Since its debut as a 1999 model, the RX 300 sport utility vehicle has become the best-selling Lexus model. Issued by Toyotas luxury division, the RX 300 is related to the more recent Toyota Highlander, but the connection isnt obvious because the Highlander has different styling touches and fewer standard features. Considered a crossover model, the RX 300 is built on a passenger-car platform.
Awaiting a likely redesign for 2003, the popular SUV is unchanged for 2002, except for the elimination of the optional Nakamichi audio system. Equipped with a V-6 engine and an automatic transmission, the RX 300 comes with either front-wheel drive or permanently engaged four-wheel drive. A navigation system is optional.
The styling of the RX 300 isnt like that of a typical SUV. Sloping roof pillars behind the rear doors produce a distinctive appearance, but they can make it more difficult for drivers to see other vehicles.
Measuring 180.3 inches long overall, the RX 300 is about the same length as the Jeep Grand Cherokee or Mercedes-Benz M-Class. The four-door SUV rides a 103-inch wheelbase, is 71.5 inches wide and stands 65.1 inches high. Both rivals are nearly 4 inches taller, which gives them a more traditional SUV profile.
Wood decorates the interior of the five-passenger RX 300, which features a roomy two-tiered center console. The automatic-transmission gear selector is mounted on the console rather than the floor or steering column. Video-screen controls handle audio and climate functions, working with a seven-speaker sound system. All four doors contain map pockets, and leather upholstery is optional.
Under the Hood
The sole powertrain is a 220-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 that mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The four-wheel-drive system is designed for all-season road travel but not serious offroad jaunts.
Standard equipment includes all-disc antilock brakes, side-impact airbags and Lexus Vehicle Skid Control an electronic stability system that applies brakes to wheels individually as needed to keep the RX 300 on course. Brake Assist detects when the driver is starting to make a panic stop and applies maximum braking force to assure the swiftest possible halt.
Few SUVs feel more carlike in personality and function than the RX 300, which is also among the easiest models to drive. Its dimensions seem just right, and the stylish SUV performs with eagerness and zest. Handling capably on the highway and stable on curves, the RX 300 rides comfortably, if not gently, at all times.