus is no different, and if you’ve seen the ad campaign for the 2019 Lexus RX350 Crafted Edition, you’ll know there are all manner of detail shots of hand-hewn elements that make up Lexus vehicles. Only in this case, most of what they show being hand-built isn’t fitted to the RX, but belongs to the flagship LS sedan. Err, whoops.
Nevertheless, the Lexus RX350 is still large and luxurious. The Crafted Edition adds some neat details to set it apart from a ‘regular’ RX, too.
Before we delve into those, there’s the price. An all-wheel-drive V6 RX350 Crafted Edition asks for $88,909 before on-road costs. A regular RX350 Luxury is $80,692 before on-roads. A cheaper RX300 powered by a turbo four-cylinder driving the front wheels is also available from $79,888 drive-away (surely the bargain pick), while the flagship V6 hybrid RX350h is also offered from $98,018 before on-roads.
The RX350 Crafted Edition runs the same 3.5-litre V6 producing 221kW and 370Nm as other RX350 models, via an eight-speed torque converter automatic to an on-demand all-wheel-drive system.
Where the Crafted sets itself apart is via its standard features list, which for the most part mirrors that of the entry-level RX350 Luxury, along with additions including a colour head-up display, keyless entry, moonroof (though not the panoramic roof otherwise optional on the Luxury), front door puddle lamps, upgraded 15-speaker premium audio and 12.3-inch infotainment screen, black 20-inch alloy wheels, and a black grille insert.
Carryover standard features include dual-zone climate control, 10-way powered front seats and steering column, leather and faux-leather seat trim, push-button start, powered tailgate, CD/DVD player, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, distance-keeping cruise control, LED headlights with auto high beam, and a rear-view camera.
With a strong standard features list, the RX positions itself as a value alternative to competitors like the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE. It needs to push that value avenue as well, with both of those cars into new generations against the ‘middle-aged’ four-year-old RX range.
The RX isn’t out of date by any means, though, just not pushing the same technological boundaries as its newer classmates. Where it does excel, almost unchallenged, is in terms of comfort.
Combined as a whole, the softly spoken V6, smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, velvety ride, and cushy interior make the RX350 Crafted an inviting, soothing place to while away hours behind the wheel.
It’s perhaps a little basic, but it works. For instance, there aren't endless areas of adjustment for the front seats, nor is there overly thick or supportive cushioning, but what is there supports in all the right places, and Lexus’s mixed-leather trim has a wonderfully soft and inviting feel to it.
The beige and brown interior of this particular car is sure to be an acquired taste, but for the less adventurous there’s also a basic black option available.
Rear seat space is massive with enough head room, foot space and width to allow three adults to travel in comfort. Like the front seats, there’s a just-right blend of plushness to carry the premium vibe through from front to rear.
Behind the second row of seats there’s 453L of cargo space, which expands to 924L with the rear seats folded. The boot space is generous, though it trails most of its class competitors.
Lexus posts an official 9.6 litres per 100km fuel consumption, and after a week of combined commuting and a weekend escape that figure sat at a higher 12.9L/100km.
Lexus doesn’t yet provide fixed-price servicing, but supplies a ballpark $2045 figure to cover the first 48 months or 60,000km with services occurring at 12-month/15,000km intervals. At a glance that puts it above the pre-paid service rates of some rivals, though Lexus includes an extra year compared to the three-year service plans of rivals, along with a four-year (100,000km) warranty against rivals' three-year (unlimited-kilometre) terms.
On the road, the RX never pretends to be a borderline performance SUV, not even close. This is large, luxed-up family transport at its best, with a soft floating ride, intrusion-free steering and excellent levels of isolation.
Over patchy city streets or pockmarked rural tarmac, the RX350 Crafted Edition maintains unflappable composure, with occupants almost oblivious to what lies underfoot. That makes the RX an ideal long-distance tourer with low levels of road, wind and mechanical noise into the mix.
The Crafted, like the Luxury it’s based on, doesn’t feature adaptive dampers, nor air suspension. It’s simply tuned to be as cosseting as possible, but means there’s no option to sharpen responsiveness – nor is one required.
Steering is super light at parking speeds, hiding the big Lexus’s size and heft well. There’s not much additional weight added at highway speeds, however, adding to the sense of isolation.
As accomplished as the RX350 might be as a fortress of solitude, the Lexus Remote Touch infotainment interface is, still, a major disappointment. Despite 12.3 inches of screen real estate, there’s no touchscreen, but instead a touchpad on the console is the primary way to use the system.
It’s a workable system with a stationary vehicle (and left-handers have an advantage), but trying to operate the touchpad to change media inputs, or flick to the navigation, can at times still be an exercise in utter frustration. Why Lexus persists with its unsuccessful (and at times unsafe) user interface is perplexing.
Protection is at least well catered for with pre-collision braking including pedestrian detection (otherwise known as autonomous emergency braking), all-speed adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, 10 airbags, rear-view camera, auto bi-LED lights, rain-sensing wipers, plus lane-keep assist with steering control.
Under ANCAP’s 2015 criteria, the RX350 scored a five-star safety rating.
Other capabilities may not quite match some technologies available in the large prestige SUV class. There are no off-road modes and towing capacity is a moderate 1500kg maximum, restricting the RX’s ability as an adventure seeker or nomadic voyager.
Be that as it may, the RX350 Crafted Edition manages to serve its intended purpose well. Generous proportions endow it with a no-compromise interior spaciousness, and the suppleness of the interior trimmings makes it tranquil and enjoyable on short drives and long hauls alike.
It may not be cutting edge, but given a somewhat conservative buyer profile, the RX350 likely doesn’t need to be, nor is it lacking in key equipment. Importantly, the Crafted Edition package adds in some nice-to-have features from higher grades and subtle visual cues to round out the package.
Some buyers may prefer to wait for the 2020 update due soon, but savvy buyers can snag a runout Crafted Edition and drive a hard bargain without overspending.