Whether or not people like the look of the models in Lexus' line-up varies, but one thing's for sure, the Japanese luxury brand has a clear identity. The intent of occupying the rung between a mainstream brand and a prestige one is clear in the pricing, and the styling of Lexus's vechicles is akin to jewellery – just look at the intricate Spindle grille, which is particularly enormous on the RX300 Luxury I've tested in this review.
The RX300 Luxury is the entry point into the RX large SUV range, so does this mean it's missing much in the way of tech, equipment or grunt? Yes, and no. Read on to find out.
Lexus RX 2020: RX300 Luxury
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Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
I've mentioned the Spindle grille and its jewellery-like appeal, and even the sharp edges of this SUV make the RX300 look like a carved gemstone, but I'm not the biggest fan of this vehicle's proportions. I think the door-to-window ratio is a bit off. There's just too much door for my liking.
That said, I'm intrigued by the craftmanship, the attention to detail and the use of materials, which make this SUV both pretty and intriguing.
The cabin mixes the plushness of cushioned surfaces on the dash and the armrests with pleasing design elements, like the swooping aluminium trim, which zig-zags its way from the instrument cluster to the passenger's side of the centre console.
How big is the RX300 Luxury? The dimensions show it to be 4890mm long, 1895mm wide and 1690mm tall. (image: Richard Berry)
The giant media display is impressive, but the functionality is awkward, to say the least, but more on that in the practicality section below.
The Luxury is the entry grade into the RX model and so comes with smaller wheels than the F Sport and Sports Luxury above it, but it does score roof rails, dual chrome exhausts, a roof-top spoiler and rear privacy glass.
How big is the RX300 Luxury? The dimensions show it to be 4890mm long, 1895mm wide and 1690mm tall.
The giant media display in the RX300 is impressive, but the functionality is awkward, to say the least. (image: Richard Berry)
The cabin mixes the plushness of cushioned surfaces on the dash and the armrests with pleasing design elements. (image: Richard Berry)
I’m intrigued by the craftmanship, the attention to detail and the use of materials, which make this SUV both pretty and intriguing. (image: Richard Berry)
How do the looks compare with rivals such as a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a Mazda CX-9 or a Land Rover Discovery? Hmm, each has its own distinctive styling, with the Jeep having brutish American looks, the Discovery boasting prestige British off-roader personality and the Mazda an elegant air that's way beyond its price point.
So why haven't I mentioned the Mercedes-Benz GLE or BMW X5? Because they're at least $20K more than the RX300 Luxury, which costs around $72K. If, however, you can stretch the budget to an RX 350 Sports Luxury then you will be crossing the $100K threshold into Benz and Bimmer territory. So let's talk about price.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
The RX300 received a stack of new equipment in the September 2019 update, including a 12.3-inch media screen (previously 8.0-inches), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus four additional USB ports (for a total of six), and a kick-open power tailgate. The list price is $71,920 before on-road costs.
Other standard features include a 12-speaker stereo with DVD player, sat nav, wireless charger, dual-zone climate control, 18-inch alloys wheels, LED headlights, proximity unlocking, heated wing mirrors, rear privacy glass, and powered front seats.
The update added more safety tech, too, along with some changes designed to make the driving experience better, which I'll tell you about below.
It comes with 18-inch alloys wheels. (image: Richard Berry)
You're not getting the heated seats and the head-up display that you do on the F Sport, or the Sport Luxury's Mark Levinson stereo, but the value is great here, especially compared to more prestige brands, which ask more money for the same or less equipment.
The Mazda CX-9 Azami lists for $69,303 and offers more features, but the Lexus brand has more luxury badge appeal than the Mazda, or the $69,950 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited, while the $73,221 Land Rover Discovery 2.0 i4S beats all of them in the prestige stakes because… it's British. And they have a royal family.
How practical is the space inside? 7/10
The RX300 is a five-seater SUV and, while it would be even more practical if there was a third row, the cabin is impressively spacious.
Have a look at my photo of the entry to the RX300's back seat – that's a big doorway for a car. Parents will understand the value of wide-opening doors and these ones made it easy for my child to climb into his car seat and for me to buckle him up. Head and legroom in the back seats are also good, even for me at 191cm tall, while the flat floor makes it easy to 'scoot' across from one side to the other.
There are two cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest in the back and small door pockets, but storage up front is better, with huge pull-out door pockets, two more cupholders and a large centre-console bin.
