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Lexus knows what its customers like and seldom slips up when it introduces a new model. This solid competence was exemplified by the company's RX 300 luxury midsize SUV. As one of the first entries in the crossover luxury SUV segment, the RX provided a high seating position, available all-wheel drive and generous cargo capacity but without the typical truck-based SUV side effects of poor fuel economy and a stiff ride.
With its handsomely trimmed cabin, velvet-smooth powertrain and polished overall demeanor, the Lexus RX 300 had a lot going for it, especially for folks who prized a serene driving experience over a more sporting one. It quickly became a hit and during its run it was often not only Lexus' best-selling model, but also the top-selling luxury SUV in the United States as well.
The Lexus RX series continues to be a very popular choice, with the original 300 being succeeded by the RX 330 and RX 350. As a choice for a used luxury crossover, the RX 300 shines, especially when the model's stellar records for build quality and reliability are factored in.
Most Recent Lexus RX 300
The five-passenger RX 300 was essentially a single-generation model that ran from 1999-2003. Its successors, the RX 330 and RX 350 sported revamped styling and larger V6s as indicated by the numerical part of their names.
Available with front-wheel drive or traction-enhancing all-wheel drive, the Lexus RX 300 came in one trim and was powered by a 3.0-liter V6 (220 horsepower and 222 pound-feet of torque) paired to a four-speed automatic transmission. Towing capacity, at 3,500 pounds, was on the light side.
Luxury features such as 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, automatic climate control, full power accessories (including front seats and "auto-down" windows in all doors) and a cassette player came standard on the RX 300. Standard safety features included antilock brakes and front-seat side airbags.
For 2001, the Lexus RX 300 received a midcycle refresh that brought refreshed styling and newly standard safety features including stability control (dubbed "VSC") and brake assist. A handful of new options debuted as well, including a DVD-based navigation system, HID headlights, chrome wheels and a wood-rimmed steering wheel. Choosing not to mess with success, Lexus made no significant changes to the RX 300 for its final two years.
In our reviews of the Lexus RX 300, we appreciated the vehicle's low step-in height, comfortable seats and excellent outward visibility. Performance was respectable for a 2-ton vehicle with a 0-60-mph sprint of 8.8 seconds, while the transmission furnished smooth gearchanges, holding a gear when needed and stepping down promptly.
Long road trips had the RX 300 in its element, as it gobbled up large amounts of interstate effortlessly while providing occupants with a hushed, supple ride. Additionally, the backseat's ability to slide fore and aft nearly 5 inches allowed parents to more easily reach their children in car seats. In terms of handling, the RX 300 felt planted and precise, though the soft suspension allowed a fair bit of body roll when pressed in turns.
Gripes centered around so-so mileage (around 17 or so mpg) and a gimmicky center stack screen that, considering it displayed only temperature and trip information, didn't really need to be so large.