2005 Lexus RX 330 Review
Smooth, luxurious utility.
The Lexus RX 330 features zoomy styling. It's sleeker than the RX 300 it replaced. The RX 330's shape is sharply defined by radically raked, body-colored pillars at all four corners of its cabin, with the window frames and posts blacked out to blend in with ovoid side-window opening. The RX 330's raked-back front fascia and headlamps are reminiscent of the Lexus ES 330 sedan.
Despite these car-like cues, however, the RX 330 looks sufficiently brawny for off-highway duty, thanks to its beefy front bumper and pronounced fender flares. Door handles are of the reach-through type, more hand-friendly than the fingertip-grip variety and offering less opportunity to break long fingernails.
A nice feature, something that was not seen in the U.S. since the 1948 Tucker but is now also available on other models, is the Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS), what Preston Tucker would have called steer-able headlights. The system uses an on-board processor that calculates a more optimum angle to illuminate a turn, and swivels the headlamp closest to the turn accordingly, allowing drivers to see around corners better. It comes on all RX 330s with HID headlamps.
A rear view of the RX 330 reveals a visor over the top edge of the rear window, a short radio antenna at the right rear corner of the roof (promising better reception in marginal areas than the also-included imbedded-in-glass type), and clear-lensed tail lamps.
Like the Toyota Highlander, the RX 330 is built on the same platform (with modifications) as the Toyota Camry and Lexus ES 330 sedans.
The RX 330's cabin is luxurious and inviting. The optional leather is soft and slightly bunched, and there are splashes of real wood trim on the doors and center console.
Getting in is easy, with no need to either climb up or duck down. The front seats are positioned off the floor at a comfortable chair height and are snug and supportive. Foldable armrests on both front seats provide additional comfort on longer trips. The center console slides forward and back, allowing room for a purse or whatever else between the front seats.
The instrument panel has three large round gauges trimmed in silver. The center dash area is framed in metallic-looking plastic topped with a pair of air vents. The center stack is dominated by the available seven-inch display. This screen is used for climate control and trip computer functions, as well as displaying the outside temperature and clock (with alarm). It's also used by the optional navigation system and rear-view camera. The camera is automatically activated when the transmission is shifted into reverse. You can't drive backward by watching the screen, but it's very useful for checking for obstacles that are difficult to see from the driver's seat.
Audio controls are at the bottom of the center stack. The radio has big knobs for volume and tuning, that are easy to use. The Lexus premium audio is a 132-watt, eight-speaker system with AM/FM/cassette/CD. The optional Mark Levinson audio system features 11 speakers and 210 watts and an in-dash 6-disc CD changer.
The shifter for the automatic transmission is located on the center dash. This was novel when the RX 300 first appeared, and has been copied since. The shift lever follows a mechanical zigzag pattern to make sure you only move it one gear position at a time. We found it made shifting between reverse, drive, and the lower gears ponderous, particularly when we were in a hurry.
The rear seat is contoured for two, though it has belts for three. There's a folding center armrest with cup holders, storage, and its own wood trim. The rear seats fold forward 40-20-40, the center section providing a long, narrow space for skis, shovels, and fly rods, while still allowing four people to ride in comfort. This is a better solution than the typical 60-40 folding seats, which force one of four passengers to travel in the less-comfortable center-rear seat when carrying the aforementioned long items.
RX 330 bucks the trend by offering no third-row seat. Lexus says buyers wanting more passenger space can buy one of the larger Lexus SUVs, such as the GX or LX.
Folding the rear seats down reveals 84.7 cubic feet of cargo space, more than a BMW X5, Mercedes ML350, or Infiniti FX. The rear seats don't fold completely flat, but they are split 40/20/40 for versatility between passengers and cargo. Cleverly hidden under the cargo floor are compartments for additional storage. The cargo cover automatically retracts when the rear hatch is opened, useful when your arms are full and you don't want to put things down on the wet pavement.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2005 Lexus RX 330, click here: 2005 Lexus RX 330.