From the June 1998 affair of Car and Driver.
It’s accessible to say that cipher affluence carmaker Lexus got its alpha by artful Mercedes-Benz, but that’s not absolutely the truth. No doubt, the auto that Lexus alien in 1989 as its flagship, the LS400, was a refined, V-8–powered, leather-lined auto with administration that acutely had the attending of a Mercedes. But it debuted with a sticker amount that was about a division beneath than what Mercedes was charging for a analogously able six-cylinder E-class. If there was some copycatting activity on, it didn’t extend to sticker prices.
Eight years later, Mercedes-Benz alien its aboriginal boilerplate SUV, the ML320, to agog fanfare. Not akin a year later, Lexus has now trotted out a cautiously similar-looking SUV alleged the RX300. Has Lexus done it again? Is this an M-class copycat, or has Lexus bashed new arena with its car-based sport-utility vehicle?
Dick KelleyCar and Driver
The RX300’s administration borrows affluence from the ML320, from the pointy, shovel-nosed advanced end to the ancillary contour with its forward-raked C-pillar. The Lexus features a added accepted angled tail, however, and it’s additionally added intricately detailed, with busier-looking moldings and clear-lens projector-beam headlamps. The chubby wagon appearance is stout-looking—an important aspect these canicule for an SUV newcomer.
HIGHS: Invigorating power; quiet, comfortable, impeccably accomplished interior; car-like administration and performance.
That chubby appearance has a downside that’s aggregate with the ML320—it draws the windshield further forward, which makes the A-pillars affect on the appearance ahead. But that’s area the autogenous similarities end. The apparatus panel’s angled vents and the badly coast wood-framed centermost animate are a arresting contrast to the Benz’s blocky dashboard. Some front-seat cartage begin its swoopy curves a bit confining, but our analysis car’s rich-smelling, biscuit-colored covering autogenous provided abatement compensation. The RX300’s 52 cubic anxiety of front-seat allowance is on the aforementioned adjustment as that of a Honda CR-V, a bunched sport-utility.
Dick KelleyCar and Driver
The RX300’s adeptness advanced seats accommodate abstracted lumbar and acme adjustments, and they’re some of the best adequate SUV thrones in our aggregate memory. The rear seats accelerate ahead and aft for burden versatility, aloof as they do in the ML320. They’re breach 60/40, clashing the Benz’s, which action added versatility with its 40/20/40 split. The RX300 makes up for that with recliners for both rear bench backs, which could be a godsend for association in the aback of this affluence bus on a continued trip.
Working through a four-speed automated of categorical smoothness, it hauled our four-wheel-drive, 4020-pound RX300 to 60 mph in aloof 8.2 seconds. In the assured Rodeo Drive stoplight drag, the 4443-pound Mercedes, at 9.8 seconds, doesn’t angle a chance.
Over time, however, we came above a few black surprises. The stereo and climate controls aren’t intuitive, and they utilize a hooded LCD awning on the dashboard that washes out if the sun is abaft you or if you’re cutting polarizing sunglasses. The RX300 doesn’t accept abstracted advanced map lights, a aberrant blank in an SUV of any kind. The about-face for the alternative front-seat heaters doesn’t accept a passenger-only position, either.
Dick KelleyCar and Driver
There are no such omissions beneath the hood. The RX300 is motivated by Lexus’s new aluminum 24-valve, 3.0-liter V-6. Variable intake-valve timing (or VVT-i in Lexus parlance) helps it crank out an invigorating 220 horsepower—five added than the ML320, with its 18-valve V-6. Working through a four-speed automated of categorical smoothness, it hauled our four-wheel-drive, 4020-pound RX300 to 60 mph in aloof 8.2 seconds. In the assured Rodeo Drive stoplight drag, the 4443-pound Mercedes, at 9.8 abnormal to 60 mph, doesn’t angle a chance. Nor do best added SUVs, for that matter. Alone two action utilities we’ve tested—the Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 Bound and the SOHC V-6 Ford Explorer Sport—are as quick or quicker. On a roll, the Lexus outruns the Benz, too. This agent is one of the best genitalia of the RX300. It revs eagerly, and with near sports-car-like smoothness. The aftereffect is a advantageous dosage of action in what is normally a blasé active experience. That’s if you accept your appropriate Florsheim active into the cut-pile carpeting, of course.
The blow of the active acquaintance is not absolutely as accomplished as the engine, but it’s still appealing good. The council is actual light, as in abounding Toyotas and Lexuses. But it is additionally authentic and, clashing abounding SUVs, has a acceptable faculty of straight-ahead. Crank the caster in an emergency and the tires abandon their anchor cautiously and predictably, up to their 0.72-g cornering limit. With its accepted anti-lock brakes, the Lexus needs aloof 186 anxiety to stop from 70 mph. Compare that with 202 anxiety for the ML320, 195 anxiety for a Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited, and 197 anxiety for Toyota’s 4Runner Limited. The abeyance soaks up best bumps painlessly and is chargeless of the afraid accordance that generally affliction truck-based SUVs.
Dick KelleyCar and Driver
Notice article here? This is archetypal achievement for a car, not a truck. In fact, active the RX300 feels a lot like active any of a cardinal of Toyota or Lexus sedans, if you discount the added ride height. At idle, the RX300’s 45-decibel babble is as hushed as an Audi A6’s. At 70 mph, alone 67 decibels of babble will affect on All Things Considered. That’s luxury-car quiet.
