Lexus RX 300

In February 1997, Lexus showcased the Lexus Sport Luxury Vehicle Concept, a prototype crossover SUV, at the Chicago Auto Show. This concept, which appeared close to a production model, combined the characteristics of an SUV, a wagon and a sedan. In Japan, the concept appeared in first-generation in December 1997. Two engines were available, the 2.2 L 5S-FE I4 which produced 139 hp, and the 3.0 L 1MZ-FE V6 which produced 219 hp. Both engines could be specified with either front or four wheel drive, which immediately made this model a favorite. All models also came with an automatic transmission as standard, and the V6 version had the Sportmatic feature. The vehicle was partly, although only loosely, based on the Camry platform. The Lexus RX 300 made its sales debut in America in March 1998 following its premiere at the North American International Auto Show that same year. The only engine and drivetrain combination available was the 3.0 L 1MZ-FE V6 and either front or four wheel drive. The RX 300 interior included leather seats, wood trim, a multi-level center console with storage drawers and individual reclining and sliding rear seats making this a true ride in luxury. A shift lever mounted near the instrument panel freed up floor space for additional storage as well. On the exterior, the RX featured heated mirrors, automatic light-sensing headlights, a low step-in entry height and an overall low drag coefficient. A 240-watt, 7-speaker Pioneer sound system was standard, while a Nakamichi premium customized sound system was available as an option. The Lexus RX was an immediate hit, and sold over an astounding 370,000 units in five years. It was the world's first mid-size crossover SUV. In 2003, the second generation RX debuted in the U.S., and the redesigned RX 330 went on sale shortly after. In 2004, the RX line added the world's first luxury hybrid, the RX 400h, and the RX 330 was upgraded to the RX 350 for model year 2006.