In 1998, Lexus, the luxury division of Toyota, released a midsize crossover SUV in the form of the RX300. The Lexus RX300 is a luxury vehicle that was released a few months after the RX series was released. The RX300 became one of the first crossover luxury SUVs in the Lexus lineup, and it didn’t fail expectations—it quickly turned into a reliable truck-based SUV that didn’t have the side effects of poor fuel economy and a stiff ride.
1998: The birth of a sport luxury vehicle
The RX line of vehicles developed by Lexus came from a concept sport utility vehicle called a Sport Luxury Vehicle, or an SLV. It was previewed as a model in 1997 and combined the characteristics of an SUV, a wagon, and a sedan. It featured high ground clearance and an elevated seating position and was designed to be suitable for suburban driving. The Lexus RX300 debuted in the US in March 1998 and included an engine and drivetrain combination that consisted of a 3.0-liter 1MZ-FE V6 and either a front or four wheel drive. Its interior included leather seats, a center console with storage drawers, and reclining and sliding rear seats.
2000-2003: A few renovations
Two years later, the RX 300 was revamped with new headlights and taillights, with the optional high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps and DVD-based navigation system. Among the features that it retained were a unibody chassis, a front triangular quarter-windows, door-mounted side mirrors, and a rear liftgate with top-mounted spoiler—design features that were not typical of existing four-door vehicles at the time. Nevertheless, sales of the Lexus RX went over 370,000 units in just five years. It became the best-selling Lexus model shortly after its introduction.
2004-present: Sticking to the formula
The five-passenger RX 300 we see today is based on the single-generation model that ran from 1998-2003. There are almost no changes to its features, and it still had a 220 horsepower V6 engine paired to a four-speed automatic transmission. It has a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds, and sports a standard 240-watt, 7-speaker Pioneer sound system. The concept of the RX 300 is intended to shift SUV qualities to an on-road vehicle, a move that is based on research that stated only 7 percent of SUV owners drove off-road. The RX 300 interior maintained its leather trim, a rear cargo area that can be hidden beneath a tonneau cover, and two rows of seating. More modern improvements include a center dashboard that has an LCD screen displaying audio, climate, and performance information.