Lexus RX UX10 is one of the first cars that established the SUV genre in the world. Lexus RX UX10, a car that proves that sometimes the drunk ideas are the best. Find out why, in this almost car review.
First of all, I should correct myself and say that the Lexus RX UX10 didn’t quite set the name of the SUV game. So the story starts in 1993, when a bunch of Lexus execs got wild on a company luncheon and said “hey, why don’t we put an LS on stilts?” and then they said “fantastic” and in one week they already had the business plan. And they were also helped by the Lexus engineers who found out that in 1993 (when the idea of RX was conceived) only 7% of owners of off-road vehicles actually use them for off-roading. So they have Lexus RX UX10 started from the premise of a road vehicle but that would have some SUV inclinings, not an SUV that would offer some on-road performance. Basically, the Lexus RX UX10 is a reverse Mercedes ML, and since the very first generation it has been established that the Lexus RX is not an off-road car, but rather a sensible family car… I mean a really posh soccermobile. Because every car comes standard with an automatic transmission, acres of leather and wood and it’s clear that children shouldn’t be allowed there.
This is also where the RX’s reliability story begins, because the Lexus RX UX10 was their first entry into the SUV segment so they had to do it by the Lexus book. In case you didn’t know, Lexus came to life in 1989, so it’s a fairly recent brand and the only way they could stand out in the premium segment dominated by americans and germans was through reliability. That’s how you had the Lexus LS, the first Lexus, which did more than 1 million miles with just the normal maintainance, and that’s how they managed to attract the customers. Now they had to attract customers from the premium SUV area, a segment that was just being born, so they made the Lexus RX as reliable as they could. It wasn’t perfect, but it remains by far the most reliable SUV of its generation. And this generated a problem, of which I will talk about in the verdict section.
Lexus RX UX10 Engines
- 2.2 l-4 5S-FE of 136 horsepower – They didn’t really know what they were doing and which direction to take with the first generation Lexus RX, so at it’s 1997 debut they bolted the 2.2 4-cyl Toyota engine used heavily in the Cellica and most of the Toyota range, albeit in 1.8 guise. An anvil of an engine as far as reliability goes, but severy underpowered for the RX so I would avoid it.
- 2.4 l-4 2AZ-FE of 156 horsepower – The 2000 facelift brought an optional sports suspension and an all-new 2.4 litre 2AZ-FE to replace the old 2.2 litre. Much more appropiate performance-wise but a step down in terms of reliability as this engine is notorious for it’s oil consumption, especially in the North America models.
- 3.0 V6 1MZ-FE of 201 and 220 horsepower – The only engine worth buying and yes, it is notorious for oil consumption and very late in life the VVT-i system also fails. In any case, we are talking about problems after 200,000 miles, mileage that this type of car rarely reaches. But altogether a reliable and proper engine for a proper on-road SUV.
Lexus RX UX10 Reliability Issues
- The central locking system sometimes fails for the tailgate and you will have to open and close it with a key, like the regular people.
- Another issue is with the bonnet struts which are made from a mix of chewing gum and toilet paper and which soften at the first rain as when I do when I watch Next Top Model. But this is a problem for the regular folk. You don’t raise the bonnet because you have a Lexus. You pay someone else to open the bonnet and fix your car. So technically it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.
Lexus RX UX10 Verdict
It’s not quite there with the level of luxury and opulence of the following generations, but it all starts here and that’s all that matters. It’s luxurious, it’s reliable, it comes as standard with leather and automatic gearboxes. And this means that the prices on the used market are still very, very high. An RX costs more than an X5 or a Range Rover from the same year and beats even the Land Cruiser, another overrated car. And this happens because all Lexus RX owners are aware that they can keep these cars for life and most of them are at an age where they don’t swap cars like Eddie Murphy swaps the kindergartens and schools he has to attend at the beginning of the school year.
Which engines do I recommend? Sure, you have 3 engines to choose from, but realistically the 3.0 V6 1MZ-FE of 220 horsepower is the most adequate engine for the first generation RX.