Should You Take The 2003 Lexus RX 300 Off-Road?

Your 2003 Lexus RX 300 can drive off-road if it absolutely needs to, but you should probably stick to paved streets.
Written by Nathan Porceng
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
The 2003
Lexus RX 300
earned rave reviews for its luxurious interior and excellent crash test results. Unfortunately, the RX 300 is not a good off-road vehicle
We get it. The weather is turning warmer. An hour north, down a rocky country trail, there’s a peaceful, secluded pond calling your name. You look over at your 2003 Lexus RX 300—you’ve never taken it anywhere but paved streets and highways. Is it up for the challenge of an off-road adventure?
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Can the 2003 Lexus RX 300 go off-road?

Yes, the RX 300 can take some light off-roading if it absolutely has to. Look, any vehicle can go off-road. How they’ll perform is another story entirely.
Used 2003 Lexus RX 300s command around $2,000 to $4,000, depending on their mileage and condition. If you treat your RX 300 right, it will keep on ticking for years to come. That’s why it’s important that you don’t push your RX 300 beyond its capabilities.
Let’s take a quick look at the RX 300’s specs to shine a light on its limited off-road capabilities. 

Ground clearance

Ground clearance, popularly known as “ride height,” is one of the most important specs used to determine a vehicle’s off-road capabilities. Put simply, it’s the distance between the ground and the lowest point on your car’s chassis. The higher the ground clearance, the rougher the terrain your car can traverse without causing damage to its undercarriage.
6 to 8 inches of ground clearance is recommended for off-roading on well-groomed trails. 8.8 to 10.8 inches of ground clearance is recommended for over-landing. 
The 2003 Lexus RX 300 has a ground clearance of 7.7 inches. That’s actually pretty good. As long as you avoid large rocks and logs, your RX 300’s undercarriage should be safe.


The 2003 Lexus RX 300’s ground clearance is impressive. Its torque is not.
When you’re off-roading, you want high amounts of torque at low RPMs. This is called low-end torque. Higher low-end torque means you have the power to push through muddy or tough terrain, even at slow speeds. The 2003 Lexus RX 300 is rated to a “meh” 222 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 RPM.


All-terrain tires
are essential if you’re going off-roading. Be it snow, mud, gravel, or sheetrock, your tires need to be able to handle everything nature throws their way.
The 2003 Lexus RX 300 comes with 225/70SR16 tires. These are standard, touring, all-terrain tires. They perform well in both wet and dry conditions and do decently in the snow. While they’re not the best off-roading tires out there, they’re probably fine for casual excursions.


All-wheel drive is absolutely essential if you’re going off-roading. The 2003 Lexus RX 300 came with the option for all-wheel drive. While some used RX 300s will have it, others won’t. If your RX 300 is one of the ones that doesn’t, you should probably think twice before going off-roading.


The terms “approach angle” and “departure angle” don’t mean much to most people. However, true off-roaders will tell you that they are measurements of the steepest angles your car can ascend or descend without interference.
If you’re going off-roading, you want an approach angle between 20 to 30 degrees and a departure angle between 15 to 25 degrees. The RX 300 has an approach angle of 28 degrees and a departure angle of 23 degrees. That means it can easily handle even the steepest of slopes.

Off-road rating: In a Pinch

We know. We just bombarded you with a bunch of specs and numbers and all you want to do is just go off-roading. Let’s tie it all together by seeing how the RX 300 scores on
DIRT rating system:
Don’t Try It
Do not take this vehicle off-roading
In a Pinch
This vehicle can go off-roading but should stick to well-groomed trails
Rough and Ready
This vehicle can handle rough trails
Trail Boss
This vehicle can handle just about everything nature throws at it
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After some deliberation, we’ve given the 2003 Lexus RX 300 our “I” rating. The RX 300 comes with the option of an all-wheel-drive powertrain and has decent tires, fine ground clearance, and solid approach and departure angles. Unfortunately, it does not have a very strong engine.
Your RX 300 is capable of handling dirt roads and easy trails. If you’re looking to take on more serious terrain, you should probably purchase another vehicle.

The best off-road alternatives to the 2003 Lexus RX 300

Again, your 2003 Lexus RX 300 can handle easy off-road adventures. Stick to well-groomed trails and you’ll be fine.
But how does the RX 300 stack up against competing SUVs? Below is a quick overview of some of the RX 300’s closest competitors:
Best available alternative
2005 Toyota Highlander
The 2005 Toyota Highlander is a reliable SUV with a 160-horsepower, four-cylinder engine.
Best affordable alternative
2003 Pontiac Vibe
The 2003 Pontiac Vibe is a solid little SUV with a 1.8-liter, 130-horsepower engine.
Fuel-smart alternative
2004 Toyota Camry Solara
The 2004 Camry Solara gets 33 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in the city.
MORE: Cheap off-road trucks
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