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The new lexus rx300: changing the way an suv should be key points

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This press pack accompanied the UK launch of the second-generation Lexus RX300 in May 2003. Some changes were made to the model range during its time on sale, which can be tracked using the Timeline feature available on the second-generation RX300 archive web page. Additional assets and information relating to the RX300 range may be obtained from the Lexus press office if required.


  • World’s most successful luxury SUV (more than half a million sold since sales started)

  • Bigger, bolder, more dynamic design

  • Three model derivatives – RX300, RX300 SE and RX300 SE-L

  • On the road prices from £28,955

  • On sale in the UK from 16 May

  • Unique-in-class driver’s knee airbag standard on all models

  • Unique-in-class extra-large side airbags for improved impact protection, standard on all models

  • Nine airbags fitted as standard

  • Unique-in-class rear parking camera monitor for greater convenience and safety

  • Unique-in-class power operated tailgate and retracting tonneau cover

  • Unique-in-class Adaptive Front-light System (AFS) rotates headlights for improved vision through corners

  • Best-in-class suppression of noise, vibration and harshness for ultra-quiet cabin environment

  • Sleek body shape is most aerodynamically efficient in class with 0.33 coefficient of drag for RX300 SE-L with air suspension

  • LED technology for fast-illuminating rear brake lights

  • World’s first Neural Network System air conditioning, simulating human nervous system responses

  • Revised, smoother 3.0-litre V6 VVT-i petrol engine offers enhanced performance and economy

  • Engine already compliant with 2005 Euro IV emissions standards

  • Best in class fuel consumption among six-cylinder petrol engines

  • Best-in-class CO2 emissions levels, 288g/km

  • New five-speed electronically-controlled automatic gearbox with sequential shift function

  • Best-in-class power to weight ratio aids performance and fuel economy

  • Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRC), four-channel ABS and Brake Assist (BA) standard on all models

  • Permanent four-wheel drive

  • Exclusive Mark Levinson audio system provides superb sound reproduction (SE-L grade)

  • In-dash six-disc CD autochanger

  • Four-wheel variable height air suspension system standard on RX300 SE-L

  • Electric adjustment for driver’s and front passenger seats

  • Rear seat split-folds 40:20:40 for versatile load/accommodation configurations (SE and
    SE-L grades)

  • Manufactured in one of the world’s highest quality production plants

  • Lexus luxury and refinement further raises segment benchmarks

  • Future Hybrid Synergy Drive version set to revolutionise luxury vehicle powertrain technology


Five years after the original Lexus RX300 created the luxury sport utility segment and became a best seller with more than 500,000 units sold worldwide, the new generation Lexus RX300 further raises the segment benchmarks. The new RX300 improves on every aspect of the outgoing model, making a quantum leap in safety, driving dynamics and refinement to move it even further ahead of other vehicles in the luxury SUV segment.

In redefining the RX300 for its next generation of buyers, the Lexus development team concentrated on creating a vehicle that could deliver excellent dynamic performance –

especially in handling and ride comfort – NVH and braking. It was determined from the outset that the new RX300 should have advanced styling, unsurpassed levels of active and passive safety and a host of innovative features.