The RX300’s boot has a cargo capacity of 506 litres, measured to the top of the second-row seat back. (image: Richard Berry)
There's a wireless charger in the hidey hole in front of the shifter, plus six USB ports on board - the rear passengers have two of their own in the back of the centre console and the rest are up front.
The second row doesn't come with climate control, but the directional air vents back there got a workout over the 40C days we had over summer.
Now, the media system. Yes, it's a tech thing, but I'm calling out it out as impractical. The functionality of the trackpad used to navigate around the screen is frustratingly awkward. I think 12 swear words in a row came out of me on one occasion (no child on board, obviously), just trying to use the sat nav. The layout of the display menu is also confusing and non-intuitive.
Have a look at my photo of the entry to the RX300’s back seat – that’s a big doorway for a car. (image: Richard Berry)
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 7/10
The RX300 has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine making 175kW and 350Nm, with a six-speed automatic transmission. This peppy four-cylinder gives the RX300 a completely different feel to the lethargic-but-powerful oomph of the RX350 and its naturally aspirated V6, even though it doesn't make a great deal more grunt, at 221kw and 370Nm. There's a difference in fuel consumption, too – find out how different below.
The RX300 has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine making 175kW and 350Nm, with a six-speed automatic transmission. (image: Richard Berry)
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
Lexus says the RX300, with its 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, should use 8.1L/100km of premium unleaded after a combination of open and urban roads. My own testing over 375.4km - taking in motorways, city and suburban call-of-daycare drop-off-duties - had our RX300 using 11.79L/100km, measured at the petrol pump. The real-world results almost always exceed that of the manufacturer's claims so you can expect the V6-powered RX350, with its claimed 9.6L/100km, to have a much higher mileage again after the same kind of usage.
What's it like to drive? 7/10
Good seats are the start of a good driving experience and I've not met a Lexus that doesn't have superb pews – from the uber luxury models, such as the LS500 and ES300, to sports cars such as the RCF or LC500, they all have supportive and comfy ones. Lexus somehow manages to combine the comfort of a lounge chair yet still holds you firmly, all while placing you in a great driving position. The RX300 is no different. Large enough to fit me and my 191cm frame, yet bolstered enough to feel snug.
As for performance, the RX300, with its four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine with its six-speed automatic, is responsive and a bit hyperactive feeling. It's a very different sensation to piloting the RX350, which has a V6 and delivers its grunt in a more linear and lethargic fashion. Having driven both back-to-back I'd say the V6 and its eight-speed auto suits the RX personality better, but the 300 is a car that would have had a school report card that read: "Lots of potential, but lazy".
The RX300 is a five-seater SUV and, while it would be even more practical if there was a third row. (image: Richard Berry)
That said, plant the right foot and the RX350 will get the message to hurry up and can do the 0-100km/h sprint in eight seconds flat. The RX300 is keen but can't match it, with a time of 9.2 seconds.
Either way, the ride comfort is excellent, although body control could be better - the speed bump and roundabout route I take to do the preschool drop off caused it to get the wobbles, but give the RX300 a motorway and it'll cruise beautifully.
Forward visibility is good but vision through the tiny rear-quarter window (it's even smaller than it looks) while reverse parking isn't great.
Warranty & Safety Rating
4 years / 100,000 km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
The RX300 scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2016. The September 2019 update added more safety tech to the RX300, including nighttime pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection for the AEB system, while the adaptive cruise control was given lane-trace assistance and road-sign recognition. This is on top of the already standard safety equipment, such as a reversing camera, blind-spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert.
Ten air bags, along with auto high beam, front and rear parking sensors, two ISOFIX points and three top-tether mounts for car seats and a space-saver spare wheel round off a comprehensive safety package.
It comes with a space-saver spare wheel. (image: Richard Berry)
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
Lexus recommends servicing the RX300 annually or every 15,000km, with the first three services capped at $595.
The duration of Lexus's factory warranty is four years/100,000km, which is a bit longer than BMW and Benz's coverage, but behind the five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranties of the mainstream brands.
The Lexus RX300 is luxurious but affordable, making it great value and superbly comfortable, with a high level of fit and finish. Fear not about the four-cylinder engine being small – it makes plenty of grunt and handles daily duties perfectly well.
Which would you go for: An entry level Lexus RX300 or a top-of-the-range Mazda CX-9? Tell us what you think in the comments below.