Used Lexus RX Series review: 2003-2012
November 23, 2012
...and what to watch for when you are buying it.
Lexus cars are about comfort and refinement and the Lexus RX SUV leans very much in that direction and well away from the rugged off-road nature of its big brother the LandCruiser-based Lexus LX Series.
The Lexus RX350 has significantly less ground clearance than the typical crossover. Which gives it road holding almost on par with that of a sedan or station wagon. While the Lexus RX350 does have all-wheel drive and can travel on dirt roads, forest trails and the like, taking it to the beach could leave it beached on its belly.
Interior room is good for two adults and three junior travellers, but three adults in the back seats starts to stretch their friendship. It goes without saying that the choice of materials and the quality of fit and finish of cabin is immaculate in all models, and has been taken to even higher levels over the years. Boot space is reasonable considering the steep slope of the rear window, but most SUVs of this size give you more versatility when it comes to carrying boxy items. The rear seat has a handy 40/20/40 split to give you loading options.
Australian buyers weren’t offered the chance to buy the first-generation Lexus RX300 as it was only sold in the USA. The second generation went on sale in this country in April 2003 as the RX330 (the numbers refer to the engine size in decilitres in most models, more about that later) and was a hit pretty well from the start.
The third generation Lexus was introduced in February 2009 and, with a moderate facelift and the introduction of several new variants remains on sale today. The gen-three was virtually all-new, being longer and wider in the body than its predecessors and sitting on a longer wheelbase and wider track. The new model was designed to provide more interior space and even higher levels of interior comfort than before. It truly is a luxury wagon and the great majority of buyers use it that way.
The twin-cam petrol engine V6 has a capacity of 3.0 litres in the 330 and 3.5 litres in the RX350. The third generation cars have noticeably lower fuel consumption without any loss of performance. The petrol engine was mated to a five-speed automatic transmission until the arrival of the all-new 2009 model saw it lifted to six-speed unit, which partly explains its lower fuel use.
An interesting model is the petrol-electric hybrid RX. Sold since October 2006, it uses a 3.3-litre engine and an electric motor in combination. The hybrid’s model name breaks with convention by being tagged RX400h, that’s because Lexus reckons it has the performance that would be offered by a 4.0-litre petrol engine.
A mid-life upgrade in July 2012 saw the introduction of an RX 2WD, four-cylinder model badged RX 270. Until then all RXs used 4WD and a V6 engine. The lighter weight of the 2WD model (which drives through the front wheels) means there is less loss in performance than you might expect. Naturally, it’s still a rarity on the used market but if you never plan any unsealed road driving its lower price may make it worth a wait.
Lexus dealers are mainly in metropolitan areas of capital cities and major regional and country locations. Should you need work done in other areas some top Toyota mechanics have been trained in Lexus work. Service and repair costs are about average for an SUV in this upmarket class and we have heard of no real complaints about cost or availability of routine spare parts. Insurance charges don’t seem to vary significantly between major companies, but it may be worth shopping around.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Very high build quality means that troubles are rare, but these are relatively complex machines and we highly recommend a professional inspection after you've completed yours to the best of your ability. If you find body damage indicating off-road use, a rarity, it’s most likely to be on the bumper corners, under the sill panels and in the form of scratches on the doors. Unless the price is right we suggest going for another RX instead.
Look for a smoking exhaust on a high-mileage engine. It will be at its worst when the engine is worked hard. Check the automatic transmission is all but unnoticed in its actions unless you’re accelerating hard. Look over the interior and boot carefully because the RX is popular in the Mums’ taxi cohort.
CAR BUYING TIP
Faded paint on any vehicle, particularly those with strong colours, is likely to indicate it hasn’t been garaged very often. This can be hard on the interior as well as the body.