The power of the 3.0-litre transversely-mounted high-performance V6 engine is increased to 201bhp by improving the intake and exhaust systems. The powerplant, which already complies with the 2005 Euro IV emission standards, is complemented by a new five-speed automatic transmission with a sequential gearchange and a new drivetrain in which the torque distribution between the front and rear wheels is controlled electronically by the Traction Control (TRC) system. A more aerodynamic body and higher-performance tyres increase the top speed from 112 to 124mph, while improving combined fuel consumption by more than six per cent, achieving a best in class figure for luxury SUVs equipped with six-cylinder petrol engines.
In addition to offering class-leading aerodynamic efficiency with a Cd figure as low as 0.33
(SE-L equipped with air suspension) and a wind noise level 5dB lower than its predecessor, the new Lexus RX300 is distinguished by bold new looks. The RX300 shares styling cues with other Lexus models, with the distinctive grille design, modern, clear glass lamps front and rear, strong wheel arches, a rising window line and a distinctive ‘c-post’ rear pillar design.
The modern and distinctive shape also gives a passenger compartment that is bigger and roomier than most of its segment rivals. At 4,740mm in length, the new Lexus RX300 is 160mm longer than its predecessor and 30mm wider, with refined packaging giving an extra 100mm of wheelbase for additional luggage load space. Despite the greater length, the turning radius remains a compact 5.7m.
A further comfort and convenience feature offered by the new generation RX300 is a power-operated rear-tailgate, standard on the SE and SE-L, automatically opening and closing at the touch of a button. It can also be activated remotely by the vehicle’s key. To ensure safe operation, the system features a warning buzzer. By receiving information from the touch sensors and the electric motor, the system ECU can stop the door and reverse its movement when there is any obstruction to its closing action.
Rear end styling and safety are equally enhanced by lamps which use the latest LED (light emitting diode) technology rather than traditional filament bulbs. These are more energy efficient and a significant active safety item. The LED elements light up 10 times faster than a conventional lamp, 2 to 15 milliseconds as opposed to 150 to 200msec. This equates to six metres of reaction time at 62mph.
The new Lexus RX300 takes the lead in all areas of active and passive safety. Uppermost are the excellent driving dynamics, aided still further by Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRC) and Brake Assist (BA) technology. Additionally, the new RX300 carries more safety equipment than any other vehicle in its segment.
A new Air Suspension System, fitted to the RX300 SE-L, offers a still higher level of performance and refinement. This feature provides greater ride control together with an auto-levelling function and the ability to alter ride height through a range of 45mm.
Intelligent AFS (Adaptive Front-lighting System), a world-first for SUVs, radically improves night-driving visibility when cornering. Unlike other systems which either use additional lamps or are merely directly linked to a car’s steering, the Intelligent AFS microprocessor controller calculates the optimum swivel of the lighting area from the vehicle speed and steering angle. It is combined with xenon headlights with an automatic levelling system and headlamp cleaners for the best night-time vision.
A further aid to active safety is the use of a Lexus Parking Assist Monitor. Effectively a TV camera mounted in the rear, it is a unique feature among luxury SUVs. When reverse gear is selected, an image appears on the navigation display screen on the dashboard, allowing accurate manoeuvring and minimising the risk of collision with low-level objects.

To further advance the model’s leadership in passive safety performance the new RX300 features as standard equipment dual stage driver and front passenger SRS airbags and a first-in-segment driver’s SRS knee airbag. New Extra-large Side Airbags (protecting torso, abdomen and pelvis) and standard side curtain shield airbags offer supplemental protection for occupants in side impacts.

Yukihiro Okane, Lexus RX300 Chief Engineer, said: “The new RX300 is intended to give its users a feeling of freedom. It is comfortable and pleasurable to drive, both on your everyday commute or on weekend leisure activities away from town.
“The original RX300 created a new segment in the world of SUVs by establishing an indisputable combination of a fully-grown luxury car with a competent SUV. For the new generation we had to concentrate on maintaining our leadership position in the segment we have created. This is the reason why the new RX300 has evolved in every possible way to become a more assertive vehicle.”
Commenting on the new Lexus RX300, Stuart McCullough, Director Lexus Europe, said: “We are still selling the outgoing RX300 very successfully but with the new model we have the opportunity to fundamentally alter the dynamic of the dealer network. We have the advertising tagline for the launch ‘The New RX300 – It Changes Everything’. Whilst that’s intended to be a statement about the impact that the car will have on its segment, actually it’s equally relevant to our dealer network. The volume and the profit opportunity that exist within the car will enable our dealers to invest further to create the kind of network that we need.
“The new RX300 will continue to be our second-highest volume selling car, a very, very close second to the IS. It will play a big role in helping to establish the business generally. It is a car which will bring people to Lexus who may not have considered a saloon car. It has a role in ensuring the balance and breadth of our customer base.”
Fourteen years ago, Lexus arrived among the world’s established luxury car makers as a totally new brand, with dramatic new products and the philosophy of ‘The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection’.
The aim behind Lexus was to create the world’s finest luxury automobile brand. That translated into offering customers exclusivity, intelligent design, integrity, attention to detail and the highest standards of customer service. The marque was first launched in the USA in 1989, with the debut of LS400 ‘premium luxury sedan’. From the moment it entered the market, LS400 was hailed as one of the finest cars ever made.

Lexus quickly carved a niche for itself and, in 1993, became the number one luxury import brand in the USA. By the mid-1990s, Lexus had earned a reputation for setting new standards of customer satisfaction. Now was the time for Lexus to branch out, presenting new, but still distinctively Lexus products. First came a luxury sports saloon, the Lexus GS. Then in 1998 Lexus launched the RX300 on the American market, its first distinct sport utility vehicle (SUV).

