The Lexus RX is heading to its 30sthe year, and its fifth generation. It’s hard for some of us to believe that all those first-generation bronze or white Lexus RX350s (and let’s face it, they’re almost all bronze or white) are still on the road. But this car-based SUV is known as a reliable and solid vehicle that can easily go 200,000 miles. While Lexus has constantly updated the RX, it has never broken that mold throughout the five generations of the RX.
Is the Lexus RX reliable?
The original RX was based on the Toyota Camry platform. Thirty years ago, the company jumped on the new SUV craze and decided to build a tall wagon, rather than a rugged SUV. It stood out as a comfortable luxury SUV with a ride that was, in fact, more like that of a car. Compared to the Chevy Blazers and Ford Explorers of the time, which were based on trucks, it drove and handled much better.
Thanks to their Toyota Camry platform, which included Toyota’s 3.0-liter V6, these original Lexus RX300 SUVs are known to be reliable. JD Power began rating the RX in 2007, and it earned an “excellent” rating for reliability of 88, a rating that has basically not changed since. On RepairPal, which tracks vehicle reliability, the RX350 trim gets four out of five stars, ranking it third on the list of 14 luxury midsize SUVs.
But of course, that’s for the RX350, not the original RX. So what are the differences in the five generations of Lexus RX?
The first generation was one of the first car-based SUVs.
When Lexus released the first RX 300 in 1999 on a car platform, SUV purists were aghast. SUVs were for getting dirty, hauling trailers, and exploring mountain roads. The RX, while it could have four-wheel drive, didn’t tackle the great outdoors. Instead, it became a bestseller because it looked like an SUV but drove like a tall car. It had a still-respectable 75 cubic feet of luggage, and it seated five people. The RX had innovative rear seats that could slide, allowing you to take advantage of the 30 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats.
It came with the 220-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 that was the upgraded engine in the Camry. It lasted until 2003 and many of these are still on the road.
The second generation added more power and luxury (and a hybrid)
Lexus didn’t want to mess with a good thing for the second generation Lexus RX from 2004 to 2009. It had a bit more power, with 230 horsepower from a 3.3-liter V6 and around 85 cubic feet of storage. US News and World Report said the RX 350 earned “wide praise for its stylish exterior, class-leading safety features and ratings, comfortable interior space, good cabin technology features, and capable driving dynamics.”
But the big news of the second generation was the addition of hybrid power in the RX4 400h. It was the first luxury hybrid SUV and boosted fuel economy by approximately 25%. At that time, many celebrities were seen driving RX 400h SUVs because they were stylish and eco-friendly SUVs.
The third generation Lexus RX earned a secure reputation
Lexus produced the third generation from 2010 to 2015, and again the styling was an update to the classic RX look. But it was one of nine 2011 model year vehicles that reported no driver fatalities in 2012, earning it one of the top spots that year from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS. Inside, however, Lexus significantly updated the RX with a new dual-zone cockpit that splits the viewing and operating zones.
For the third generation, the hybrid’s power increased to 295 total horsepower, making it one of the fastest SUVs in its class.
The fourth generation saw the greatest divergence in styling.
For 2016, the RX grew nearly five inches in length and that added a lot of space to its crisp new sheet metal. And, for the first time, you can order an L, or “long” version of the RX that added a power-folding and reclining third row. Again, the RX 450 and RX 450h added power.
The fourth generation is fast, and when you drive one it doesn’t feel as big as its exterior dimensions would make it seem. It also has a larger 12.3-inch touchscreen with a remote touchpad that some love and others hate. While other SUVs may have gained more tech or features before this model retired in 2022, the RX won fans for its reliability and the stealthy way it cut through traffic. It is considered one of the best RX builds to buy used.
The fifth generation is already reaching dealers
The fifth generation Lexus RX took the angular styling of the previous version and added even more creases and a larger grille to make a true fashion statement. But the new 2203 version has more powertrain options than any previous RX. You can order it in a petrol version and in three different hybrid versions, including a plug-in version.
Lead shoes will like the RX 500h F SPORT Performance AWD version which, while a mouthful, should be a beast. It comes with a turbocharged 2.4-liter engine, but this top-of-the-line version makes 366 horsepower combined with its hybrid powertrains, making it the most powerful RX ever. Instead of the standard version’s 8-speed automatic, or the hybrid’s CVT, you get a new six-speed direct automatic transmission.
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