2021 Lexus RX300 Sports Luxury 7
2021 Lexus RX300 Sports Luxury 7

Lexus RX300: Foursome, but maybe not for others

Riley Riley

2021 Lexus RX300 Sports Luxury 6

What is it?

Lexus describes the RX as its “large” SUV, but in reality it’s more of a mid-sizer.

These days it is also available as a seven seater, although the third row is available only with one or two models.

Now in its fourth generation, the current model was launched here in 2016 and was last updated in 2019, with a special edition called Crafted added earlier this year.

Like the rest of the Lexus range, the RX comes with the brand’s polarising trademark spindle grille. It’s the kind of thing you’re either going to love or hate — there’s no in between.

2021 Lexus RX300 Sports Luxury 5

What’s it cost?

It comes in two- and all-wheel drive form, with a turbocharged petrol four or V6 plus hybrid powertrain option, with three grades from which to choose and five or seven seats.

Prices start from $73,136 plus on roads for the front-wheel drive, 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder RX300 Luxury model.

The RX350 with a 3.5-litre V6 and all-wheel drive, is priced from $83,136, the RX350L with seven seats from $86,636, the RX450h Hybrid from $92,388 and RX450hL Hybrid with seven seats from $95,888.

The Crafted Edition with extra kit and extended Platinum Encore benefits is priced from $76,886 and available with the 2.0-litre and V6 powertrains.

Out test vehicle was the RX300 Sports Luxury, the entry model in top spec trim, priced from $94,836.

Standard equipment includes smart entry and start, power adjust steering wheel, 14-way power adjustable front seats with driver and passenger memory, semi-aniline leather seats with heated and ventilated front seats and second-row seats.

There’s also rear privacy glass, satellite navigation, wireless smartphone charging, 12-speaker audio, back guide monitor, automatic headlights and wipers.

Rounding out the equipment list is a large, 12.3-inch touchscreen, along with touchpad control, with DAB+, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and six USB ports.

A double sunroof was also fitted.

Safety includes 10 airbags, rear view camera amd Pre-collision safety system (PCS) with night-time pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, and more advanced driving support with lane tracing assist (LTA) and road-sign assist (RSA).

There’s also automatic high beam, colour head-up display, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert brake, for the pre-collision safety system and autonomous emergency braking.

Its all-speed active cruise control is now linked with new lane-trace assist and road-sign assist functionality.

The parking sensors by the way can apply the brakes if you look like hitting something.

2021 Lexus RX300 Sports Luxury 2

What’s it go like?

Getting into the RX after some 18 months since my last drive in a Lexus, I was once again struck by the incredible quality of the cabin finish.

The stitched leather, bone-coloured leather, grey laser cut wood and piano black finishers, all play to a conservative, well to do section of the market, especially the signature analogue clock that sits centre of dash and draws the eye — like a beacon at night.

It didn’t fail to catch the attention of our passengers either.

Our test vehicle was powered by a 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four cylinder engine that produces 175kW of power and 350Nm of torque, between 1650 and 4000 revs.

The four gets a 6-speed auto with paddle shifters, while the V6 adds an 8-speed and the hybrid not surprisingly is equipped with a CVT.

The auto features G-sensor artificial intelligence shift control and low-speed lock-up torque converter, with drive to the front wheels in this model.

Five drive modes are available: Normal, Eco, Sport, Sport+ and a Custom setting.

There was a time when all Lexuses (is that the plural) were rear wheel drive.

The previous model copped some criticism for its poor ride quality and this time around F Sport and Sports Luxury grades come with adaptive variable suspension — and the system operates over a wider range to enhance comfort and control.

Sports Luxury grade rides on 20-inch alloys with 235/55 series Dunlop rubber.

At 4890mm in length and weighing in at 1995kg, it can tow 1000kg, so apart from a “tinny” it can’t really fill the role of tow vehicle.

There’s plenty of room in the back, with air vents for rear seat passengers and if you opt for the seven seater there’s an extra 110mm to play with.

With a 72-litre fuel tank, it takes premium 95 unleaded and uses 8.1L/100km.

We were getting 8.9 after almost 900km, most of them easy motorway kilometres — and that’s a bit steep for our liking.

RX300 has a top speed of 200km/h and Lexus claims a 0-100km/h time of 9.2 seconds.

Maybe this car has put on weight over the years, because the performance is adequate but frankly uninspiring.

The engine feels dry, anemic and unconvincing and the ride quality is not what we’ve come to expect from Lexus — despite the whiz-bang suspension.

Selecting Sport or Sport+ drive modes elicits a faster response from the transmission, but it can’t replace something that isn’t there in the first place.

Also, once you select one of the other drive modes, the system will not return to the starting Normal position on the fly — at least so it seems?

Performance aside, I can’t believe Lexus persists with the silly trackpad, located between the seats in the centre console.

It’s difficult to use with any accuracy when parked, let alone on the move.

And, being part of the Toyota universe, you’re locked out from using most functions when driving, including destination entry for navigation.

Thankfully, in addition to the remote touch controller, the 12.3-inch multimedia screen now includes some touch functionality.

For mine, one of the main attractions with a Lexus is the Mark Levinson audio.

The 15-speaker system in this car incorporates QuantumLogic Surround (QLS), enabling audio playback that’s true to the original source.

It’s a keeper!

Have always liked the pull out door bins and there’s plenty of room in the boot.

We’re big fans of power tailgates and this one is designed to operate simply with a wave of the foot, but it only worked once for us.

Oh, well . . .

2021 Lexus RX300 Sports Luxury 10

What we like?

  • Looks
  • Pull out door bins
  • High quality interior
  • Rear air vents

2021 Lexus RX300 Sports Luxury 1

What we don’t like?

  • Silly touchpad
  • No digital speedo
  • Average performance
  • Can’t operate satnav on the move
  • Foot operated tailgate rarely works

2021 Lexus RX300 Sports Luxury 3

The bottom line?

Dare I say the RX is starting to show its age.

The cabin treatment is first rate and one of the main reasons for buying a Lexus.

It comes with the obligatory touchscreen, but the instrument cluster with tried and true analogue dials needs some eye candy in line with contemporary trends.

For $90K plus I expect more, especially a smile and more performance, because the 2.0-litre turbo is a dry, uninspiring power plant and uses too much fuel.

2021 Lexus RX300 Sports Luxury 4

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Lexus RX300 Sports Luxury, priced from $94,836
  • Looks - 7.5/10
  • Performance - 7/10
  • Safety - 8/10
  • Thirst - 7/10
  • Practicality - 7.5/10
  • Comfort - 7.5/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
  • Value - 7/10