New Lexus RX300 Makes Its World Debut At The Detroit Motor Show

5 January 2003
  • New shape and new driving dynamics for the true luxury SUV
  • New chassis and drivetrain deliver a new level of driving experience
  • World-first technologies enhance active and passive safety – new-design side airbags and driver’s knee airbag fitted as standard
  • New five-speed automatic gearbox for improved refinement, economy and performance
  • Revised, more powerful 3.0-litre V6 engine now complies with EURO IV emission regulations
  • External appearance builds on links with previous model
  • World-first technologies enhance active and passive safety
  • AFS, Adaptive Front-lighting System available for the first time in an SUV; AFS uses an electronic controller to calculate from the vehicle speed and steering angle, the optimum swivel of the lighting area
  • Power operated rear tailgate available adding to convenience and practicality
  • Height adjustable four wheel air suspension available that offers greater ride control – automatically lowers the car 15mm at speeds above 60mph
  • Full UK grading structure and specification available prior to launch in May 2003

The North American International Motor Show today marks the world première of the new Lexus RX300. The new car will make its European debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2003 and will go on sale in the UK in May.

The all-new RX300 has additionally made a leap in driving dynamics, safety and refinement to move it even further ahead of other vehicles in the luxury sport utility segment.

Mr Yukihiro Okane, chief engineer of the next generation RX says: “We determined at the outset that the new RX must have advanced styling, an unsurpassed level of safety equipment and a host of innovative features. Parallel to this, we chose to improve driving dynamics in several areas and the passengers will be rewarded with an even higher level of sophistication.”

Styled for a Dynamic & High Performance Image

The new Lexus RX is distinguished from its predecessor by bold new looks, which combine the most advanced elements of SUV styling with a sporting and dynamic image. The RX shares styling cues with other Lexus models, in particular its distinctive ‘C-post’ rear pillar design. The front grille and headlights reinforce this family feel and continue the identity of the current model.

The modern and distinctive shape intelligently disguises the fact that it is bigger and roomier than most of its segment rivals. At 4730mm in length, the new Lexus RX is 155mm longer than its predecessor and 25mm wider, with a 100mm longer wheelbase for additional passenger and luggage room.

The familiar Lexus grille is combined with further Lexus styling cues, including modern, clear glass lamps front and rear, wide wheel arches and a rising window line. The raked A-pillar and forward slant to the C-pillar create a sense of urgency, matching the RX’s dynamic performance. The front end of the new generation RX is marked with a powerful bulging bonnet line dipping in a wing-shape around the grille to the combined front bumper and aerodynamic fairing.

The rear end styling is enhanced by a distinctive hexagonal rear window shape, combined with an integral rear spoiler and rear lamps which use the latest LED (light emitting diode) technology rather than traditional filament bulbs. These are both more energy efficient and a significant active safety item. The LED elements light up 10 times faster than a conventional lamp, 15 milliseconds as opposed to 150 to 200 ms. This equates to an extra 6 metres of reaction time at 60mph.

Dynamic Performance in all Conditions

The new RX has added engaging dynamics to the expected Lexus refinement in any circumstance. This is aided by the exceptional rigidity of the new body structure, while an improved front MacPherson strut suspension system includes a new coil spring design, which gives greater lateral force control, allowing better control and a smoother ride. Revised suspension bushes complement an upgraded power steering system, to create a linear vehicle movement during initial steering input, resulting in improved cornering and steering response.

At the rear, a dual-link strut suspension system is used in combination with a new, more rigid rear axle design. Parallel to this, coils and shock absorbers feature a new layout, engineered to achieve a flatter ride. Both front and rear suspension systems are further complemented by ‘high reaction’ shock absorber developments to achieve high response and high damping force at small amplitudes.

In addition, a new 4-wheel air suspension will be available that offers a still higher level of performance and refinement. This optional feature provides greater ride control together with an auto-levelling function, plus three additional modes to alter ride height through a range of 60mm.

