Lexus RX History
2011 Lexus RX 350Enlarge Photo
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The Lexus RX is one Toyota's best-selling models, and mid-size crossover that blends family practicality and plush luxury accommodations. It sits at the bottom of the Lexus crossover lineup, and it's loosely related to the Toyota Venza, Highlander, Camry and Avalon.
For more information on the current model, including pricing with options, see our full review of the 2013 Lexus RX.
Over the past decade, in wealthier areas especially, the Lexus RX has become as ubiquitous as some minivan models and is without a doubt the least exclusive (and best-selling) Lexus model. That said, the RX has been a luxury-vehicle benchmark and has taken on a wide range of models, including the Acura MDX, BMW X5, Hyundai Veracruz, Mercedes-Benz ML-Class, Audi Q7, and Lincoln MKX.
The first-generation RX 300, introduced for 1999, was offered in only one trim, with a limited number of options, and included the same 220-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 that was featured in the ES 300 sedan. Power was delivered with a four-speed automatic transmission through either front- or all-wheel drive. For 2001, the RX 300 saw slightly different styling plus a new list of options, with electronic stability control made standard.
For 2004, it was redesigned and renamed the RX 330, getting a larger, stronger 230-hp (or 223-hp), 3.3-liter V-6 plus a five-speed automatic. The RX's overall size and formula remained the same, though its styling inside and out was smoother, with substantially improved materials. For 2007 and 2008, the RX was renamed the RX 350, as it gained the higher-output 3.5-liter V-6 that was introduced on a number of Toyota and Lexus products. One of the key attributes of this second-generation RX is that quite early on it offered a number of high-tech features that weren't found on many other luxury vehicles in its segment or price range at the time, including the Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS) and Dynamic Laser Cruise Control.
The current version of the RX made its debut for 2009. Although the RX was again completely redesigned, it carried over with the same engine, now making 275 hp, and didn't look all that much different from the outside than the models before it—particularly the 2004-2008 models—though the design of the instrument panel was significantly changed this time around, becoming more swoopy and curvaceous, materials again given a big upgrade. In a review of the 2009 Lexus RX 350, we called it "a dependable, luxurious isolation chamber that performs responsively though not lively." Top features on the latest RX include heated and ventilated seats, power heated mirrors, a heads-up system, and an updated navigation system with XM NavTraffic and NavWeather.
The RX isn't intended for heavy towing use or off-roading, but it will do light versions of both. All-wheel-drive RX models come with a diff-lock mode for deep snow or sand/mud, and most RX models will tow 3,500 pounds, which is good compared to cars but not close to that of mid-size truck-based SUVs. Neither is the RX intended as a minivan substitute; while many models its size and smaller have offered a third-row seat, the RX has always boasted good seating for five adults, in two rows.
Safety and reliability are strong reasons to choose the RX, as much as luxury and comfort. The current RX has achieved top ratings from both crash-test agencies. Also, the RX has been a very reliable vehicle its entire run, and resale value is strong no matter what the year.
The 2013 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h have been given an updated front-end appearance, with a new grille to bring the front-end design more in line with the GS sport sedans' look. Other than a few other smaller changes, the RX continues unchanged, although the RX 450h has been given a Sport mode, and its own F-Sport model, to offer better responsiveness.