The successful core philosophy behind the RX300 was to offer the commanding ride height and off-road functionality of an SUV without sacrificing the comfortable ride, handling and convenience of a luxury car. A sophisticated and efficient 3.0-litre VVT-i V6 engine was combined with a four-wheel drive powertrain and suspension designed for exceptional on-road driving dynamics. Innovations, such as the first Active Control Engine Mount, ensured the highest levels of refinement, as expected of a Lexus.
“The breakthrough was building a 4x4 with a monocoque body and car-like driving dynamics. Up until that point everybody had been building truck-like SUVs on ladder-frames,” says Lexus Europe Director, Stuart McCullough. “It gave RX300 the ability to have the ride height and capability of a 4x4 with the refinement and the driving dynamics of a car which behaved like an upmarket saloon. A number of our rivals obviously agree – they’ve tried to follow us ever since!”
From the moment of its unveiling at the 1998 North American International Automobile Show in Detroit, RX300 proved a runaway success; establishing an all-new segment in the market on both sides of the Atlantic and beating both established domestic and imported brands in the USA. This also created increased awareness of the Lexus brand among a wider audience, driving sales of the full range of models. Lexus became the number one-selling luxury brand in the United States, outperforming Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Lincoln, Cadillac and all other luxury competitors.

The total number of RX300 models sold in the United States stood at 355,942 by the end of 2002, making up 68 per cent of the worldwide total of 525,021. In Europe, more than 15,000 RX300 models have been sold since the model was launched in early 2000.


The new-generation Lexus RX is set to move the class standard still higher. The new model, known as the RX330 in the USA, received rave reviews following its unveiling at the North American International Auto Show in January 2003 and similar excitement is growing in Europe, after its static launch at the Geneva Motor Show. The aim is to sell around 7,000 of the new RX300 in Europe in the first year. The IS sports saloon and SportCross will remain the top selling Lexus model at around 10,000 units.

In the UK sales of the current generation RX300 have reached 4,166 since launch in 2000. In 2003 Lexus (GB) aims to sell 2,300 units, rising to 3,900 in 2004, the first full year of sales.

The new Lexus RX300’s specific customer attractions, in addition to its dynamic performance and style, include class-leading safety equipment and high technology features throughout, such as the first-in-class power tailgate and optional rear parking assist system. A range of nine attractive paint colours is complemented by a wide choice of interior finishes including maple or walnut wood inlays, black fabric seats on the entry-level RX300, or eight-way electrically adjustable ivory, black or grey full leather seats on the SE and SE-L versions. The collection of exterior paint finishes for the UK range comprises Astral Black, Platinum Ice, Aleutian Grey, Persian Quartz, Brechin Slate, Stafford Blue, Tungsten Mist, Cherwell Green and Elveden Green.

Two types of wood inlay, together with modern aluminium inserts are available. Walnut is available with black fabric and black or charcoal leather trims. Maple inserts are combined exclusively with the ivory leather trim.
Specification for the entry level RX300 model includes:

  • Multi-stage driver and front passenger airbags

  • Driver’s knee airbag

  • Front side TAP (Thorax-Abdomen-Pelvis) airbags

  • Curtain shield airbags

  • Seatbelt reminder light and buzzer

  • ISOFIX child seat preparations

  • Permanent four-wheel drive

  • ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA)

  • Traction Control (TRC)

  • Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)

  • High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights with cleaning system

  • LED rear brake lights

  • Water repellent front door glass

  • Optitron instrumentation

  • Reach and rake adjustment for steering column

  • Automatic headlamp levelling

  • Multi-information display

  • Cruise control

  • Electrically adjustable, heated door mirrors

  • Electric windows with anti-jam protection

  • Power outlets in centre console and luggage compartment

  • Customised vehicle electronics package

  • Multi-zone automatic air conditioning with Neural Network Control System

  • Eight-speaker sound system with in-dash six-disc CD autochanger

  • Double door locking and alarm with ultrasonic sensor

  • 60:40 split-folding rear seats

  • Eight-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat

  • Four-way electrically adjustable front passenger seat

  • Photochromic anti-glare rear view and door mirrors

  • Leather-trimmed steering wheel

  • Roof rails

  • Rear and rear side dark-tinted privacy glass

  • 17-inch alloy wheels

Extra features on the RX300 SE include:

  • Automatically retracting tonneau cover

  • Two-setting memory function for front seats, steering column and rear view mirror

