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RX330: An Unstable Deathtrap by Sean Glasgow on 02/15/2006. Trim: 2006 Lexus RX 330 FWD, Owned less than 1 year.
Pros: Extremely smooth ride (at the expense of handling). Competitive pricing. Toyota reliability. Comfortable front seats and ample rear leg room. Mark Levinson sound system is among the best on the market. Many available "wow factor" features like voice activated navigation and laser cruise control. This said, there are much better choices if you dont mind spending a bit more.
Cons: Sloppy handling and mushy suspension is a disaster waiting to happen. Brakes fail to halt the RX as quickly as others in this class. Thin roof pillars made of "mild" steel ensure that the RX will crush like a sardine can in a rollover. AWD is not standard, and the available system is rather primitive compared to 4-ETS and X-Drive. No rear side airbags or rear seatbelt pretensioners. No sensor to cut-off fuel, disconnect starter cable, unlock doors or turn on lights after impact. Seatbelts are anchored to the floor, which can adversely alter restraint geometry in a crash compared to a more expensive seat anchorage. Other safety/cost cutting measures too numerous to mention and hard to notice.
Overall review: I was in the market to replace a Volvo 850 as my main family hauler. Being concerned with safety, the ML, XC90 and X5 were obviously top choices. Ultimately the ML had the best mix of style, utility and performance along with legendary Mercedes safety. I decided to look at the RX out of curiosity. As a structural engineer, the first thing that caught my eye was its poorly designed structure and fragile roof architecture. I learned that Toyota's thin roof pillars are made of low carbon "mild" steel that barely meet 1971 federal strength requirement known as FMVSS 208. Mercedes voluntarily exceeds this requirement many times over (as do Volvo and BMW) by using thick, triple layer roof pillars and cross sections made of expensive high-strength/low-alloy HSLA steel. Mercedes also offers rear side airbags and seatbelt pretensioners whereas Lexus does not. These facts, and highly questionable handling ability, make the RX a poor choice for those concerned with safety more than reliability.
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