Lexus RX 300: Hands-on review
Supreme comfort for city driving.
A few months ago, I reviewed the LandCruiser-based Lexus LX 570 S. Thanks to the body on frame construction and massive kerb weight of the LX, on the asphalt it was a bit ponderous. Even with a great big V8 heart, it just didn't wow me. It tended to wallow under braking and felt slightly outgunned when compared to some of its rivals. With that said, the LandCruiser 200 architecture means it is theoretically able to travel to inhospitable places that its $178k price tag would make you wince about.
In the RX 300, Lexus has built a different type of SUV, purely for city slicking, highlighted by the FWD driveline. More and more manufacturers are building vehicles like this – something Toyota acknowledged and challenged with the launch of the new RAV4 – because consumers don't want these vehicles for scrambling over rough ground, they want a high-driving position and ample storage.
With that being the new goal, the RX 300 hits the nail on the head.
The RX, or recreational crossover, is large and spacious. It has plenty of room throughout for family, friends and any gear they bring along with them. The ride is plush and while it isn't fitted with the biggest power plant, it is sufficient for travelling around the inner city areas this SUV is intended for. The model we tested was the "Luxury" and had the "enhancement pack 2" optioned as well as premium paint which will set you back $1,048.95. All up the Lexus RX 300 we reviewed is a $80,251 car.
Lexus has included a lot of safety features on the RX to help it keep occupants and pedestrians safe too. Along with 10 airbags being fitted to the Lexus RX 300 there is:
- Adaptive cruise control
- Lane keep assist
- Rear cross traffic alert
- Blind spot monitors
- Autonomous emergency braking
- Head up display
- Automatic windscreen wipers
In standard Lexus fashion, the interior is comfortable with driver and passenger seats offering heating and ventilated seating, electric lumbar control as well as leather wrapped armrests. Moving away from the front seats, you also get dual climate control, two cup holders, two USB points and a wireless phone charging bay.
You will also get reversing cameras with guides, powered seats in the front, smart entry and start, LED daytime running lights, self-dimming and heated exterior mirrors among many other things as standard across the RX 300 range.
In a somewhat perfect storm, the chilly winter weather, comfortable seats with seat heaters, panoramic glass moonroof and smooth ride, passengers were actually drifting off to sleep as we drove along. I was alerted to this by their snoring.
While the interior is really well appointed and finished, there is no escaping the fact it is let down by the joystick style of navigating through the system. It seems a bit unnecessary given what other manufacturers are implementing and to be honest borders on hazardous. Usability aside though, the 12.3-inch unit has everything you want (except for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) from DAB to satellite navigation.
Included in the Lexus RX 300 we tested is a 12-speaker sound system but you can get a 15-speaker system in both the RX 300 F Sport and Sport Luxury models.
The head up display is crystal clear and integrates with the satellite navigation which means you're looking down and to your left less, keeping your eyes on the road more.
Things are quite comfortable in the back too. Seated behind the driver's seat with it set in my driving position (I'm just over six-foot tall) I had ample leg room, but you will struggle to rest your feet comfortably under the front two seats. The rear seats are quite comfortable and we can see no reason why anyone would be uncomfortable seated in them for short or long trips.
Rear passengers get a 12-volt socket and miss out on USB connectivity to charge devices, but if your passengers love a good book, we found the inclusion of angled reading lights to be a welcome addition.
There is also minimal door storage for rear passengers but should there be no-one in the middle seat, this can be folded down to reveal a lidded storage bin.
And child seats can be mounted securely with ISOFix mounting points on both of the outer seats.
Motion is created via a 2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol engine which produces 175kW and 350Nm of torque. Gears are changed courtesy of a six-speed automatic gearbox which does an adequate job of getting the power down.
All in all, the combination does a good job of getting you from A to B and you may even be able to get a little wheelspin from the front tyres off the mark if you try hard enough.
As mentioned, the ride is great with the suspension set-up ironing out bumps and rough roads easily. It really was quite pleasant and everyone who travelled in the vehicle made comments to this effect.
While the quoted boot storage numbers for the Lexus RX 300 are 453 litres with the rear seats up and 924 litres with them folded down, these are measured to just the top of the rear seats. So there is more space on offer if you're filling the vehicle to the roof.
If you do plan on carrying that much to the car, the automatic tailgate will be quite helpful as will the rear cross traffic alert and if you're just filling the boot up to the back seats, there is a cargo cover as standard.
The Lexus RX 300 was a pleasant car to be driving around in during our test. Ride and interior comfort were fantastic, though it is let down by a somewhat hazardous infotainment controller.
It seems as though on newer models such as the UX 200 F Sport, Lexus has somewhat remedied this with a secondary driver control, but it remains to be seen if this will make its way on to newer models
With that being said, if I could have the LX 570 S or the RX 300, I'd take the RX 300 every day of the week.
Update: The RX range has been updated
We got the chance to attend the launch of the 2020 model. Check out our 2020 Lexus RX review.