  • Power tailgate open and close system

  • Automatic headlamp lighting function

  • Rain-sensing windscreen wipers

  • Electric one-touch tilt and slide sunroof

  • 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats

  • Perforated leather upholstery

  • Eight-way electrically adjustable front passenger seat

  • Heated driver and front passenger seats

  • Slide/recline function for outer rear seats

  • 18-inch alloy wheels

Option for the SE model: Lexus Navigator satellite navigation system with parking assist monitor

The top of the range RX300 SE-L adds the following items:

  • Intelligent, Adaptive Front-lighting System

  • Lexus Navigator satellite navigation with colour touch screen display

  • Lexus parking assist monitor

  • Four-wheel air suspension system

  • Mark Levinson® 11-speaker audio system

  • Wood pack (optional)


The new Lexus RX300 is distinguished from its predecessor by bold new looks, which combine the most advanced elements of SUV styling with a sporting and dynamic image, together with a distinctive C-post rear pillar design. Lexus design cues can be easily identified in areas such as the headlights and front grille.


Some typical elements were incorporated in the RX300’s exterior design in order to mark a very clear Lexus identity. The familiar vertically latticed grille is combined with further Lexus styling cues, including modern, clear glass lamps front and rear, strong wheel arches and a rising window line. Large 17-inch six-spoke or 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels give the car an imposing image and the complete side profile makes the new RX300 instantly recognisable.

The inspiration for the RX300’s distinctive shape stems from the project’s chief designer, Takumi Ichikawa, who has a passion for aeroplanes. The dynamism of their shapes was an inspiration for the exterior design of the RX. A further aircraft-inspired element is the rising belt line to the rear – expressing the speed and stance of a jet fighter aircraft.
The tailgate design features an integral rear spoiler which aids aerodynamic efficiency and stability and helps keep the rear window clean. The rear lamp clusters combine clear lenses and the latest LED (light emitting diode) technology.

In addition to the manufacturer's own wind tunnel, the new generation RX300 has also been developed at the Maibara wind tunnel. Maibara was also used for the development of the Shinkansen Bullet Train, as well as other Lexus models, including the LS430. Here the RX300 was tested in wind speeds of up to 125mph.

The Maibara wind tunnel was also used because of its very low background noise. This allowed Lexus to concentrate on the reduction of wind noise. Further flow analysis was undertaken by Computational Fluid Dynamics, with areas such as the positioning of the parked windscreen wipers and the shaping of the A-pillars being refined to reduce wind noise by an average of 5dB at all frequencies.
In addition to achieving superior airflow characteristics over the visible body surfaces, careful tuning of underbonnet and underbody aerodynamics contributes to a class leading Cd figure of 0.34. Fairings ahead of each wheel smooth out the airflow around the front and rear tyres, while an aerodynamic engine undercover, floor undercovers, a specially shaped fuel tank, rear undercovers and a spare tyre cover are all designed to produce a smooth airflow.


his Cd figure is cut to 0.33 on models equipped with air suspension. This system automatically reduces ride height at speed by 7.5mm, further optimising the vehicle’s aerodynamic performance. This makes the RX300 the world’s most aerodynamic SUV.

A combination of intelligent packaging within a modern and distinctive shape gives the new RX300 compact exterior dimensions but a passenger compartment that is bigger and has more useable space than most of its segment rivals. The new Lexus RX300 is 160mm longer than its predecessor and 30mm wider. A wheelbase longer by 100mm increases luggage capacity. Even accounting for the longer wheelbase, the turning radius remains a compact 5.7m.

While the RX300 is optimised for on-road performance, short front and rear overhangs provide excellent approach and departure angles for off-road driving. This is further enhanced on models equipped with air suspension, which can increase the car’s ground clearance from the standard 185mm to 205mm.


First-generation RX300

New generation RX300 (air susp.)

New generation RX300 (coil susp.)

Overall length (mm)




Overall width (mm)




Overall height (mm)




Wheelbase (mm)




Front track (mm)




Rear track (mm)




Overhang front (mm)




Overhang rear (mm)




Drag coefficient (Cd)




Approach / departure angle

28 / 22°

30.8 / 23.9°

28.3 / 23.3°

Minimum turning radius (m)




Interior length (mm)




Interior width (mm)




Interior height (mm)




Load area capacity (litres)

408 (under tonneau cover)

439 (under
tonneau cover)

439 (under
tonneau cover)

Load area length (mm)




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