The Lexus RX is a mid-size luxury crossover SUV sold by Lexus since 1997. The RX series has comprised multiple V6- and hybrid-powered models (such as the RX 300, RX 330, RX 350, RX 400h, and RX 450h), in either all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive versions. Three generations of the Lexus RX have been produced to date. One of the first crossovers, the RX series is designed to combine the functional characteristics of an SUV with ride and features of a luxury-type sedan. The RX has ranked as the one of the best-selling luxury vehicle in the United States.
The Lexus RX first premiered in 1997 as a Lexus concept, followed several months later by debut of the production RX 300 models. In 2003, the second generation RX debuted in the U.S., and the redesigned RX 330 went on sale shortly after. In 2004, the RX line added the world's first luxury-type hybrid, the RX 400h, and the RX 330 was upgraded to the RX 350 for model year 2007. Equivalent versions of the first and second generation models were sold in Japan under the Toyota Harrier nameplate until 2008. The redesigned third generation RX 350/RX 450h models premiered in late 2008.
As one of the first luxury SUVs on the market, the Lexus RX has inspired similar competitors from rival marques. Its commercial success as Lexus' best-selling model has been attributed to the strong reliability reputation of Lexus and the RX line. The RX is also the only Lexus vehicle to be produced outside of Japan, with North American market RX 350s being made at the Cambridge plant in Canada. The RX designation, coincidentally similar to the unrelated Mazda RX-7/RX-8 coupes and the Kia Rio RX-V hatchback in Canada, signifies its place in the Lexus lineup next to the larger GX and LX SUVs.
In February 1997, Lexus debuted the "Sport Luxury Vehicle" (SLV) concept, a prototype crossover SUV, at the Chicago Auto Show. This concept, which appeared close to production, combined the characteristics of an SUV, wagon, and sedan. In Japan, the SLV concept appeared in first-generation Harrier form (codename SXU10 and MCU10 for the front wheel drive models, and SXU15 and MCU15 for the four wheel drive models) in December 1997. Two engines were available, the 2.2L 5S-FE I4 which produced 139hp (104kW) JIS (102kW) and 191Nm (140ft·lbf), and the 3.0L 1MZ-FE V6 which produced 219hp (163kW) JIS (161kW) and 304Nm (224ft·lbf). Both engines could be specified with either front or all wheel drive. All models came with an automatic transmission as standard. The vehicle was partly based on the Camry platform.
The Lexus RX 300 made its sales debut in America in March 1998 as a 1999 model following its premiere at the North American International Auto Show that year. The only engine and drivetrain combination available was the 3.0L 1MZ-FE V6 and either front or four wheel drive. The RX 300 interior included leather seats, wood trim, a multi-level center console with storage drawers, and individual reclining and sliding rear seats. A shift lever mounted near the instrument panel freed up floor space for additional storage. On the exterior, the RX featured heated mirrors, automatic light-sensing headlights, a low step-in entry height, and an overall drag coefficient of Cd 0.36. A 240-watt, 7-speaker Pioneer sound system was standard, while a Nakamichi premium customized sound system was available as an option. The Lexus RX was an immediate hit, and sold over 370,000 units in five years.
In Japan, the first-generation Harrier was a sales success, and many went to other right hand drive markets in Asia as grey imports. The Harrier continued largely unchanged until November 2000, when the 2.2L 5S-FE engine was replaced by the 2.4L 2AZ-FE 4-cylinder engine, producing 159hp (119kW) JIS (117kW) and 221Nm (163ft·lbf). As before, the engine was offered with either front wheel drive or four wheel drive. The change in engine also meant a change in model code, which was now ACU10 for the front wheel drive version and ACU15 for the four wheel drive version. A small facelift was also performed on the Harrier.
In 2001, the RX gained a number of options, including a GPS-linked automotive navigation system, a wood and leather trimmed steering wheel, and tow hitch receiver. Cabin equipment options were grouped into new package offerings. In 2002, Lexus further introduced the limited RX 300 "Coach Edition," featuring perforated leather trim in the interior, honeycomb grille, Coach badging on the exterior and interior, and a set of Coach luggage. This edition was only offered for that year. A burgundy exterior color, Venetian Red Pearl, was only offered for 1999-2000 year models.
In 2000, the Lexus RX went on sale in Europe and Asia for the first time. Distinguishing features for these versions of the RX 300 included a different rear light cluster and larger wheels. The front wheel drive version was not offered in either Europe or Asia.
