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Lexus RX330 (2003-2006)

by John Ewing,reviewed December 2011

The RX 330 isn’t about getting down and dirty off-road, even if its SUV styling’s waft of machismo suggests different.
Most luxury SUVs rarely stray far past the bitumen’s end anyway, so for most potential buyers the Lexus’ pampering luxury appointments and refinement will be attraction enough to make it well worth contemplation.

When first released here in mid 2003, the RX330 was the second generation of the RX nameplate, its first generation predecessor the RX300, launched in Japan and America five years earlier.

RX330 was offered in two versions, the Sports and the Sports Luxury. Even by today’s standards the entry-level Sports’ standard creature comforts and safety features list looks very plump. The Luxury’s additions include satellite navigation, multi-vision screen with touch function, reversing camera and Mark Levinson 240W audio system.

Both models include seven airbags (including driver’s knee airbag), stability control, HID headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, power tailgate, and leather trim. The ANCAP crash rating is four stars.

RX330 was superseded by the more powerful and fuel efficient RX350 in 2006.

The 3.3-litre quad-cam alloy V6 is mated to a five-speed auto and performance is quite snappy. With maximum outputs arriving high in the rev range though, it needs plenty of revs on board to give its best.

The Lexus excels with its refined cosseting ride and superbly quiet cabin, adding to the vehicle’s luxury ambience.

Handling is respectable though not sporty, lacking the poise of the dynamic BMW X5. Light steering, body roll and an overly interventionist ESC are traits.

RX330 features permanent all-wheel-drive but forget venturing too far off-road. Foot operated park brake aside, the interior is thoughtfully functional and comfortable, but there’s no seven-seat option. Towing is limited to 1500kg.

It’s a Lexus so it’s well-finished, and reliability credentials appear to be unsullied. But check records for careful servicing, especially engine oil and coolant. Watch for under-body damage from over-adventurous off-roading. Check for correct functioning of all interior equipment. Expect repairs and servicing when needed to be expensive.

Under the pump 

RX 330 will use between 9.2 litres and 17.2 litres of fuel every 100km, depending on model and driving conditions.

Price range 

For an indication of what you would pay for this vehicle please go to CD's online car price guide or our Car review Advice Service on 07 3666 9148 or 623 456 outside the Brisbane area.

Competitors 

Honda MDX 2003 - 2007

Something like a bigger, luxury CR-V with 3.5-litre V6 and five-speed auto. Decent equipment, seven seats. No curtain airbags until 2005. No match for X5’s dynamic skills. Limited off road ability.

BMW X5 2003 - 2006


Choice of petrol or strong performing fuel efficient turbo-diesel, both 3.0-litre. Well built, luxury equipment levels. Upgraded transmissions and drivetrains from 2004. Class-leading sporty handling. Handy enough off-road, but not a serious bush-basher. Repairs likely to be expensive.

Volvo XC90 2.5 T5 2003 - 2006

2.5-litre, 5-cyl, turbo-petrol engine outputs decent on paper but performance blunted by XC90’s mass. Can be thirsty. Only average chassis. Large turning circle. Seven-seat option. Solid safety credentials. Integrated rear booster seat cushion. Leather trim not standard till mid 2005.

Lexus RX330 2003-2006

Car Details

Vehicle make Lexus
Vehicle model RX330
Year 2003
Current price range $ - $
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This review is based on road testing conducted by The Road Ahead. Further vehicle reviews, in-depth comparisons and coverage of consumer motoring issues can be found in the Club's magazine. Prices listed were current at the time of review and are manufacturers list prices and do not include statutory and delivery charges. Prices can vary from time to time and dealer to dealer.