LOWS: Confusing sound-system and altitude controls, with a center-console affectation that magically disappears; tighter apartment than in best SUVs in its amount class.
Few affluence cars can tow 3500 pounds like this RX300 can, but akin that can’t bout the 5000-pound accommodation of the ML320 with its stronger body-on-frame design. (The Lexus is a unibody, developed off the U.S. Camry’s platform.) The RX300’s accessible bear can drag 30 cubic anxiety of burden abaft its rear seats 75 cubes with the rear seats collapsed. The ML320 can drag about 10 added cubic anxiety on both counts; a five-door Explorer can handle 13 added with the rear bench up and 7 added with the bench folded.
Dick KelleyCar and Driver
The RX300’s alternative hands-off, full-time four-wheel-drive arrangement uses a centermost cogwheel with a adhesive limited-slip accessory to alteration adeptness to the rear wheels. That way, it avoids the brusque traction-control assurance that characterizes the ML320’s system. But the M-class gives you a low ambit for off-road creeping; that affection is not accessible on the RX300. In six inches of snow, our four-wheel-drive RX300 didn’t accept the traction we expected. That may accept been the accountability of the all-season Bridgestones, but those are the donuts the car came with (some RX300s will appear with Goodyears that accept a added footstep pattern). As for this Lexus’s adeptness in the rough, we’ll awning that in a approaching allegory test.
You can opt for a front-wheel-drive RX300, article that can’t be said of the M-class. That adaptation starts at $31,995. The four-wheel-drive RX300, at $33,445, is priced actual abutting to the ML320, at $34,545. Accepted accessories on both cars includes ancillary airbags, air conditioning, cruise control, bolt seats, adeptness windows, and adeptness locks with an anxiety system.
THE VERDICT: If you’re broken amid a sport-ute and a affluence car, authoritative a accommodation aloof got a accomplished lot easier.
In some ways, this new Lexus is so abutting to its Mercedes antagonism that it’s bitter at its wheels. Remember, the RX300 offers front-wheel drive. It’s additionally added powerful, beneath roomy, added car-like, and beneath ill-fitted to carriage actuality than its three-pointed-star rival.
Rather than alarm it a copy, let’s aloof say that abundant car minds clearly anticipate alike.
The RX300 avalanche into a awe-inspiring SUV netherworld, whose purpose befogs me. It’s not a sensible-shoes truck-based SUV, like the Expedition or Blazer. On the road, it feels babyish but not absolutely RAV4 small; added like, say, the mid-size Isuzu Rodeo. It’s abundantly luxurious, like a Ambit Rover. But sans low-range gearing, it can’t action the Rover’s off-road skills. And it’s article way above a four-wheel-drive alpine wagon. It will booty Lexus alone one added bearing of SUVs afore they’re absolutely car-like. This SUV already borrows the ES300’s agent and advanced suspension. Meanwhile, you could save $2000 by affairs the company’s ES300—which, you know, already is a car. —John Phillips
Dick KelleyCar and Driver
Don’t you adulation these guys who adjudge affluence action utes as actuality abandoned off road, aloof toys for affluent boys? Like, if you don’t booty 40 bags of craven admixture with your pickup, they’re gonna appearance up and booty it abroad from you. Well, they’re gonna adulation this RX300. It is the quietest, sleekest, best riding, best able sport-ute I’ve driven. Hit the gas at 60 mph, and it surges forward, agnate in feel (and as quiet and composed) as an LS400. Handling—for a action ute—is impeccable. Digs: It needs a telescoping council caster and a ambit of acting settings on the acrimonious seats (it’s either “on” or “off,” and “on” can get too hot), and the “multidisplay” is, to me, a chichi gimmick of no value. Hey balloon off-road—this is the babyish for activity uptown. All you charge is money. —Steve Spence
Criticizing a sport-utility agent for not benumbed able-bodied on the artery is as asinine as animadversion a Porsche for bottoming out off-road. Action utes are trucks, man—they’re advised to assignment adamantine and go further off alley than you anytime anticipation possible. But hardly anyone anytime does this. We buy SUVs for the image, space, aerial active position, and utility, and we drive them to malls, to grocery stores, and out to dinner. For these practical, accepted accustomed uses, the RX300 is ideal. It is the aboriginal sport-utility agent advised for the way bodies absolutely drive them, and I’ll bet it will be a huge success for Lexus. —Bradley Nevin
1999 Lexus RX300
VEHICLE TYPE front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
PRICE AS TESTED $38,671 (base price: $33,445)
ENGINE TYPE DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, anchorage ammunition injectionDisplacement 183 in3, 2995 cm3Power 220 hp @ 5800 rpmTorque 222 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
TRANSMISSION 4-speed automatic
CHASSIS Abeyance (F/R): struts/multilinkBrakes (F/R): 11.3-in vented disc/11.7-in discTires: Bridgestone Dueler H/T, P225/70SR-16
DIMENSIONS Wheelbase: 103.1 inLength: 180.1 inWidth: 71.5 inHeight: 65.3 inPassenger volume: 98 ft3Cargo volume: 30 ft3Curb weight: 4020 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS 60 mph: 8.2 sec100 mph: 26.6 secRolling start, 5–60 mph: 8.8 secTop gear, 30–50 mph: 4.6 secTop gear, 50–70 mph: 6.2 sec¼-mile: 16.4 sec @ 84 mphTop acceleration (governor limited): 109 mphBraking, 70–0 mph: 186 ftRoadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.72 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY Observed: 16 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY Combined/city/highway: 18/17/20 mpg
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