Underhood, a smooth-running, throttle-by-wire 3.3-liter/230-horse DOHC V-6 adds 10 horsepower and 20 lb-ft of torque over the 3.0-liter engine in last year's RX 300. Fuel economy is excellent for a midsize SUV; we averaged more than 19 mpg over a week's worth of testing. The V-6 is teamed with a five-speed automatic with gated shifter, featuring torque-managed shifts that are lazy and loping under part throttle and abrupt when more power is needed in a hurry. Requests for acceleration are sometimes delayed as the transmission seems to be making up its mind what gear to select. On our front-drive test vehicle, this pause was followed by a torque spike that brought the nose up and upset the already light steering as the vehicle lurched ahead. Four-wheel-drive versions of the RX 330 (a $1400 option) should be less prone to this behavior (Lexus expects 4WD models to account for 70 percent of RX sales).
Though the RX may be a somewhat antiseptic SUV with anesthetic driving qualities, it offers an impressive array of the latest luxury gadgets and gizmos. From the LS 430, the RX gets adaptive cruise control that will help maintain a minimum following distance. Also new is a power-operated liftgate similar to those previously seen on Chrysler minivans. A rear-mounted camera that--when reverse is selected--displays a wide-angle image in the navigation screen makes its debut in the RX (previously, it's been installed only on a few low-volume vehicles like the Japanese-market Isuzu VehiCross). A wide-opening multipanel moonroof, not unlike Mercedes' Panorama option, is available. Then there's the aforementioned optional height-adjustable suspension, like that on the Audi allroad and VW Touareg. Such hardware does add cost, however, and a fully kitted RX 330 will start nudging close to the $50,000 mark with just a few checks of the option boxes.