2006 RX 330 New Car Test Drive
The Lexus RX 330 excels at smoothness. It rides more quietly than most cars, not to mention most SUVs. It glides over bumpy roads. It's very easy to drive with light steering and excellent brakes. Its airy cabin is luxurious and inviting.
And it offers the latest in technology: headlamps that swivel to help the driver see around corners, a rear-mounted camera that displays what's behind you on the dash-mounted navigation screen, a voice-activated hands-free telephone system that wirelessly links to your Bluetooth compatible cell phone, a cruise control system that can adjust for changes in traffic, and a giant sunroof. Even more important, it's equipped with the latest in passive safety features, including seven airbags.
With the RX series, Lexus pioneered the crossover style of SUV, based on a unibody car platform rather than a heavy-duty truck frame; and in the process set new standards for the modern luxury utility. Crossover utility vehicles offer better ride and handling than truck-based SUVs, but with more cargo room than a car, a better view over traffic and a sense of security from an elevated driving position. Granted, crossover vehicles offer neither the big towing capacity nor the off-road capability of a true truck. But the RX 330 handles gravel roads just fine and can tow up to 3500 pounds with the optional trailer package.
Redesigned for the 2004 model year, the RX 330 has been refined for 2006 with two-way power lumbar support for the front passenger seat, an LED glovebox lamp, and anti-theft headlamps.
The 2006 Lexus RX 330 is available with a choice of front-wheel drive ($36,370) or all-wheel drive ($37,770). Both are powered by a sophisticated dual overhead-cam V6 engine with variable valve timing, driving through a five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. (Lexus also builds a hybrid version called the RX 400h, which we have reviewed separately.)
The RX 330's list of standard luxuries is long, and includes automatic climate control, premium audio, cruise control, traction and stability control, privacy glass, automatic headlamps, ten-way power for both front seats, wood and leather trim for the steering wheel and shift knob, a power rear liftgate, and 17-inch aluminum wheels. Cloth upholstery comes standard.
The Premium Package ($2,145) includes leather upholstery, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, roof rack, and a one-touch moonroof. The Premium Plus Package ($2,960) adds to that high-intensity discharge headlamps with an adaptive front lighting system and a steering wheel trimmed in wood and leather. The Performance Package ($4,675) includes all of the items in the Premium Package, plus 18-inch graphite-colored aluminum alloy wheels with P235/55R18 tires, height-adjustable air suspension, sequential-shifting transmission, rain-sensing wipers, the HID headlamps with AFS, and a power rear liftgate. (Some of these packages may change.)
Open-sky enthusiasts who aren't content with the optional moonroof can opt for a giant multi-panel moonroof, which comes bundled with leather-trimmed upholstery and other features ($3,740). The navigation system ($2,350) was updated for 2005 with Bluetooth, voice activation and improved graphics, and now comes with a rear-view camera that projects an image of much of what's behind whenever reverse is selected. Dynamic cruise control, a rear-seat entertainment system, and a six-disc CD changer are also available. XM Satellite Radio is offered as a dealer-installed option.
Safety features that come standard include dual frontal airbags, front-seat side-impact airbags (for torso protection), side curtain airbags (for head protection), plus a driver's knee bag. The side curtain airbags extend to help protect rear-seat passengers as well, and respond to a rollover sensor in addition to the usual decelerometer.