The ‘Lo’ mode lowers vehicle height by 15mm for better handling, while ‘Hi’ mode raises vehicle height by 30mm for off-road capability in case of emergencies. Above 60mph the air suspension automatically lowers the vehicle by 15mm to provide greater high-speed stability. When the ignition is turned off, the new RX automatically assumes ‘Access’ mode, lowering vehicle height by 30mm, to aid easier access or exit by the driver and passengers.

Stylish five-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels will be available fitted with 235/55R18 high performance tyres, enhancing driver feedback and cornering performance. Larger 319mm front brake discs are now used, while an increase in front brake piston size and reduction of brake pedal stroke ensures more linear and powerful braking performance.

Braking performance is further enhanced by the use of Brake Assist (BA). A key feature of this particular system is that the timing and degree of braking assistance is designed to maximise emergency stopping performance, yet ensure that the driver doesn’t discern anything unusual about the braking operation. It is combined with VSC (Vehicle Stability Control), which monitors the vehicle’s behaviour during cornering and maintains vehicle stability by correcting oversteer or understeer before it occurs.

Dynamism with Refinement

The European version of the new RX300 uses a development of the transversely mounted high-performance 3-litre V6 engine of the original model. Power is increased from 201bhp to 204bhp by refinement of the intake and exhaust systems. A combination of these engine refinements with a more aerodynamic body and higher-performance tyres increases the top speed from 112mph to 124mph.

A new five-speed automatic transmission is used for the first time. In addition to offering additional driver appeal with a sequential manual gearchange, combined fuel economy is also improved as a result; from 21.7mpg for the original RX300, to 22.4mpg for the new model. Thanks to this, the new Lexus RX300 also complies with EURO IV emission regulations. The new gearbox is combined with a new drivetrain in which the torque distribution between the front and rear wheels is electronically controlled by the Traction Control (TRC), rather than the previous mechanical control by a viscous limited-slip differential. The new TRC system provides more precise control, providing smooth traction even when the throttle pedal is used roughly.

The improved engine and new drivetrain set new standards in refinement, even beyond the class leading standards set by the original RX300. One key to this is the straightening of both the exhaust system and the driveline routes under the car, to minimise resonance and vibration. As a principle source of vibration is under hard acceleration, the front section of the driveline is canted forward by 2 degrees to allow it to assume the optimum straight line under load.

This attention to detail is matched by similar refinements in structure and sound deadening to ensure that wind and road noise levels are the lowest in the class. The new RX300 has been developed with the use of the Maibara wind tunnel, which was also used for the development of the Shinkansen Bullet Train and is capable of generating wind speeds up to 250mph. The wind tunnel’s very low background noise allows Lexus to concentrate on the reduction of wind noise to all-time low levels. Computational Fluid Dynamics research was also used, with areas such as the positioning of the parked windscreen wipers and the shaping of the A-pillars being refined to reduce wind noise by an average of 5dB in all frequencies.

“The development team strived in improving the new RX’s performance in the areas of high frequency noise, idling booming noise, vibration and wind noise. As a result, passengers can enjoy a relaxed drive at cruise speeds and an absence of noise and vibration at idling speeds. However, the excellent NV performance of the Lexus RX will not deter its driver from enjoying superior driving pleasure,” said Chief Engineer Okane. “The new RX combines this with

Advanced Styling, Dynamic Performance, Safety Equipment and some outstanding features – that is how it should be for the new Lexus RX.”

Original, Attractive Interior Design

“The new interior design must have originality and attractions suitable for the new breed of SUV buyer,” says Mr Okane. “The interior concept reflects the dynamic style of the exterior.”

As well as the customary standards of Lexus comfort, ambience, practicality and luxury, the RX combines the latest contemporary design with the highest quality materials. The interior design is sporty but spacious, solid but luxurious, in a light and roomy cabin trimmed with a choice of three colours which match the ivory, black or light grey leather seats.

