Kiawah Island, South Carolina- Once a year, this scribe and company retreats for a week-long, self-imposed time out to a semi-tropical-like barrier Island paradise just south of historic Charleston, South Carolina; Doctor's order.
The price of a homestead (or second homestead apparently for many residents) remains a bit out of grasp for this run-of-the-mill freelance writer (thus, the rental option). However, my seven days as a pretender, rubbing elbows with the seemingly rich and famous, provided my fragile ego with a welcome med-free psycho-boost.
Luckily our rag-tag troop looked the part of semi-successful Midwesterners (It's Halloween season after all) thanks to a 2019 Lexus RX
L crossover, a set of wheels procured via the Charlotte region's DriveShop Automotive Livery team. Ours was not the only RX L spotted along the narrow, Spanish-mossed-draped Island roads as this versatile, well established luxury ride provides room for up to eight and accompanying vacation gear.
The L suffix designates a 'long' or extended version of the conventional and popular two-row RX. The RX L adds third-row seating, too. Both offer front-wheel drive or Midwest-friendly all-wheel drive.
The 2019 RX reflects a fourth-generation effort on board since the 2016 model year. It debuted in 1998 boasting car-like uni-body structure rather than truck-like underpinnings. While uni-body mid-size luxury crossovers remain ubiquitous today, back in 1998 this was forward thinking.
The extended 'L' version is relatively new, debuting in 2018, extending body length by 4.3 inches from the two-row version. Expect no major updates with either body length in 2019. However, upcoming 2020 models include a wide array of mid-cycle updates.
For those seeking safety in numbers, few can match RX's bottom line. With 76,170 unit sales through September, it ranks not only as the best-selling crossover at Lexus, but the brand's top seller regardless of body style. Zooming out at a macro level, RX continually ranks as one of the best-selling luxury crossovers of any size from any upscale automaker. Lexus bundles together two-row Lexus RX 350 and three-row RX L sales numbers so breaking down results requires inside reconnaissance not privy to this vacationer.
Upfront, the prominent spindle grille, framed in chrome, alerts other luxury makes trolling the Island that RX is a member of the family Lexus. This 'Face of Lexus,' was launched some seven years ago to mixed reviews starting with sedans. While polarizing and resembling a truncated hour glass, the look emanates Lexus.
From a profile perspective, chrome stripping framing side door window tops dips down in a wavy fashion from the 'C" pillar through the cargo area window. A side character crease starts near the lower front door, curving up slightly through the rear side door towards the rear.
Either length RX opts for smooth, relaxing elegance rather than a sport's tuned experience. Lexus set the bar for interior quietness; sounds emitting from the veteran 3.5-liter V-6 remains a soft hum inside the cocoon of silence. The multi-level stepped dashboard and steeply raked windshield create an aura of roominess combined with faux wood and soft-touch materials with stitching highlights.
The circular analog clock centers the dash combining an elegant yesteryear time piece with modern technology including the prominent multi-function flat screen jetting up from the above level and set far back.
Our tester added the, sizeable 12.3-inch rectangular split-screen. A smaller eight-inch size comes standard. Both are of non-touch variety, utilizing the somewhat cumbersome 'remote touch interface,' machinations located between front buckets to interact with the screen.
A wrist rest minimizes finger fatigue as digits navigate screen selections via a square, slightly elevated wiggle-pad. Push down on the pad to select options via a movable and darting screen curser. Three quick keys near the pad (map, home, return) helps speed the process.
Directly aft of inline dual beverage holders between supportive front buckets, a circular chrome twist knob, commanding three drive modes: normal, sport and eco. An electronic parking brake tab resides in front of the eight-speed vertically-sliding transmission shifter.
The sole RX gas-powered engine in both lengths remains a 3.5-liter 290 horsepower V-6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission returning average fuel economy and happily accepting regular, 87-octane fuel. A self-charging gas-electric hybrid is also available, but only all-wheel drive variants (the RX 450h and RX 450hL). The hybrid drive system combines the 3.5-liter gas engine with two electric drive motor generators. Combined horsepower reaches 308 while fuel economy hits an improved 30 mpg in combined city/highway driving. No plug in hybrid electric (PHEV) or all electric (EV) versions are yet offered.
The extended RX, as with most Lexus offerings, includes a comprehensive array of standard safety/tech equipment marketed under 'Lexus Safety System Plus' bundling together radar-enhanced nuances cruise control (automatically accelerating and slowing highway speeds based on the distance of the vehicle ahead), lane keep assist, a pre-collision system with pedestrian protection and automatic high beams. Those seeking the highly recommended side blind spot monitoring must opt for a $1,865 option package also including parking assist, power-folding side-view mirrors and panoramic in-screen camera views.
A two-wheel-drive 2019 RX L starts at $47,770. Our all-wheel-drive Island hopper started at $49,175, reaching $60,458 after options and $1,025 destination charge. For those owning a vacation property or two, these figures reflect a relative value in a luxury mid-sizer. Other notable extras on top of blind spot monitoring include windshield heads up display ($600), hands-free opening rear hatch ($200), heated/ventilated front and second-row seats ($1,080) and premium audio package/navigation with larger 12.3-inch screen ($3,225).
As with just about any mid-size crossover offering a third row, the way-back region is best left for the flexibility and compact sizes preteens and tweens bring to the table. During a majority of the vacation week, third row power seat backs were folded flat accommodating luggage and camera ware. Powering up the 50/50 split seats requires the simple touch of buttons in the cargo region accessible when the power lift gate is open.
Just for fun (hey, its vacation), my six-foot frame ventured into row three, finding the digs very snug. Second row seats manually slide forward as backrest tilt forward, creating a small walk aisle to Snugsville.
The RX L offers a choice between two captain's chairs in row two (the seven seat option) or our tester's 60/40 split bench design (eight seater). These Lexus-supplied designations assume three riders in third-row Snugsville, which seems generous at best, so plan accordingly if inviting extra family members along for prescribed get-aways.
2019 Lexus RX 350L
Price as tested: $60,458
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Fuel estimates: 18 mpg city/ 25 mpg highway
Length: 196.9 inches
Wheelbase: 109.8 inches
Height: 67.3 inches
Width: 74.6 inches
Curb weight: 4,619 pounds
Assembly: Fukuoka, Japan