For those of you familiar with the Lexus RX, you may notice it picked up a new number for 2004 and is now called the RX330. This designates the RX's all-new 3.3L DOHC V-6 powerplant, up in displacement from the old 3.0L. For 2004, the RX also gets a new body and interior, keeping it on the leading edge in terms of looks and function.
All of our testers agreed that the RX330 was one of the most stylish SUVs in this test, with its cutting-edge looks. Lexus did a fantastic job upgrading the RX300's lines, and we were surprised at how dated the outgoing model looks when parked next to the new RX. One of the most trick features are the chrome taillights that only turn red when the lights are on or the brake pedal is depressed.
As mentioned before, at the heart of the RX330 is a new 3.3L DOHC V-6 engine, which has a broader powerband and more torque than the RX300. This extra power is appreciated, and although it is not overwhelmingly powerful, the RX has ample thrust for just about any occasion. The RX330's AWD system is invisible to the driver and has no bad habits. The RX offers a serene ride that is devoid of too much wind and road noise. There is plenty of room for passengers, and the steering and brakes are well matched to the chassis.
With its comfortable leather seats and ergonomically placed controls, the RX is the most user-friendly SUV in the bunch. Even the navigation system trumps all of the other competition in ease of use, offering intuitive controls, an exceptional database, and an integrated trip computer. When in Reverse, the navigation screen becomes a rearview monitor, thanks to a hatch-mounted backup camera. And if that's not enough gadgetry, you can add adaptive cruise control to the long list of advanced features. The ride is smooth, and our tester, typical of other Toyota and Lexus products we tested, was free of squeaks and rattles. Visibility was good in every direction, especially up through the gigantic glass sunroof, which gave our RX330 a quasi-convertible feel. Best of all, it did not detract from the structural integrity of the body shell.
The RX330 is a vehicle that offers cutting-edge technology and style, yet is user friendly to any driver. Controls are right where you expect them, the quality is top notch, and the vehicle drives easily. The best part is that there is no SUV for the money that offers all of the features in the Lexus. So, if you want legendary reliability mixed with techno-widgets in a compact and comfortable package, look no further than the '04 Lexus RX330.
From the LogbookThe nicest SUV interior I've seen in a long time.Editor Steve Warner
The RX330 has a stylish and elegant interior packed with comfort and amenities.Feature Editor Travis Noack
With more gadgets than an early spacecraft, the RX330 is the most technologically advanced SUV under $45,000Associate Editor Dan Ward