After driving the 2004 Lexus RX 330, we're both convinced this is the closest most moms -- or dads -- are ever going to get to having a spa experience behind the wheel. Yes, it's that good. The five-passenger RX 330 is a redesign of the groundbreaking RX 300 -- a popular Japanese car-like SUV that is a favorite of well-heeled suburban moms. When it was introduced five years ago by the upscale division of Toyota Motor Corp., the RX 300 literally created a new market segment for so-called crossover vehicles that combine styling and features of SUVs, minivans and station wagons or sedans. We tested a well-equipped, four-wheel-drive version of the RX 330, with a sticker price of $40,908, and gave it our highest rating. She: I stopped at the gourmet grocery story the other night in the RX 330 and pulled into the parking space next to an RX 300. Sure enough, it was the one owned by my girlfriend Patty, who is on her third RX 300. We carried our packages out together and she said, "Please don't tell people how good this thing is. There'll be too many of them on the road. I still want to keep it a secret." Sorry. This is one test drive I want to shout from the mountain top. I'm convinced it's the best 2004 model I've been in all year. And what a surprise to come home and find that even you like it! So it's not just another chick crossover. He: Don't even go there. I still want to be able to go fishing up north without embarrassing myself in front of all my macho buddies. What a dilemma last weekend. There I was, all set to go with waders, fly rods and tackle, and I finally loaded everything into a big GMC Denali Yukon XL -- even though I secretly wanted to take the Lexus. Just didn't want to have to deal with all that sexist posturing from the guys. She: Sounds like a really bad script from the Lifetime Channel. But the RX 330 could actually hold its own on Speedvision. Male and female buyers should be impressed with all the power, size, safety and technology upgrades in this second-generation RX. The Lexus even gets its first rear-seat entertainment system and such high-tech options as adaptive headlights that turn in the direction of the steering wheel. There are even plans to introduce a hybrid gas/electric version of the RX 330 soon, a major step in this gas-guzzling segment of the market. He: Speaking of gas-guzzlers, I thought that big Denali sucked down the fuel, averaging only 14 miles per gallon. But the Lexus, in all our testing, didn't do a lot better. We got just under 18 miles per gallon, which really surprised me, considering how much smaller and lighter the RX 330 is than a conventional truck-type SUV like the Denali. I was also just a little disappointed that the new V-6 engine in the Lexus, which is slightly larger and more powerful, still feels like it could use a few more horses. But those are relatively modest complaints about a vehicle that, in most other respects, totall y blows me away. She: The one thing the new RX 330 did not get is a third-row seat. And it didn't get a radical new look. It still has the sort of station wagon/hatchback appearance that will be familiar to current owners, but stripped of the cladding. Lexus got a bit jazzier and sleeker with the side profile, especially the rear windows. I don't know about you, but I heard several comments that it looks vaguely like the Pontiac Aztek from the rear. He: Totally unfair, and totally untrue. I think the exterior styling on the new RX 330 is exquisite. Jeez, I'm even starting to talk like a girl, for pete's sake. She: Next thing I know, you're going to be ranting on about safety features. And that's another area where the Lexus really shines. It features a new front knee bag to protect the driver, side air bags that protect the torso, abdomen and pelvis of front-seat occupants, and side curtain air bags that extend below the window openings front and rear to protect small children. Other standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. He: We haven't even talked about the great two-tone cabin, which is accented in dark wood, leather and matte metal, or cool options like the $400 power tailgate. If you can afford the $40,000-plus sticker, this latest edition of the Lexus RX remains the gold standard in luxury crossover vehicles. 2004 Lexus RX 330 Type: Front-engine, four-wheel drive, five-passenger luxury SUVPrice (Includes $575 destination charge.): Base, $36,425; as tested, $40,908Engine: 3.3-liter V-6; 230-h.p.; 242 lb.-ft. torqueEPA fuel economy: 18 mpg city/24 mpg highwayKey competitors: Acura MDX, BMW X5, GMC Envoy, Infiniti FX35, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Lincoln Aviator, Mercedes-Benz ML 320, Mitsubishi Montero, Nissan Murano, Toyota Highlander, Volvo XC9012-month insurance cost (Estimated by AAA Michigan. Rates may vary depending on coverage and driving record.): $1,570Where built: JapanPaul's Vehicle rating: World ClassLikes: Still the gold standard in luxury crossover vehicles. Love the way the center cargo box opens and closes at the touch of a button. Loads of storage space in rear, plus under-the-floor bins. Exquisite exterior styling.Dislikes: Mediocre fuel economy. Climate controls a little confusing. No navigation system on our high-end test vehicle. Engine could still use a little more power. Trim fits not as tight as we've seen on Lexus.Anita's Vehicle rating: World ClassLikes: Optional $400 power tailgate. Larger, more powerful engine. Lovely two-tone cabin with wood, leather and matte metal trim. Clever rear console. Even better ride and handling.Dislikes: Lacks an optional third-row seat. Most families won't be able to afford $40,000 price tag. No rear-seat climate or audio controls. Premium package, which includes leather trim, moonroof, illuminated entry, is expensive at $2,145.
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|Larry Printz||The Morning Call and Mcall.com||June 22, 2003|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||May 7, 2003|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||May 4, 2003|
|John O'Dell||Los Angeles Times||April 2, 2003|
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