2002 Lexus RX 300
This 2002 review is representative of model years 1999 to 2003.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The Lexus RX 300 flung open the door for midsize luxury sport-utility vehicles when introduced in March 1998. It did an end run around the rival Mercedes-Benz M-Class because that vehicle was too truck-like.
Lexus says the RX 300 platform is unique, but it's spun off the Lexus ES 300/Toyota Camry sedan platform. And the RX 300 resembles the new Toyota Highlander sport ute under the skin.
The RX 300 has changed little since its debut. The only significant visual changes came for 2001 when it got a revised grille, headlights and taillights. Also that year, the fuel tank was enlarged and Lexus' Vehicle Skid Control stability system and Brake Assist feature were made standard.
The RX 300 has a $33,955 base price with front-wheel drive and costs $35,705 with an all-wheel-drive system. That system has no low-range gearing for tough off-road situations. But decent ground clearance and short front/rear overhangs let the all-wheel-drive version go places that would stall a typical sedan.
The responsive 4-speed automatic transmission works well with the V6, which produces 80 percent of its torque at only 1600 rpm—not far from engine idle speed.
No Fuel Miser
After all, although the RX 300 has tidy exterior dimensions, it's pretty heavy with all its luxury and convenience equipment, at 3,715 pounds with front-wheel drive and 3,924 pounds with all-wheel drive. Lexus says 87-octane fuel can be used, but recommends 92-octane gasoline.
The steering is a bit too light at highway speeds, but is quick and precise. The all-independent suspension easily soaks up bumps, although wavy roads cause the ride to become slightly jouncy.
The brake pedal is too soft, but stopping distances are short and the Brake Assist feature is valuable during emergency stops.
The backlit gauges on the sweeping dashboard are among the best in the industry. And large controls can be easily reached. Front cupholders are sturdy.
The interior looks upscale, especially with the leather upholstery available as a stand-alone option or as part of an option package. I can't remember seeing an RX 300 without leather.
Front seats offer good side support in curves, and the driver has a substantial raised floor area on which to rest his left foot. Another nifty touch: The transmission lever is on the upper console to free up floor space.
Decent Cargo Area
The RX 300 would be above-average even without the Lexus nameplate, which adds to its luster and resale value.