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SLEEKER, SMOOTHER & QUIETER

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Apr 3, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

LEXUS RX330 AWD

SLEEKER, SMOOTHER AND QUIETER By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

The all new Lexus RX330 is built for SUV buyers who use their vehicles for their everyday chores and sometimes having to haul items that are too bulky or large to fit into the trunk of a standard sedan. This vehicle is very important to the full line of Lexus vehicles. The reason is that before the older RX300 debuted, Lexus trailed Mercedes-Benz in luxury brand sales. The RX300 brought people into the Lexus showrooms like never before. The RX300 became the leading vehicle in the Lexus lineup with 40 percent of all Lexus sales and the No. 1 selling mid-size luxury SUV.

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

The new RX330 is longer, wider, roomier and sleeker - and, thus, a lot nicer looking than the RX300. With a four inch increase in wheelbase, the interior offers more room for legs to stretch-out with the 40/20/40 rear seat that also slides fore/aft and folds flat, letting you choose passenger and cargo space as needed.

The looks are sleeker and cleaner, with no more side cladding. The flared wheel housing gives it a more rugged stance. Up front are larger HID lamps raked further back into the hood. The signature Lexus grille remains unchanged with the lower bumper carrying the fog lamps at each side with a blackened, wide center air-intake. From the side, you will notice a high beltline, steeply raked windshield, sharp pointed glass ends, big, remote-controlled side mirrors, nicely sculptured lower rocker panels, pull-out door handles, full-length body-side moldings, aggressively sloping rear roof pillars and an integrated black rear spoiler behind the roof rack. The wheel well stuffing optional 18X7in. cast aluminum wheels are wrapped by 235/55R18 Michelin Energy MXV4 all-season radial tires. The new rear end is highlighted with uplifted clear-lens tail lamp housing, (with LED brake lamps), that merge into the dark tinted back window glass. The top of the rear bumper has a step-up with grip strip, a black lower panel wraparound and a chrome exhaust tip. The rear lift-gate comes standard with manual control or you can option for a powered opening and closing lift-gate for added convenience.

The unitized steel frame is stiffer and more torsional than before giving the RX330 a more solid ride. More sound deadening material gives the RX330 an even quieter ride than before, which is the hallmark of all Lexus motor vehicles.

The new larger, 3.3 liter, DOHC, all-aluminum engine is more powerful and fuel efficient making 230 hp at 5,600 rpm and 242 lb.ft. of torque at 3,600 rpm. That is 10-more hp and 20 lb.ft. of torque than the RX300.

The RX330 comes standard with FWD but my test vehicle came with the optional AWD system. The five-speed automatic transmission is strong, smooth, quiet and features torque-managed shifts. The gated shifter is fun and easy to use. The new electronic throttle control gives instant communication to the engine of your foot's need for speed but sometimes shifts are slow in coming when more power is needed quickly, it seems that the transmission is making up it's mind which gear to select.

The RX330 rides on a fully independent suspension featuring, up front, MacPherson struts, coil springs and stabilizer bar, while the rear rides on a quadra-link setup with coil springs, struts and a stabilizer bar. You guide the RX330 on its way with power-assisted rack & pinion steering for quick turn-in but be careful because there is some body roll and pitch in turns, and dive during hard braking. The optional 18in. tires/wheels help some but there is also some understeer detected when maneuvering during cornering at higher speeds. The RX330 also comes with an optional air suspension, which has four selectable ride-height settings and automatic load leveling. The RX330 gets to 60mph from a standstill in just 7.8 seconds - not bad for a 4,065 pound vehicle. Large steel disc brake at all corners quickly and safely bring the RX330 to a stop. Up front are 12.6-inch vented discs clamped with a twin-piston caliper while in the rear 11.3-inch solid discs are clamped with a single caliper. Braking benefits with both ABS and Brake Assist.

Inside, the new RX330 pampers you with an exquisitely tailored interior of real, rich woods, (my test vehicle had golden bird's eye maple trim), electro-luminescent rearview mirror, heated/self-dimming/tilting outside side-view mirrors, gauge cluster, metallic trim and optional butter-soft leather seats. The front bucket seats are very comfortable, supportive and heated with 10-way driver's controls and 4-way passenger controls. The power tilt/telescoping steering wheel is bird's eye maple and leather wrapped with controls for the audio system and the adaptive cruise control system taken from the LS430. The thick pile carpeting also feels luxurious under your feet. Electronic dual-zone AC/heater worked great plus the rear section has air-vents behind the center console. That console up front is very deep and wide enabling it to hold a lot of your-must have-along items. Just in front are dual-cupholders under a spring-operated lid. The rear pull-down center console also features storage and dual cupholders. The optional Mark Levinson Premium Audio System is fantastic with AM-FM radio/6-indash CD Player with 11-crystal clear speakers. A new feature is the rear-mounted camera that when reverse is selected, shows a wide-angle view of the rear area. Also new is the optional, large multi-panel electric sunroof. All windows feature express open/close plus door locks.

The new RX330 comes with the latest in safety features to keep you and your passengers safe in the event of a collision. Safety features include front/rear crush zones, front airbags, side airbags, side curtain airbags for the second row seats, driver's side knee airbag, Daytime Running Lamps, 3-point safety belts for all 5-seating positions with front pretensioners and load limiters, steel beams in each door, headrests at all seats to prevent whiplash, and vehicle stability control (VSC) that helps keep the RX330 on-track during severe maneuvers and during hard braking. Lastly, the RX330 offers the first Adaptive Front Lighting System in a SUV that works by swiveling the vehicle's headlights into the right or left based on the vehicle's speed and steering angle. The left beam can rotate up to 15-degrees in left turn while the right beam remains in the center position. The right beam can rotate 0-5-degrees in a right turn while the left beam remains in the center position. You can turn the system off if you like.

To sum up, the all-new Lexus RX330 offers the luxury SUV consumer a lot of style, comfort, performance, versatility, and safety with the latest in automotive high-technology. But this high technology comes at a high price. Base price is only $35,000.00 but when you add all the option goodies, the price can jump up to $45,565.00 fully loaded.

© Harvey Schwartz

For more information on Lexus products, go to www.lexus.com.

SPECIFICATIONS

Name of vehicle: 2004 Lexus RX330

Price: $35,000.00 base/$45,565.00 fully loaded

Engine type: 60-degree V6, aluminum block/heads, DOHC,

Horsepower: 230 at 5,600 rpm

Torque: 242 at 3,600 rpm

Drive configuration: front engine FWD, optional AWD

Transmission type: 5-speed automatic with learning algorithm and manual shift

Front suspension: MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar, and optional air springs

Rear suspension: Quad-link, coil springs, struts, stabilizer bar, and optional air-springs

Wheels and tires: 18X7in. aluminum wrapped with 235/55R18 Michelin Energy MXV4 all-season radial tires

Brakes: front-12.6 vented discs with twin piston caliper; Rear-11.3in. solid disc with single piston caliper. 4-channel/4-sensor ABS with Brake Assist

Overall length: 186.2 in.

Overall width: 72.6 in.

Overall height: 66.1in.

Curb weight: 4,065 lbs. as tested

EPA mileage: 20mpg/city, 26mpg/highway

0-60 mph: 7.8 sec.

60-0 mph: 131 ft.

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