dates : 3rd October 2004
7th October 2004
the past few months Car Torque has enjoyed an extended
test with one of the most interesting vehicles on the
South African market - the Lexus RX300.
Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand, has had a presence in
South Africa since the early 1990s, but until now it has
not enjoyed much market share.
The Lexus RX300’s introduction here in mid-2003 was a
ploy to gain greater presence for the brand.
Although sales for the RX300 were initially quite slow,
all of a sudden the RX300 is becoming a regular sight
– nowhere near as common as its rivals from BVMW or
Mercedes, but nevertheless people are no longer asking
what the car is.
Our test model has covered some 15 000 km in Car Torque’s
hands, having spent the early part of its life as a
member of Toyota SA’s regular road test fleet.
This meant that the first 6 000 km were rather hard ones
as a number of journalists put the vehicle through its
Nevertheless the car has stood up well and feels today
like a brand new vehicle in all dynamic departments.
The RX300 was designed in Japan to take on the likes of
the BMW X5 and the Mercedes-Benz M-Class in the
so-called soft-roader market.
These are vehicles were four-wheel-drive specification
is a secondary facet, and none of them have any serious
off-road ability, unlike Volkswagen’s new contender in
this market, the Touareg.
There is no low-ratio transfer case and the suspension
is profiled very much towards high-their speed tarmac
running. Suspension travel is not particularly great and
wheel-control is firm, minimizing vertical wheel
Similarly, the tyres are low profile 235/55s on 18-inch
rims, with very much on-road audial qualities of low
noise over tarmac, and no chunky tread patterns or flexy
The interior trim is also luxury orientated rather than
designed to stand up to the rigors of mud, dust and
Care has to be taken when loading heavy objects onto the
seats as these are covered in a beautiful but rather
delicate perforated leather in pale grey.
Fit and finish of the cabin is beautiful showing what
Toyota can do when it applies its excellent build to
materials of luxury grade.
By the standards of the past 12 months the feature list
is fairly modest.
This consists of Climate control, Cruise control, a top
quality six CD front loader and radio, Auto-on facility
for the powerful high density discharge headlamps, a
trip computer and front, side and curtain airbags and a
knee-bag for the driver.
As of now there is no navigation option, but the trip
computer is easy to use and informative.
Interestingly the overall fuel consumption read-out
re-sets every time you operate the remote fuel flap for
The Lexus is profiled for road-work. It has very fluid,
accurate steering, which at just three turns lock to
lock is nice and direct, making for easy
The three-litre silky-smooth V6 is reasonably powerful,
with quick throttle response, rated at 150 kW and 283 Nm
The RX300 is available only with a five-speed auto
gearbox. It has no additional programmes to alter shift
points or throttle response.
But it does have a mud and snow setting for pulling off
in second gear in slippery conditions, and a manual
The gearbox is smooth but you need to learn how to drive
it. It is very sharp on response and you need a very
light, controlled throttle foot to make smooth progress.
Overall fuel consumption has been 13,5 litres/100 km.
This runs to 10,5 litres/100 on open-road long distance
hauls to a worst-case scenario of 15,5 litres / 100 k in
heavy traffic. Pretty good for a large 4X4 five seater.
One of its best features is the elevated driving
position. Sooo relaxing in traffic
As this is not an off-roader we haven’t tried it on
trails. But it copes well in the bush on smooth roads
although care has to be taken not to damage that
beautiful perlescent white paint on thorn trees.
On rough dirt roads however its high ground clearance,
with everything tucked nicely away, makes it good for
travelling to remote cottages or game parks.
It has a full compliment of traction control and dynamic
vehicle controls which brake individual wheels to sort
out any understeer or oversteer.
And its brakes are powerful, although the brakes
developed a rumble after the car was lent to a rally
driver for a high-speed weekend trip.
This was cured and after 23 000 km the pads have plenty
of life left in them, as do the tyres, which probably
enjoy 50 per cent tread life still.
Servicing intervals are at 15 000 km. As the car is
covered by a five-year/90 000 km service plan, there
have been no extra servicing costs so far.
Priced at R462 700 the Lexus has held its price since
its introduction in May 2003.
In summing up it is a modern luxury family estate car
rather than a 4X4, with impeccable urban manners and
just a degree of dirt road ability.
Car Torque is