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Lexus RX300 History

First-generation RX 300 (Harrier) (xxU1x-series)
First-generation RX 300 (Harrier) (xxU1x-series)

Second-generation RX 300 (xCU3x-series)
Second-generation RX 300 (xCU3x-series)

Toyota Harrier / Lexus RX 300

The Toyota Harrier is a mid-size crossover SUV manufactured by the Toyota Motor Corporation. It is the world's first mid-size crossover SUV. In North American markets, it is sold as the Lexus RX series (such as the RX 300, RX 330 and RX 350). It is based heavily on the Camry platform, which it shares with the Kluger/Highlander. The Harrier was introduced in Japan in 1997 and the RX 300 at the 1998 North American International Auto Show. It quickly became Lexus's best-selling model. It was one of the first crossover SUVs on the market and served as a model for following designs.

First generation (1998-2003)

The first-generation Harrier (codename SXU10 and MCU10 for the front wheel drive models, and SXU15 and MCU15 for the four wheel drive models) made its debut in December 1997. Two engines were available, the 2.2 L 5S-FE I4 which produced 139 hp JIS (102 kW) and 191 Nm (140 ft·lbf), and the 3.0 L 1MZ-FE V6 which produced 219 hp JIS (161 kW) and 304 Nm (224 ft·lbf). Both engines could be specified with either front or four wheel drive. All models came with an automatic transmission as standard, with the V6 version having the Sportmatic /- feature. The Harrier was a sales success, and many went to other right hand drive markets in Asia as grey imports.

The Lexus version of the Harrier, the RX 300, made its debut in America in 1998. The only engine and drivetrain combination available was the 3.0 L 1MZ-FE V6 and either front or four wheel drive.

The first-generation Harrier continued largely unchanged until November 2000, when the 2.2 L 5S-FE engine was replaced by the 2.4 L 2AZ-FE 4-cylinder engine, producing 159 hp JIS (117 kW) and 221 Nm (163 ft·lbf). Again, the new engine was offered with either front wheel drive or four wheel drive. The change in engine also meant a change in model code, which was now ACU10 for the front wheel drive version and ACU15 for the four wheel drive version. A small facelift was also performed on the Harrier. 2000 is also the year where the Lexus RX 300 first went on sale in Europe and Asia. The distinguishing feature for those versions of the RX 300 is a different rear light cluster and larger wheels. The front wheel drive version was not offered in either Europe or Asia.

Second generation (2004-present)

The second generation Harrier (codename ACU30 and MCU30 for the front wheel drive models, and ACU35 and MCU35 for the four wheel drive models) was launched in February 2003 in Japan. It was downsized, changing its competitors to the BMW X3, Land Rover Freelander and Infiniti's new FX, because the Lexus GX slotted between this SUV and the Lexus LX. Mechanical specification is largely similar to the first-generation Harrier, with the same engine and drivetrain combinations available (2.4 L and 3.0 L V6 with or without four wheel drive). The main difference is a new 5-speed automatic transmission with /- shift replacing the 4-speed item in the 3.0 L V6, and the availability of "AIRS" air-suspension on the 3.0 L V6 models. A JBL sound system is an available feature.

The second generation RX, now called the RX 330 for the North American and Middle Eastern markets, was introduced at the 2003 North American International Auto Show. The North American-market cars were initially built in Japan, with production of the RX 330 started at Toyota's Cambridge, Ontario, Canada plant in September 2003 (some North American RX 330/RX 350 models are still made in Japan). The RX 330 is powered by a 3.3 L 3MZ-FE V6, producing 223 hp SAE and (238 ft·lbf), and is available in either front or four wheel drive. "AIRS" air-suspension is again an option on the four wheel drive models, and interestingly, a Mark Levinson sound-system is available in place of the JBL system found in the Harrier.

For European and Asian markets, the second generation RX was launched in early 2003, where it continues to be a RX 300 and is made in Japan. Mechanical specification is more or less identical to the 3.0 L V6 Harrier, with only the four wheel drive version available. Once again, air-suspension and Mark Levinson audio can be specified.

The Harrier Hybrid went on sale in Japan on March 2005, and the hybrid Lexus RX 400h went on sale during the 2006 model year in North America. Europe and Asia will also receive the Hybrid RX during 2006.

For 2007, the RX has a mid-cycle refresh consisting of a new 2GR-FE 3.5-liter V6 instead of the older 3MZ-FE 3.3-liter V6 engine, changing the vehicle's name from RX 330 to RX 350. The RX 350 will also feature an updated DVD navigation system with better graphics, voice controlled destination inputs, and a new device called "bread crumbs". Bread crumbs will enable drivers to retrace their steps.

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