In January 2003, Lexus unveiled the second-generation model of its best-selling luxury-type SUV at the North American International Auto Show, featuring a newer, sleeker body style with LED tailamps. In February 2003, the second generation Harrier (codename ACU30 and MCU30 for the front wheel drive models, and ACU35 and MCU35 for the all wheel drive models) was launched in Japan. Chassis elements were shared with the Highlander SUVs. Mechanical specification was largely similar to the first-generation Harrier, with the same engine and drivetrain combinations available (2.4L and 3.0L V6 with or without all wheel drive). The main difference was a new 5-speed automatic transmission with +/- shift replacing the 4-speed item in the 3.0L V6, and the availability of "AIRS" air-suspension on the 3.0L V6 models.
The second generation RX, called the RX 330 for the North American and Middle Eastern markets, began sales in March 2003. The North American-market cars were initially built in Japan, with production of the RX 330 started at Toyota's Cambridge, Ontario, Canada plant in September 2003 (some North American RX 330/RX 350 models were still made in Japan). The RX 330 was powered by a 3.3L 3MZ-FE V6, producing 230hp (172kW) SAE and (238ft·lbf), and was available in either front or four wheel drive. Height-adjustable air-suspension was again an option on the four wheel drive models (akin to "AIRS" system). The new model sported a drag coefficient of Cd 0.35.
The second-generation RX interior featured genuine Golden Bird's Eye Maple or Walnut wood trim, a sliding multi-level center storage console, dual-zone climate control, tilt steering column, and eight airbags including a driver's knee airbag. Available options included an 210-watt, 11-speaker Mark Levinson premium sound system, GPS navigation, rear seat DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones, and a panoramic, multi-panel moonroof. A power rear door was standard.
The second generation Lexus RX was launched for European and Asian markets in early 2003 (including Singapore, where it succeeded the previously sold Harrier, South Korea, and Taiwan), where it continued to be an RX 300 and was made in Japan. Mechanical specifications were more or less identical to the 3.0L V6 Harrier, with only the four wheel drive version available. Once again, air-suspension and Mark Levinson audio could be specified. In 2005, Lexus introduced the RX 330 "Thundercloud Edition" for the U.S. market, featuring a horizontal-slatted grille, aluminum alloy wheels, and other select options as standard.
Sales of the second generation Lexus RX continued the success of the RX series for Lexus. In 2006, the RX series sold over 108,000 units, making the Lexus RX the highest-selling luxury vehicle in the United States.
See also Lexus RX Hybrid
The Lexus RX 400h/Harrier Hybrid is the world's first hybrid SUV. The Lexus RX 400h features Lexus Hybrid Drive, which combines a V6 engine and electric motors. This results in performance akin to V8s with improved fuel economy and lower emissions. The RX 400h first premiered at the 2004 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and the equivalent Harrier Hybrid went on sale in Japan on March 2005. The hybrid Lexus RX 400h went on sale in North America in April 2005. Europe and Asia also received the Hybrid RX in 2006. The debut model was an all-wheel drive version, and in 2006 a front-wheel drive version was also offered. The RX 400h features styling differences with the conventional gas-powered RX, including metal interior trim in place of wood, round foglights, and a different grille. For 2007, additional hybrid signifiers were added to the rear doors and aft emblems to further distinguish the hybrid models. A combination wood trim package was also added.
For 2007, the RX received a mid-cycle refresh consisting of a new 2GR-FE 3.5-liter V6 instead of the older 3MZ-FE 3.3-liter V6 engine, changing the vehicle's name from RX 330 to RX 350. The RX 350 also featured an updated, Lexus Generation V DVD navigation system with improved graphics, voice controlled destination inputs, and a new feature called "bread crumbs." Bread crumbs will enable drivers to retrace their steps. The new navigation system also featured voice dial systems and the ability to enter destinations by voice address while driving.
For the 2008 model year, the RX received a revised grille, chrome door handles, and available new seven-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels. A liquid graphite finish, and Brandy Wine Mica or Desert Sage Metallic were new exterior choices. Black Bird's Eye Maple wood with gray interior was a new interior option. For the 2009 model year, there is a new Pebble Beach Edition, also available on the SC 430, ES 350, and LS 600h L.
