The new RX300 Sports Utility Vehicle is not only made for those who want an SUV0 but also for those who go after the prestige of a luxurious Lexus
Sporty look with a luxury feel Better late than never, the RX300 is older than the last Lexus to be launched here, the IS200

THE first things that come to mind when you think of Lexus are luxury and prestige, which is pretty amazing, when you consider that the brand did not even exist just 10 years ago.

In the short time since it was established as an executive marque, Lexus has managed to give the German premium brands more than a few headaches.

Apart from the ES300, which is a badge-engineered Toyota Camry in thin disguise, Lexus has got its concepts right with three brilliantly-engineered and superbly-crafted premium saloons of different sizes.

But that does not quite complete a proper line-up, especially since motoring trends change as quickly as fashion tastes.

This is where the new RX300 Sports Utility Vehicle comes in.

The RX300 is older than the last Lexus to be launched here, the IS200, and it first came to Singapore about two years ago.

Only this month, however, did it arrive here as an official import from authorised Lexus agent, Borneo Motors.

The right-hand drive export model was only launched recently and is different from the domestic versions that were brought in earlier by privateers, says Miss Deon Goh, a Borneo Motors marketing executive for Lexus.

The official RX300 complies with Euro II emission standards, and it has been tuned to adapt with the tropical weather, unlike the non-official variants, says Borneo.

Apart from all that, what is it like to drive this latecomer?

Although the RX300 uses a full-time four-wheel drive system with a viscous coupling for the centre differential, it is unlikely to cause any sleepless nights for Land Rover dealers.

This SUV was engineered for a different group of enthusiasts.

It is mainly for those who are more concerned with pose value than mud-humping activities, and drivers who want an SUV, but to whom the thought of being pampered by a Lexus is an appealing one.

For an SUV, the RX300 has exceptional ride quality.

Its occupants will hardly notice if the road is infested with ripples or potholes.

The generous noise insulation of the car seems to put the cabin in mute mode most of the time.

An innovative cradle-type anti-vibration subframe is used in the rear suspension to further minimise noise and rumble.

But most groundbreaking yet is the RX300's use of the world's first active control engine mounts, which reduce vibration during idling.

On the move, the 3.0-litre VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing - intelligent) engine is subdued, creamy and responsive, while the electronically-controlled, four-speed auto gearbox shifts flawlessly.

Also easy to appreciate is its accurate and nicely-weighted steering, although feedback at highway cruising speeds could be a little better.

The RX300's off-road tyres do lack grip when the car is pushed along a string of corners.

But more importantly, the Lexus feels as safe and predictable to drive as a front-drive saloon.

The elevated ride height and some softness in the suspension cause noticeable body roll, but in most circumstances this is kept in check.

The brakes are strong and progressive, and the many clever safety gadgets such as the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Anti-Lock Brakes and Brake Assist System do not make the car feel over-aided electronically.

On the whole, the RX300 lives up to its Lexus nameplate.

From the start, it was designed to be a lifestyle vehicle that fits in the Lexus stable rather than a pure SUV like the rugged Toyota Land Cruiser.

Off-road jamboree regulars will find the RX300 inadequate in deep forests, but not urban-dwelling executives who need an accessory to go with their Prada hiking shoes.

SPECS

Lexus RX300

Price: $209,888 (with COE)

Engine: 2,995 cc vee-six 24 valves

Gearbox: Four-speed automatic

Maximum power: 198 bhp at 5,600 rpm

Maximum torque: 283 Nm at 4,400 rpm

0 - 100 kmh: 9.4 seconds (estimated)

Top speed: 180 kmh (limited electronically )

For enquiries: Call Borneo Motors on 749-3288