- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Lexus coins a term that more aptly defines the premium SUV segment: Luxury Utility Vehicle. The all-new 2004 RX 330 is one LUV that sets new benchmarks.

The RX 330 is loaded with new technology, greater luxury and more power. After driving the new RX 330 for a week, I’m convinced this LUV is way ahead of the competition. It has more room, more elegance, more power and more advanced technology than the original RX 300 it replaces. And, it is much faster. The RX 330 goes from 0-to-60 mph in 7.7 seconds. The RX 300 did 0-to-60 mph in 8.5 seconds.

The exterior appearance is more dramatic with a bold front end, sporty rear section featuring a spoiler atop the liftgate and a sweeping, aerodynamic profile. The new RX is a bigger vehicle than the 300. The 2004 model is 6 inches longer, 1 inch wider and has an increased wheelbase of nearly 4 inches. This expansion provides the interior of the RX with more passenger space and cargo utility.

Pricing for the RX 330 starts at $35,025 for the two-wheel-drive version and $36,425 for the full-time four-wheel-drive model. My tester was the 4WD RX 330, and it came with several of the options that showcased the automaker’s advanced technology and unrivaled luxury.

My favorite feature was the Navigation System that included a Rear View Camera. Whenever I shifted into reverse, I could look at the navigation screen and view everything that was going on behind me in “real time:” a man getting out of his car, a woman and a toddler walking past my vehicle and how close I was to the front bumper of another vehicle when curb parking.

Because there is a little shelf over the top of the navigation screen, sunlight entering the cabin does not cause a glare on the screen. The images projected onto the screen are crisp and clear. The Rear View Camera is mounted discreetly on the liftgate above the license plate. The navigation and camera system is a $2,350 option.

One of the newest technologies developed in the automotive industry is offered on the RX 330. Called “Adaptive Front Lighting,” this is a system that makes the headlamps swivel as the steering angle changes, such as in rounding bends and tight curves in the road.

Adaptive lighting is part of a $5,455 performance package that features another advancement not seen before on the RX: Air Suspension. This feature allows the driver to select from four height settings. Air Suspension allows for various height adjustments so that the RX 330 performs better when off-roading, as well as increases aerodynamic highway performance and the ease of unloading heavy cargo.

The RX has a smooth ride and powerful performance because of a stiffer body structure and new sound-absorption materials used throughout the powertrain.

It is powered by a 3.3-liter V-6 engine that produces 230 horsepower and 242 foot-pounds of torque and is mated to a new five-speed automatic transmission.

The RX 330 gets fuel economy ratings of 20 miles per gallon city and 26 highway — an improvement of 1 and 3 miles per gallon respectively over the RX 300.

The interior of the tester featured supple leather, plush thick carpets, a moonroof and a light-colored wood-grain trim on the second-row center arm rests and driver’s console.

A new convenience feature for 2004 is a power-operated liftgate that the driver controls from the dash panel.

With the extensive offering of new technology and increased luxury and comfort, the RX 330 is truly a “luxury utility vehicle.”

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