Lexus today unveiled its all-new second-generation RX luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV) at the 2003 North American International Auto Show. Lexus created the car-based, luxury SUV segment with the launch of its innovative RX 300 nearly five years ago. Even though the current RX is still at the top of its game, the all-new RX 330 is poised to take its place as the benchmark in the entry-level luxury SUV class. The 2004 RX 330 will have an annual sales target of 75,000 units and will be the first Lexus built in North America. The all-new RX will arrive at Lexus dealerships in spring 2003 and is expected to maintain a base price around $35,000.
Larger than the RX 300 model it replaces, the RX 330 introduces an elegant and sleek new design, as well as significant enhancements to luxury content, and performance and advanced safety features. Lexus designed the RX 330 in particular to provide the quietest and smoothest ride quality of any entry luxury SUV. The RX 330 delivers all-weather, fun-to-drive performance in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models.
The 2004 RX 330, which will be built both in Japan at the Kyushu plant and in North America at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Canada, is an integral part of the unique three-SUV strategy that has allowed Lexus to lead this category of the market. The new GX 470 introduced for 2003 is a full-capability V8-powered SUV positioned between the RX 330 and the premium-luxury LX 470.
"The original RX 300 became the template for a new kind of luxury vehicle, one that many competitors are now following," said Denny Clements, Lexus group vice president and general manager. "The RX 330 was designed to surpass its successful predecessor in every way and set a new benchmark in the segment."
The new Lexus RX 330 is roomier than the previous model, yet still retains the efficient packaging that customers appreciated in the original. Wheelbase has been increased by nearly four inches, and length by 6.1 inches. Width has grown by 1.1 inches while height has grown by just under half an inch. The larger dimensions result in a gain of 1.8 inches of front legroom, and cargo capacity with the rear seatbacks lowered has increased from 75.0 cubic feet to 84.7 cubic feet.
Lexus optimized interior comfort and utility in the RX 330 for five passengers. The rear seatbacks feature a versatile 40/20/40 split design, and the seat offers both sliding and reclining adjustments. Lexus projects that most customers will select the available power rear liftgate, which can be controlled from the standard in-key remote entry system. An automatic-retracting tonneau cover adds a measure of security and convenience.
The RX 330 provides a host of high technology, safety and comfort features. The available air suspension is a feature more commonly seen in the high-end SUV segment. Available with air suspension is the Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS), which helps illuminate a turn or curve as the driver steers into it. The available rear back-up camera enhances visibility when reversing, and the RX 330 offers a unique adaptive laser cruise control system like that on the brand's LS 430 flagship sedan.
More Powerful, Refined Drivetrain
The Lexus RX 330 is powered by a 3.3-liter V6 engine that produces 230 horsepower at 5,600 rpm (+10 hp over RX 300) and 242 lb-ft. of peak torque at 3,600 rpm (+20 lb-ft. over RX 300). A new electronic drive-by-wire throttle helps the new engine achieve the Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) standard. The continuously Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) system helps optimize torque for quick and powerful response at all engine speeds.
Teamed to a new five-speed electronic automatic transmission, the larger V6 gives the RX 330 all-wheel drive model commendable EPA estimated fuel mileage ratings of 18 mpg city/ 24 mpg highway (+1 mpg on each cycle over the RX 300). The RX 330 has best-in-class zero-to-60 mph times of 7.7 and 7.8 seconds for the front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models respectively (vs. 8.5 for the front-wheel drive and 8.8 for the all-wheel drive RX 300 models).
Smoother, Quieter Ride
The RX 330 provides an even smoother and quieter ride than before, thanks to a stiffer body structure, a redesigned active engine mount, new sound-absorption materials and refined aerodynamic details. Noise from the powertrain, the road and wind - already at benchmark low levels in the previous model - have all been reduced to nearly the same levels as in the Lexus ES 300 sedan.
The stiffer platform, newly standard 17-inch wheels and tighter steering control help to optimize handling response in the RX 330. Eighteen-inch wheels also are available. The optional air suspension system provides automatic leveling, and four selectable height settings allow the driver to tailor the RX 330 to specific driving conditions or needs.
