SEE ALSO: Lexus Rover Buyer's Guide
Dark, metallic burgundy paint + tinted, reflective windows + chrome wheels + cream leather + Lexus design = Good Looks. Iím no math genius, but simple adding, and little subtracting, makes this SUV an easy answer on any looking-to-buy-a-new-vehicle exam. And judging by the number of RX300s that I have seen on the roads of LA, there are evidently a lot of people choosing them as the answer to their SUV questions. Whilst it is smaller and more refined than the Ford Explorer or Toyota 4Runner, it is still a lot more roomy, and luxurious, than the mini-SUVs.
The (fully-loaded) RX300 makes an extremely well-appointed addition to any garage, boasting oodles of leather on steering wheel (standard), trim and seats. Bucket front seats are power adjustable (with memory, driverís side). The interior is very spacious and well-thought out, with easy-to-read dials and dash layout, a multitude of cup-holders, compartments and storage areas, and good visibility, although given the size of the electric mirrors, Iím surprised itís not better.
The luxury package features (prominently) a multi-information display in the center console, and whilst this would appear to be a good way to access information regarding audio, ventilation, driving, time and temperature, it actually proves somewhat confusing. Itís sort of like a poor-manís GPS display - it looks good, but itís more gimmick than gadget. Dials and buttons would be just as effective and, I think, easier to read. It was also a bit of a stretch for this average-height driver, meaning I had to lean forward every time an adjustment to sound, temp, etc was required, which proved rather annoying. Also included in the center console was the gear stick, which was well-placed, in a prominent, center position.
The interior of the RX300 was extremely light and airy, aided in every way by a huge moon-roof which, at the one-touch of a button, slid back and let the outside in. However, despite being relatively large compared to most sun-roofs, its design was such that any increase in noise was minimal. Add to this one-touch auto windows, auto mirrors, A/C, dual and front-side airbags (as standard), and a 230 watt, 7 speaker stereo with a 6-CD changer stowed away in the glove box, and this all adds up to a comfortable little cabin.
Cargo space is non-too little though, with 39.8 cubic feet meaning luggage is not limited to toothbrushes only. And 3, rear passengers have plentiful legroom and a raised seating position.
However, what are the results when you get under the hood? Well, the 3.0 liter, V6 24 valve DOHC engine, generating 220 bhp at 5800 rpm and 222 lbs-ft of torque at 4400 rpm was gutsy and quick, with good, quiet acceleration. The 4 speed, electronically controlled, automatic transmission was fantastically smooth and the rack and pinion steering was light to the touch and precise.
But the suspension was disappointing. The RX300, despite being lower to the ground than many of its competitors, tended to roll round corners, offering less-than-adhesive grip, to my mind, and suspension which needs to be racked up a few notches on the firmness ladder. Itís all adequate enough, but given the superior feel and look of the vehicle, its performance was just a bit lackluster in comparison. The ABS could have been a bit more punchy too - I had to really depress the brake pedal to reap the benefits.
Offering an average 19/24 city/highway fuel consumption means itís not a fuel-guzzler like some of the other SUVs on the market, and Lexus offers a generous 50,000 mile warranty over 48 months.
I enjoyed driving the RX300. Itís fun, sexy, young yet sophisticated in its looks. But given that the Luxury package, plus super-CD option, plus traction control, brings the RX300 in at a little over $38,000 one might feel that a little more work on road-handling could be necessary. I was just a bit disappointed by the handling. Itís like getting exam results: you know where the work has paid off, and where a little more work was needed, but either way getting a bad grade still sucks.
RX300: Looks: A+ Performance: B