Since its debut as a 1999 model, the RX 300 sport utility vehicle has become the best-selling Lexus model in the Japanese automakers lineup, handily outperforming the companys passenger cars. Sales slipped by 13.8 percent in 2001, according to Automotive News, but with 77,426 units sold, the RX 300 continues to rank as one of the most popular premium SUVs.
Issued by Toyotas luxury division, the RX 300 is related to the 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.
This popular SUV is awaiting a redesign, and it sees few changes for 2003. A one-touch power tilt/sliding moonroof is newly standard. The RX 300 is equipped with a 3.0-liter V-6 engine and an automatic transmission, and it comes with either front-wheel drive or permanently engaged four-wheel drive (4WD). A navigation system is optional.
Special styling touches of the RX 300 make it different from typical SUVs. 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 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class. The four-door SUV rides a 103-inch wheelbase, stretches 71.5 inches wide and stands 65.7 inches tall. Both rivals are considerably 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 unconventional because it is mounted on the console rather than on the floor or steering column. Video-screen controls handle audio and climate functions, and the RX 300 is equipped 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, which teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The 4WD 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 electronic stability system, called Vehicle Skid Control. This system applies the brakes to individual wheels, when necessary, to keep the vehicle on course. Brake Assist detects when the driver is starting to make a panic stop and then 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. The RX 300 handles capably on the highway and remains stable in curves, and it rides comfortably if not exactly gently at all times.