In "Normal" mode, the system automatically lowers the RX 330 by 0.3 inches at speeds over 62 mph for better handling and ride comfort. A "Low" mode lowers the ride height by 0.6 inches to enhance handling response. "High" mode raises ground clearance by 1.2 inches for driving over rough surfaces at speeds of 30 mph and under. An "Access" mode lowers the RX 330 by 1.2 inches to provide easier entry, exit and loading. All RX 330 models with the air suspension system are equipped with a multi-mode automatic (sequential) transmission.
New VSC-Controlled All-Wheel Drive
Both the front-drive and all-wheel drive RX 330 models come equipped with the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system, which helps control loss of lateral traction while cornering, as standard. The all-wheel drive system is simpler and lighter than before and driveshaft elements are situated in a straighter line, which helps reduce friction, driveline noise and vibration.
Like its predecessor, the RX 330 uses a center differential to split engine power evenly between the front and rear wheels. In the RX 330, if lateral wheelslip occurs, the VSC system re-apportions power front-to-rear and side-to-side, eliminating the need for the viscous coupling used on the RX 300. The VSC system helps keep the vehicle going on its intended course by detecting front wheel slide and rear-wheel slide during cornering and attempting to control either condition with torque intervention and/or by braking individual wheels.
VSC and the Brake Assist feature work with the standard four-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS). Brake Assist is designed to determine if the driver is attempting emergency braking, and if the driver has not stepped hard enough on the brake pedal to engage the ABS, the system applies maximum braking power until pedal pressure is released. A tire pressure monitor alerts the driver via a light on the instrument panel in the event of tire under-inflation.
New Safety Systems
A high-strength cabin design and comprehensive new supplemental restraint system are designed to help provide a new level of crash energy management for the occupant in the RX 330. Structurally, the RX 330 is designed to help keep the passenger cell intact even after front, side or rear impacts.
The supplemental restraint systems (SRS) include multi-stage front airbags for the driver and passenger, a new knee airbag for the driver and a new kind of large side airbag in the front seats that covers the torso, abdomen and pelvis. Side curtain airbags are designed to help offer additional crash energy management for the front and rear seat occupants. The technology behind the front airbags takes into account many factors, including crash severity, passenger weight and driver seat position on the seat track. Available rain-sensing windshield wipers, AFS and High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights with washers help enhance visibility in poor-weather and night driving.
The RX 330 can be ordered with the optional Lexus Link system. At the press of a button, or automatically in certain emergency situations, Lexus Link combines GPS satellite and cellular phone technology to connect the customer with experienced and trained Lexus Link advisors at anytime, day or night, 365 days a year (when cellular and GPS services are available). Lexus Link services include automatic notification of air bag deployment, dispatch of emergency services, accident assistance, roadside assistance with location, theft notification and stolen vehicle tracking, plus remote door lock and unlock.
Lexus craftsmanship and attention to the smallest details provide true luxury by design. Dual-zone automatic climate control and an eight-way power front driver seat with memory (four-way for the passenger seat) highlight the front cabin. The three-spoke steering wheel comes with easy-to-use controls for the audio system and trip computer. A sliding center console, adjustable light in the visor vanity mirrors and wood interior trim are among the luxurious details that set the tone for luxury in the RX 330.
An auto-dimming rear-view mirror with an integrated digital compass is standard, and both exterior mirrors are auto-dimming and heated. The integrated Homelink transmitter can control a variety of compatible home security devices and systems. The high-performance CD audio system upholds the Lexus tradition of making premium-quality sound standard. Customers can upgrade to the optional Mark Levinson 11-speaker system and an in-dash 6-disc CD changer. A factory-installed rear DVD entertainment system also is available.
Lexus has been adding premium-level options to its entry-luxury models, and notable examples for the RX 330 include a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel with memory, a wide-opening multi-panel moonroof and a new illuminated entry system that lights the door handles, scuff plates and front footwells. A power rear liftgate and a wood and leather steering wheel also are among the luxury amenities offered in the new RX.
A DVD-based Lexus Navigation System with a rear back-up camera also is optional. The rear back-up camera is mounted near the top of the license plate surround and automatically projects an image of what is behind the vehicle onto the navigation screen when the vehicle is in the reverse gear.