In November 2008, the redesigned third generation RX premiered at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show, featuring hybrid and standard models. The latest hybrid version of the RX, now renamed the RX 450h, and the standard model, which retained the RX 350 designation, were introduced as 2010 model year vehicles. A concept vehicle which hinted at the design direction of the next generation RX, the LF-Xh, was shown at international auto shows a year prior. It has also been announced that when the sales for the new RX begin, the Japanese market Toyota Harrier would be discontinued.
The 2010 RX 350 features an upgraded 3.5L 2GR-FE V6 engine which produces 275hp (205kW),The RX 350 utilizes a six-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift, and both models are offered in either front or all wheel drive. Fuel economy is improved at 18/25 city/highway for the FWD RX 350 and 18/24 for the AWD RX 350.
The double-wishbone rear suspension setup replaces the previous MacPherson strut design for improved handling and greater cargo space, an optional Sports Package adds a performance-tuned suspension configuration. Exterior dimensions are increased, and cargo room is increased by five percent. The drag coefficient on the latest RX is now Cd 0.32.
For the interior, the RX 350 and RX 450h no longer features a touchscreen, instead adding a Remote Touch controller system similar to a joystick or mouse. This controller system operates an on-screen cursor on the hard disk drive (HDD)-based navigation system screen, which uses organic LCD technology. An optional heads-up display (HUD) system uses high-intensity LEDs and can be read in direct sunlight. The third generation RX also adds VoiceBox Technologies conversational speech voice recognition system, the first of its kind in the U.S., which can recognize general speech commands. XM Satellite Radio with real-time NavTraffic and weather updates is offered, along with the options of a Mark Levinson Surround Sound system and a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment system.
Safety features include Active Front Headrests, Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) stability/control systems, Hill Assist Control, Traction Control, and the available Lexus Pre-Collision System. New side-mounted cameras for added driver visibility are an option. When activated, these cameras display blind spot and side angle views on the navigation screen. The power-operated tailgate remains standard, with the aft windshield wiper moved to a concealed location, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control is an option.
The third generation Lexus RX 350 will make its U.S. sales debut in February 2009, with the RX 450h following several months later. Prices were expected to increase approximately five percent over the previous model. Sales debuts for Europe (RX 450h), Japan (RX 350 and RX 450h), Australia (RX 350 and RX 450h), and other countries are expected in 2009.
See also Lexus RX Hybrid
The Lexus RX 450h's 2GR-FE V6 engine now runs on the Atkinson cycle producing 245hp, and incorporates a more powerful inverter for added horsepower bringing the total to 295hp. This design also helps improves fuel economy in the RX 450h which now returns 28/27 city/highway in FWD trim and 28/26 in the AWD version.
Two additional systems are added to the RX 450h's Lexus Hybrid Drive powertrain, an exhaust-heat recovery system to reduce engine warm-up periods (optimizing engine start-stop times), and a cooled exhaust gas-recirculation system to reduce fuel pumping loss. Fuel efficiency, according to manufacturer data, is increased by eight percent over the previous RX 400h. To visually differentiate the hybrid RX model, the RX 450h receives a unique grille with modified front fascia, blue-tined headlamps and tail lamps, optional LED headlights, hybrid badging, and different wheels.
- J.D. Power and Associates named the Lexus RX the best entry luxury SUV in its 2001, 2004, and 2005 Initial Quality Surveys.
- Winner Australia's Best Luxury Four Wheel Drive in 2004 - Lexus RX 330.
- R. L. Polk & Co., automotive marketing research firm, gave the RX series its Polk Automotive Loyalty Award in the Midsize Sport Utility Vehicle category in 2005 for customer retention. The RX series received this award again for 2006.
- The Lexus RX was named most appealing luxury SUV by J.D. Power and Associates in 1998 and 2004.
- Intellichoice named the Lexus RX the Best Overall Value in the SUV market over $30,000 in 2003, 2004, and 2005.
- Australia's Best Cars competition named the Lexus RX as Australia's Best Luxury Four Wheel Drive in 2003 and 2004.
- Kelley Blue Book gave the RX its Best to Hold Value Award in 1999, 2000, and 2001.
- Money magazine named the RX 300 the Best Deal on the Road in the SUV class in 1999.
- The RX 300 was Motor Trend magazine's Sport/Utility of the Year for 1999.
- The Lexus RX came 3rd in the Top Gear Satisfaction Survey 2005, beaten only by the Lexus IS, and the Honda S2000.
Production and sales data for the Lexus RX are as follows. Production figures are not available for 2006 onward. Sourced from manufacturer production information, along with sales data.