SEE ALSO: Lexus Rover Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 35,655 Price As Tested $ 43,099 Engine Type DOHC 24-valve 3.0 Liter V6 w/VVT-i* Engine Size 183 cid/2995 cc Horsepower 220 @ 5800 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 222 @ 4400 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 103.0"/71.5"/180.3" Transmission Four-speed Automatic Curb Weight 3924 pounds Fuel Capacity 19.8 gallons Tires (F/R) 225/70R16 S M&S Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/all-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/five-door Domestic Content 10.0 Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.36 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 18/22/20 0-60 MPH 8.8 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 16.8 seconds @ 81.5 mph Top-speed 112 mph *-Continuously Variable Valve Timing
(Matt Hagin says the new Lexus RX 300 sport/utility vehicle is far removed from the spartan Land Cruiser he owned as a kid. Remembering the automotive troubles that thing got him into, Bob Hagin says he'd rather forget about those days.)
MATT - We tried out this fancy Lexus when it came out in '99 and it's interesting that this sedan-based sport/utility vehicle virtually invented a whole new vehicular genre. It's really too sophisticated to be classified as a truck, but that's what the Environmental Protection Agency calls it. And it looks too different from the average sedan to be considered a car. I would say that it could be more accurately categorized as a four-door station wagon with lots of ground clearance.
BOB - It's an altogether different type of vehicle from the huge Lexus LX 470. That thing's a true truck, with a separate ladder frame carrying a big V8 engine up front that puts power to a solid rear axle. You know, exactly the kind of stuff you'd find on a pickup. The RX 300 is different, though. The suspension is independent both front and rear, and it's built using the platform of the front-drive Lexus ES 300 sedan. One RX 300 model uses front-wheel drive, but the best one to have is the one with full-time all-wheel-drive. It may sound rugged and ready for off-road bashing, but it doesn't offer the option of a low range or locking differentials. The RX 300 isn't designed for grinding through creek beds or swamps. It's made for all-weather luxury motoring.
MATT - The only transmission available is a four-speed automatic with a built-in "snow-mode." This forces the transmission to start from second gear which avoids spinning the wheels when traction is minimal. Our tester was the all-wheel drive version with an optional power- splitting system that automatically senses if a wheel begins to slip, then immediately transfers power to the wheels that have the most grip. It also senses both oversteer when the rear end is swinging out, or understeer when front end is washing out. When either of these phenomena happen, power or braking is applied to the wheels that can help the driver regain control of the vehicle. It's all very top-notch safety stuff that usually only comes on super-expensive sedans.
BOB - The engine is top-notch too, with the same 3.0-liter, twin-cam, 24-valve V6 that's under the hood of the ES 300. It puts out 220 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque, with a towing rate of 3500 pounds - not a lot - but it's enough for a nice-sized family ski boat. And as befits a near-luxury vehicle, the interior is posh, with leather upholstery and a fancy stereo system that sounds like a concert hall. The driver's seat is adjustable 10 ways, but the front passenger has to settle for just forward and back and up and down adjustments. There's room for three passengers in back, but they'd better not be wearing hats because there's not much headroom for tall people. The automatic headlights are a nice feature, and the switches and controls are all easy to reach. So overall, the interior is snug and very comfortable. I could drive this thing anywhere.
MATT - You won't get lost doing it, Dad, because it also has a navigational system with maps and instructions for the entire country. One of the simpler things that are new on the RX 300 are sliding extension on the sun visors. It seems that half the time that the sun is shining in my eyes when I'm driving, I have sun visors that won't quite block it out. The new upgraded automatic interior ventilation system has a dust and pollen filtering system, and the seats fold flat quickly and effortlessly for extra cargo space. Our loan car came with an expensive package that included auto-dimming mirrors, high-intensity headlights and a moonroof.
BOB - I'm not sure that I like those headlights, Matt. They're OK when you're in the driver's seat, but when they're on oncoming cars, they seem a little strange. It's going to take me some time to get used to them.
MATT - Dad, I'm not sure you've gotten used to the sealed beam headlight and the industry changed over to them in 1940.