Just issued are the first official pictures of the long-awaited Lexus RX300, set to be one of the stars of this year's British International Motor Show in October. Already the best selling Lexus in America, the new RX300 offers off-road capability without the on-road compromises often associated with four-wheel drive vehicles.

Powered by a super smooth 3-litre V-6 engine, featuring variable valve timing for increased efficiency and flexibility, the RX300 has a passenger car-type body design in contrast to the separate body and chassis used by traditional off-roaders. This is combined with all-round independent suspension to provide levels of handling, responsiveness and ride comfort famously associated with Lexus luxury saloons.

It is exactly these features that allowed the Lexus RX300 to redefine the luxury 4x4 market in the USA. Despite being launched into a market that is regarded as the cradle of the 4x4 segment, the new Lexus leapt to the top of the American sales charts within months. Not only is it the best-selling Lexus in the USA, it is currently the best selling Compact SUV, (73,500 units in 1999 and 43,750 units from January to June of this year).

Although it was clear that the RX300 concept would also fit the bill for many European customers, driving styles and conditions in Europe are quite different from those in the US and Japan. That is why, even before its launch in the USA, the Lexus Technical Centre in Brussels was actively involved in fine tuning the RX300 for European driving conditions.

"European driving involves higher sustained speeds, harder acceleration and later braking than driving in Japan or the USA and we aim to develop cars that respond better in those conditions," said Jos De Boes, General Manager, Vehicle Engineering in Brussels. "We developed new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars to suit the European driving styles and we are confident that RX300 is dynamically number one in its class.
"We also paid particular attention to brake tuning, to ensure the optimum high-speed braking stability, very important in a large, high-bodied vehicle of this kind. It wasn't just a case of fine-tuning the discs and pads, we also changed the type of brake servo to offer more pedal feel and high-speed controllability."

The Lexus RX300 for Europe also features a revised noise reduction package developed with the higher European cruising speeds in mind. "We worked hard on minimising the road noise normally generated by the big wheels and tyres of a 4x4 at high speed. We are certainly ahead of every competitor. In fact, we've reached Lexus saloon standards," confirmed Jos De Boes.

The new RX300 for Europe differs from its American cousins with newly designed front and rear-lights, grille, bumpers and wheels. Prices and full specifications will be announced closer to the launch-date in October.

ENGINE DIMENSIONS
Engine type 1MZ-FE Overall length (mm) 4580
Valve mechanism 24-valve,DOHC Overall width (mm) 1815
Displacement (cc) 2995 Overall height (mm) 1660
Max. power (DIN hp/rpm) 201@5600 (148kW) Wheelbase (mm) 2615
Max. torque (Nm/rpm) 283@4400 (205 lb ft) Track (mm) front Track (mm) rear 1565 1550


New Lexus RX300 4x4