Completely redesigned in 2004, the Lexus RX 330 undergoes only minor upgrades for 2005. Rain-sensing wipers and an eight-way front passenger power seat are now standard, and adaptive front lighting is now included in the Premium and Ultra Premium packages. Also new are roll-sensing curtain shield airbags.

The first Lexus to be built outside of Japan – in Canada, no less – the RX 330 is Lexus’ smallest SUV. Based on the Toyota Camry platform, it’s a tall sedan rather than a small truck, with a 3.3-litre V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission. Its all-wheel-drive system uses a centre differential to split the engine power evenly between the front and rear wheels.

The RX 330 comes in a base trim line, with several available option packages. Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, dual zone climate control, CD/cassette with eight speakers and wheel-mounted controls, heated leather seats with eight-way driver and passenger adjust and driver position memory, auto up/down for all windows, power locks, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, maple or walnut woodgrain trim, tonneau cover, water-repellent door glass, roof rack, roof-mounted spoiler, auto-dimming heated exterior mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps with washers, tire pressure monitoring system, power tilt and telescopic wheel, integrated garage door opener and cruise control.

The Premium package includes a six-CD changer, power back door, power sunroof, adaptive front lighting, high-intensity discharge auto-levelling headlamps, and wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Ultra Premium includes those features and adds a Mark Levinson stereo, 7-inch LCD rear monitor with audio and DVD remote control, audio joystick controls and two sets of wireless headphones, and DVD-based navigation system.

A Sport Package adds six-CD player, power back door, power sunroof, adaptive front lighting, 18-inch alloy wheels, sequential multi-mode shifter and front and rear air suspension.

The RX 330 tends toward the more practical scale of SUVs; nicely sized, it offers an excellent seating position, all the creature comforts you’d expect from a Lexus, and a 40/20/40 rear seat that slides backwards or forwards, depending upon whether passengers or cargo are more important. It’s not a vehicle you’d take fast along a twisting mountain road, or out onto a nasty off-road trail, but then, this is a comfortable cargo hauler meant for the urban and suburban jungle. The equally well-built Acura MDX is a bit more powerful and slightly larger, and $600 more. The RX 330’s price can rise rapidly once you start piling on the options. For 2006, watch for the RX400h, a gasoline-hybrid version of the RX 330.

The RX 330 is built in Cambridge, Ontario and Kyushu, Japan.

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