The main instrument cluster in front of the driver is housed in a distinctive three-pod design with a central speedometer, flanked by tachometer and a multi-function display.

The dashboard features a distinctive brushed metal surround on each side of the centre console, containing the 7-inch screen for the optional Lexus Navigator, climate and audio controls. An 11-speaker premium audio system will also be available based on Lexus’ unique collaboration with the world’s most exclusive maker of home audio systems, Mark Levinson.

The central ‘cool metal’ trim is complemented by curved light wood in the lower console containing the selector lever for the sequential automatic transmission, and as highlights on the steering wheel, door trims and on the centre console box between the front seats. The adjustable console box can either slide forward to give a feeling of continuity with the centre console, or backwards to allow a ‘walkthrough’ between the front seats.


The new Lexus RX offers a wealth of features to set new standards in both active and passive safety. Uppermost are the excellent driving dynamics, aided still further by Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control and Brake Assist technology, but additionally the new RX carries more safety equipment than any other vehicle in its segment.

AFS, Adaptive Front-lighting System, is one of the several safety features available in the new Lexus RX. For the first time in an SUV, AFS uses an electronic controller to calculate from the vehicle speed and steering angle, the optimum swivel of the lighting area for better visibility while cornering. Unlike earlier systems which were merely linked to a car’s steering, the AFS controller controls the lighting direction independently and is combined with HID (High Intensity Discharge) headlights with an automatic levelling system for optimum night-time vision.

Rain sensing windscreen wipers will be available and a timed spray windscreen wash system is fitted to ensure the best possible visibility in poor weather. This is further aided by the use of water-repellent glass, which is specially coated to maintain clear vision through the front side windows.

The original RX remains one of the best-performing sport-utility vehicles in terms of passive safety performance, as confirmed by crash-tests conducted by independent organisations in the United States, like IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). Lexus engineers have ensured that the new model protects its occupants even more thoroughly. Standard equipment includes multi-stage driver and front passenger SRS airbags. For the first time, the driver airbag features three deployment modes, adapting the inflation pressure according to information gathered from the seat position sensor, crash severity sensor and seatbelt buckle switch. Standard side curtain shield airbags offer supplemental head protection for occupants in side impacts.

The side protection is further enhanced by “Thorax-Abdomen-Pelvis” side airbags. This new type of airbag features a capacity of 13 litres, compared with 10 litres for the conventional side airbags. For this reason, it can reduce the risk of chest and abdomen injuries by spreading the forces over a wider area.

Injuries to the legs, common in major frontal impacts are likely to be significantly reduced by the RX’s provision of a knee airbag for the driver, for the first time in the segment.

The main purpose of knee airbag adoption is to reduce injury from contact with steering column and lower dashboard structures, but they have also been found to reduce head and chest injuries by reducing the pelvis displacement and rotation of the torso in a major impact.

The overall structural strength of the new RX also plays a significant part in protecting its occupants. Over 80 cars were crash tested, achieving optimal results in impacts far greater than the mandatory crash test requirements.

The new RX300 will go on sale in the UK in May 2003. Further details regarding exact specification, grading structure and pricing will be available closer to launch date.



  • Valve Mechanism – 24 valve DOHC
  • Displacement (cc) – 2,995
  • Max. power bhp/rpm – 204 @ 5,600
  • Max torque Nm/rpm – 290 @ 4,500
  • Emissions rating – Euro IV


  • Transmission type – Five-speed automatic with sequential type gearchange


  • Type – MacPherson strut type (adjustable four-wheel air suspension available)


  • Ventilated front disc size (mm) – 319
  • Ventilated rear disc size (mm) – 288


  • Length (mm) – 4,730
  • Width (mm) – 1,845
  • Height (mm) (coil springs/air suspension) – 1,680/1,665 -30/+30


  • Max speed (mph) – 124


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New Lexus RX300 Makes Its World Debut At The Detroit Motor Show


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