The Lexus RX was the first mid-size luxury SUV to hit the market, debuting in 1998. The premium hauler gets a complete redesign for 2023, along with the first-ever 500h F Sport Performance and RX-first PHEV. Take a closer look.
At first glance, the RX SUV looks a lot like its smaller NX sibling, which was completely redesigned for 2022. The new RX’s cockpit appears to be a slightly larger version of the one in the NX, with a 7-inch digital instrument cluster and small electronic gear shifter, as well as the new Lexus Interface with an available 14-inch multimedia touchscreen (a 9.8-inch unit is standard).
The cabin is a spacious mix of high-quality plastics, fabrics, and metallic finishes that all fit together well and exude quality. The design is simple, but it looks and feels much more modern than the previous model.
There’s a lot of standard content here. The base 350 includes a moonroof, heated steering wheel, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, e-latch doors with safe exit assist, 12-speaker audio, and 19-inch alloy wheels, among other features.
We drove all four Lexus powertrains in California and were impressed with each. The following are the powertrains:
- RX 350 AWD – 2.4L turbocharged inline 4-cylinder (275 hp / 317 lb-ft.) engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission
- RX 350h AWD – 2.5L 4-cylinder hybrid with two motors (246 hp / 233 lb-ft combined), electronic CVT
- RX 500h F Sport Performance AWD – 2.4L turbocharged 4-cylinder, 1-motor hybrid (366 horsepower / 406 pound-feet), 6-speed automatic transmission
- RX 450h+ AWD – 2.5L 4-cylinder with 18.1-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and E-four motor – horsepower and torque figures are unknown.
The base RX 350 and the RX 500h F Sport Performance were the standouts among these. We were expecting to be impressed by the latter, officially known as the 500h F Sport Performance AWD, but the former surprised me.
The RX 350’s 2.4L turbo engine delivers quick acceleration, which, when combined with a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission and variable all-wheel drive, results in a lively performance machine. The AWD system can change the torque split from 75:25 front / rear to 50:50 depending on driving conditions, which greatly improves traction and handling.
The pre-production RX 350 we drove handled the undulating asphalt and decreasing radius turns on twisty California roads with ease. The steering felt precise, with little body lean.
The Lexus 500h F Sport Performance is the most powerful SUV I’ve ever driven. It promises better performance and actually delivers. The 2.4L turbo’s power is supplemented by a rear 80 kW eAxle, which consists of an inverter and an electric motor designed to provide near instant power to the rear wheels.
The 500h gets power to the ground quickly, both at rest and at speed, thanks to a high-output nickel-metal hydride battery and the DIRECT4 AWD system. The 6-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and precisely, and body roll is well controlled.
In general, all of the RX models I tested provided a quiet and composed ride, as well as a quiet cabin environment. The RX R350h and RX 450h+ aren’t known for their performance, but the power they do have is more than adequate for everyday driving.
The 2023 RX appears to be on track to continue the nameplate’s success in North America and beyond. Its new styling is unmistakably Lexus, but with enough modernization to distinguish it from its aging predecessor. Its cabin is packed with features, led by the new Lexus Interface and optional 14-inch multimedia touchscreen, but it’s also stylishly designed with excellent fit and finish.
With the addition of performance (500h) and efficiency-focused (450h+) models, the RX now has two more compelling reasons to choose Lexus in an extremely crowded and competitive compact / mid-size premium SUV segment.
The price of the Lexus RX 2023 is not yet known. It will be revealed closer to the on-sale date, which is set for this Fall. The current 2022 model has a base MSRP of $47,070 in the United States and $57,500 in Canada.