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Luxury SUV is lighter and has more interior room than its predecessor
2023 Lexus RX 500h
By Jon Linkov
Following the introduction of the redesigned NX luxury compact SUV, Lexus has taken the wraps off the redesigned 2023 RX 350, RX 350h, and RX 450h+ SUVs.
Like the smaller NX, the 2023 RX will offer four new powertrains that use turbocharging or hybridization, or employ both technologies. Three of the engines will be available at launch, with a plug-in hybrid version arriving at a later date.
This is the fifth generation of the RX, which was among the first luxury SUVs when it arrived in 1998. Since then, the RX has added more luxury, a hybrid version, a three-row version, and sportier F Sport trims.
The RX also features the Lexus Safety System+ 3.0, which brings a generous roster of active safety and driver assistance features, including forward collision warning (FCW), automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, and a number of new capabilities beyond those now familiar and appreciated safety and driver assistance systems.
There will be six available grades: Standard, Premium, Premium+, Luxury, F Sport Handling, and F Sport Performance.
Pricing for the redesigned 2023 Lexus RX has not been announced. It goes on sale in late 2022.
Here’s what we know so far.
What it competes with: Audi Q7, BMW X5, Cadillac XT5, Genesis GV80, Jaguar F-Pace, Lincoln Nautilus, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Porsche Cayenne
What it looks like: A softer, less angular version of the current RX, with a higher hood, a lower roofline, and some elements from the redesigned Lexus NX thrown in.
Powertrains: 275-hp, 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder; 246-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid; 367-hp, 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder hybrid; and plug-in hybrid (details not released). The 2.4-liter turbo is mated to an eight-speed automatic, the 2.5-liter hybrid is mated to an electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT), and the turbo hybrid uses a six-speed-automatic transmission. The 2.4-liter turbo is available with front- or all-wheel drive, while the 2.5-liter hybrid and 2.4-liter turbo hybrid are all-wheel drive.
Price: $47,000-$67,000 (estimated)
On sale: Late fall 2022
In the face of new competition, particularly from the Genesis brand, Lexus is under pressure to keep its sales leadership in the popular luxury SUV segment. To achieve that, the automaker not only has made the new RX lighter, but also has abandoned its long-running, supersmooth 3.5-liter V6 engine in favor of turbocharged and hybridized four-cylinder engines, in order to achieve better fuel economy. On top of that, there’s a new performance powertrain that, on paper, goes a long way to bolster the credibility of the sporty F Sport version.
The RX has always been a super-refined, supple, and quiet vehicle that embodied stress-free motoring. It also benefited from Lexus’ reliability reputation and highly regarded customer service. We welcome the move away from the fussy touchpad interface for the infotainment system, but we aren’t convinced that the new gear selector and electronic door handles are moves in the right direction.
With the fifth-generation RX, Lexus continues to dial back on the aggressive, polarizing styling. As such, it might not stand out in a parking lot, but it is still instantly recognizable as a Lexus. Like its two most recent predecessors, the RX still sports Lexus’ signature “spindle” grille. But the other sharp, sometimes harsh, angles of the last RX have been smoothed out and softened. The result is that the RX looks a lot like an inflated version of the small, entry-level UX. The hoodline appears taller and more squared-off at the front, without the sloping flow into the grille that the last RX featured. The headlights and front air intakes are boxier, and the bottom of the spindle has a shallower angle. In short, the SUV doesn’t appear to want to eat pedestrians as much as it wants to shoo them away.
The sides of the RX are similarly restrained. Gone is the scalloped cut at the bottom of the doors, replaced by a softer, upward sweeping line that blends into the rear wheel arch. The shoulder line just above the door handles rises up to meet the trim at the back of the rear-door window, where it blends into the blacked-out trim that attempts to make the roof appear as if it’s floating (shown at bottom), detached from the rest of the bodywork. At that point the painted sheet metal slopes down to the taillights.
With the tall and long hood, large doors, and sloping roofline, the RX doesn’t appear to have a very generous greenhouse, much like we found with the newly redesigned NX. The overall effect is of a squat, somewhat squished SUV.
The 2023 Lexus RX 500h offers a panoramic sunroof as an option.
Like the other new and recently redesigned vehicles from Toyota (bZ4X, Sequoia, and Tundra) and Lexus (NX), the dominant element is a large touch screen (shown below) that flows into the instrument cluster and feels integrated into the dashboard rather than perched above it as in the previous generation.
