2023 Lexus RX First Drive Review: The best seller gets sweeter

The Lexus RX crossover is easily the brand’s best selling vehicle, so the arrival of an all-new RX is a big deal. This fall Lexus is introducing the fifth generation 2023 RX, which is available in four different versions at launch. Overall Lexus has added a bit more sport to the RX, with a much improved interior.

2023 Lexus RX Review

On the outside the 2023 RX’s dimensions are close to the last generation with the new one being the same length as before, although the wheelbase has been stretched 2.4-inches to provide more interior space.

The new RX is also an inch wider and slightly shorter. Overall the styling of the new RX helps the popular crossover stand out more. At the front the spindle grille has evolved into what Lexus calls a “spindle body” which blends into the front fascia more, since the chrome grille surround has been deleted. Its face is more imposing than before with larger headlights. As you move back, you’ll notice the more pronounced fenders that give it a sportier stance and at the rear the taillights are now connected with a light bar. If you liked the styling of the last RX, you’ll easily like the new one.

Inside the 2023 RX gets a much upgraded interior that is far more modern than the outgoing model. In front of the driver there’s a standard 7-inch digital instrument cluster, while a head-up display is optional. The steering wheel does take a bit to get used to, since the capacitive pads are used for most of the controls. The big news is the addition of the new infotainment system, which comes in either a 9.8-inch or 14-inch screen, which is now operated via a touchscreen. Yes that means the old annoying Remote Touch controller has been deleted. The system is an improvement, but it is a bit annoying that most of the settings are only accessible via the touchscreen, like the driving modes.

2023 Lexus RX Review

The new infotainment system looks far more modern than the last one and can also be operated via voice-recognition by simply saying “Hey, Lexus” to make a command. The system also features streaming services like Apple Music, Amazon Music and Spotify. A Wi-Fi hotspot is there too and if you want to override the infotainment system you can still use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, wirelessly.

On the safety front, the new RX gets the Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 suite of tech features, that includes a forward collision warning system that better detects incoming vehicles, steering assistance and a new optional Traffic Jam Assist system that allows for hands-free driving at low speeds. The frustrating part is that the driver inattention warning system seemed a bit too sensitive since it would alert us to pay attention to the road, even when we were still looking forward. One new feature is the Pro-active Drive Assist system that uses the info from the navigation system and visual data from the onboard cameras to slow the RX when entering a corner or driving downhill.

The 2023 Lexus RX will initially be offered in three distinct versions. The base is the RX 350, which will easily be the most popular version. It’s now powered by a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 275 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque, that’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The new engine has an additional 50 lb-ft. compared to the outgoing V6, which adds a bit more pep to the mix. The RX 350 can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds with all-wheel drive. The RX 350 is available with either front- or all-wheel drive. With FWD it’s rated at 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined, which drops down to 21/28/24 mpg with AWD.

If you want a more fuel efficient option, there’s the RX 350h AWD, which is powered by the brand’s familiar 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid system that powers the front wheels and an electric motor that powers the rear. The hybrid powertrain generates 246 hp and 233 lb-ft. of torque. The good news is that it gets 37 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 36 mpg combined. This means that the RX 350h will be the most fuel efficient version, at least for now, but it’s also the slowest with since it needs 7.4 seconds to reach 60 mph.

2023 Lexus RX Review

Now if you’ve been wanting Lexus to add a sportier RX to the lineup, you’ll be happy with the arrival of the RX 500h F Sport. It’s powered by a 2.4-liter turbo and an integrated electric motor at the front and a 80-kW motor/generator at the rear. The RX 500h uses a six-speed automatic and it’s all-wheel drive is a more sophisticated system called Direct4. The RX 500h generates a total 366 hp and 406 lb-ft. The RX 500h is easily the quickest model in the lineup with a 0-60 mph time of 5.9 seconds. It also gets adaptive dampers, beefier brakes and bigger wheels. There’s also the Dynamic Rear Steering system which adds up to 4 degrees of rear-wheel steering in either the same or opposite direction of the front wheels. The RX 500h is rated at 27 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined, which means it provides the best of both worlds, power and efficiency.

The fourth version, which isn’t ready to launch in the US yet, is the RX 450h plug-in hybrid. Lexus hasn’t announced when it will arrive in the US, but it will launch in Europe first. The RX PHEV is powered by the same 2.5-liter hybrid system as the 350h, but it gets a larger 18.1-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery instead of the nickel-metal hybrid battery. Lexus hasn’t released any specs for the RX 450h.

The 2023 Lexus RX is slated to arrive by the end of the year with the three versions, which also get six trim levels Standard, Premium, Premium Plus, Luxury, F Sport Handling and F Sport Performance. Lexus has not announced the pricing.

With its sportier styling and more modern interior, the RX is destined to retain its best seller title in the lineup. The new RX has something for everyone with its three different powertrains and we welcome the updated tech features.

Katherine E. Ackerman

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