A large, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel greets the driver and frames the digital gauge cluster. With the demise of the reviled Lexus Remote Touch controller system (not just us, owners dislike it too!) in favor of the aforementioned touch screen, there is room for two large cup holders, a closed bin for phone charging, and a large armrest. These are also possible because Lexus did away with the conventional gear selector, incorporating the one that is used in the NX. In our first drive of the new NX we said the gear selector “is a little nub that reminds of a dog’s docked tail, like on a Rottweiler. It does not move in a linear fashion.” Instead, you need to move it to the left in an L-shaped, fore and aft pattern.
With the 2023 Lexus RX interior the automaker incorporated a touch screen.
The infotainment system uses touch-screen-based controls for almost every audio, climate, and navigation feature. There are hard controls for volume, front and rear defrosters, and adjusting the driver- and passenger-side temperature, but that is pretty much it. However, some audio functions can be handled through the controls on the steering wheel. A 14-inch screen is optional, but Lexus doesn’t indicate the size of the standard screen on the RX. Lower trims in the NX get a 9.8-inch screen with the same functionality.
While the interior of the F Sport has dark panels throughout, with silver accent trim and red leather panels on the center console and doors, the RX 350 interior has a softer feel with contrasting colors, padded door panels, wood (or wood-look) trim, and seats that are shaped more for comfort and relaxation than preventing the occupant from sliding about during sporty driving.
One notable feature from the NX is carried over to the RX: the e-Latch door system. As we experienced with the NX, the exterior handle doesn’t move. Instead, the release is triggered by a hidden button on the backside of the handle. The story is the same on the inside, where an electronic button replaces a traditional door latch. We found this “digital latch” handle fussy for passengers to figure out how to let themselves out. And yes, there is an emergency latch both inside and out for manual operation, should the vehicle lose power.
According to Lexus, the wheelbase of the new RX is more than 2 inches longer than the previous generation’s. This, combined with other elements of the all-new platform, results in more legroom for rear passengers. Lexus also claims that cargo room has been increased, although measurements have not been provided for comparison.
What Drives It
The 2023 Lexus RX will launch with four all-new powertrains, all of which use either turbocharging or some form of hybridization. Of note, it seems that the RX, much like the freshened 2023 Toyota Highlander, will no longer offer a V6 engine.
The RX 350 will be available with front- or all-wheel drive and comes with a 275-hp, 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed automatic. Lexus estimates the 350 will get 24 mpg combined in the Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy tests.
Lexus is using the 350h designation for the main hybrid version of the RX line. This fourth-generation hybrid RX gets a 246-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a “large capacity” hybrid system with an eCVT. It will be available only with all-wheel drive, and Lexus estimates it will return 33 mph combined. We got 29 mpg overall in our test of the V6-powered RX 450h.
A plug-in-hybrid version of the RX, called 450h+, will be unveiled at a later date.
The final powertrain will be available in the RX 500h F-Sport Performance version: a 367-hp, 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, six-speed automatic transmission, inverter and electric motor, and, in the rear, what Lexus calls an eAxle that combines an electric motor, an inverter, and a reduction gearbox. This gearbox helps a smaller motor generate more torque. Even though it’s a more powerful performance model, it’s still estimated by the automaker to get 26 mpg combined.
In theory, this finally gives the RX F Sport a performance powertrain, going beyond the suspension upgrades and sporty cosmetic appearance add-ons that typically were used to distinguish the F Sport from the rest of the RX line.
The cargo area of the 2023 Lexus RX 500h can be expanded by folding down one or all of the rear seats.
Safety and Driver Assistance Systems
While the automaker still uses proprietary names for many of its active safety features, at least the 2023 Lexus RX will come standard with the most inclusive of the four flavors of the Lexus Safety System+. Curiously, Lexus makes no mention of blind spot warning, although that feature is standard on the outgoing RX.
In addition to forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and bicyclist detection, the LSS+ 3.0 system includes a new motorcycle detection feature.
Other standard systems include all-speed adaptive cruise control, which also adjust the vehicle’s speed around curves; lane departure warning; lane keeping assistance; and automatic high beams.
The optional Advanced Park system will automatically parallel park, back in, or nose-in park the RX.
The roof of the 2023 Lexus RX 500h appears to float away from the bodywork at the rear.
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