2023 Lexus RX Review
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First Drive: 2023 Lexus RX Review

The RX, the original premium crossover that debuted in 1998 and is now the best-selling Lexus in North America, begins its fifth generation when the all-new 2023 model goes on sale later this year.

Sporting not only a fresh design, but also new models, powertrains, and technology, the 2023 RX represents a significant milestone in the electrification plans of Lexus, as it will be sold as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), a first for the RX nameplate. 

Canada Drives recently traveled to southern California to test drive the new RX and get a closer look at what it has to offer.

Key Features:

  • First-ever 500h F Sport Performance hybrid and RX 450h+ plug-in hybrid models join the lineup
  • Lexus Interface with available 14-inch touchscreen (9.8-inch touchscreen standard)
  • Lexus Safety System+ 3.0

Direct Competitors:

  • Audi Q5
  • BMW X5
  • Cadillac XT5

Gone is the 3-row RX SUV 

It could be argued that the RX SUV doesn’t have any natural competitors, given that its size, lack of third row seating and pricing (based on the outgoing model) don’t neatly align with many of its competitors. For 2023, Lexus is opting to discontinue the third-row RX-L model, reverting the RX back to a two-row, five-seat SUV only. 

2023 Lexus RX 350h | Photo: Amee Reehal 

It is worth noting, however, that the RX is cross-shopped with three-row entries such as the Acura MDX and Audi Q7, and Lexus officials consider SUVs of this type to be RX competitors.

4 Lexus RX offerings on tap for 2023

RX 350, RX 350h, RX 450h+, and RX 500h F Sport Performance

The 2023 RX will feature four basic offerings: RX 350 AWD (gas), RX 350h AWD (gas hybrid), RX 450h+ AWD (plug-in hybrid), and RX 500h F Sport Performance AWD (gas hybrid).

All will be available at launch later this year, except for the RX 450h+ plug-in hybrid, which will arrive sometime later. Lexus officials weren’t specific about its arrival, but it could be sometime in 2023.

2023 Lexus RX Canadian pricing, options, and trim levels

Pricing for the 2023 Lexus RX has not been released but should be announced closer to launch in late Fall 2022. For reference, the outgoing 2022 RX has a starting MSRP of $57,500. 

Options & 2023 RX trims

Depending on grade, the 2023 RX has a variety of options available, mostly on the tech and advanced safety fronts. Some can be ordered stand-alone, but many are packaged into trims in the RX grade walk. 

2023 Lexus RX 350h | Photo: Amee Reehal 

For instance, the base RX 350 is subdivided into seven trims: Premium, Luxury, Ultra-Luxury, Executive, F Sport Series 1, F Sport Series 2, and F Sport Series 3. Items such as a 14-inch multimedia touchscreen, 21-inch alloy wheels, panoramic moonroof, heated and ventilated rear seats and wireless phone charger are standard issue with the Luxury grade. 

The next grade up, Ultra-Luxury, adds a slew of advanced safety kit, including traffic jam assist, lane change assist, front cross traffic alert and more. 

The RX 350h (Premium, Luxury, Ultra-Luxury and Executive) and RX 500h (F Sport Performance, DIRECT4 AWD) offer similar packaging options. The trim breakdown for the RX 450h+ had not been released as of this writing. 

2023 Lexus RX interior

2023 Lexus RX interior | Photo: Amee Reehal 

Like its smaller NX sibling, the 2023 RX’s cabin is dominated by the presence of the new Lexus Interface. Gone are annoyances from Lexus’ past like the fussy touchpad and mouse-like controller, and in their place is a standard 9.8-inch multimedia touchscreen, with a 14-inch unit available as an option. 

Both screens run on new software that support cloud navigation, points of interest data powered by Google, and available Intelligent Assistant, which uses a “hey Lexus” voice prompt to awaken the system. Users can then use voice commands to read texts, ask for directions and more. 

2023 Lexus RX interior | Photo: Amee Reehal 

Both screens also support wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Two rear USB-C outlets are available in the 40/20/40 power split-folding rear seat, with a total of six throughout the vehicle.

As for the interior design aesthetic, Lexus is employing the Tazuna concept in the RX which places all vital controls and information from the instrument cluster and optional head-up display within easy reach of the driver and their sightline. Trim materials in the cabin are a mix of high-quality soft-touch plastics, fabrics, and metallic accents. 

2023 Lexus RX interior | Photo: Amee Reehal 

Standard equipment includes a 7-inch full digital instrument cluster display, e-latch doors with safe exit assist, 12-speaker audio, 19-inch alloy wheels, moonroof, heated steering wheel, NuLuxe synthetic seating, ventilated front seats and a lot more.

2023 Lexus RX interior | Photo: Amee Reehal 

New RX engine, performance, and drive impressions

RX 450h Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV)

The 2023 RX has four powertrain options, but given the later availability of the RX 450h+, we’ll just focus on the three arriving at launch.

RX 350 (gas) and RX 350h (hybrid)

2023 Lexus RX 350 | Photo: Amee Reehal 

The RX 350 is powered by a 2.4-litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine (275 hp / 317 lb-ft.) paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The RX 350h receives a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder, 2-motor hybrid married to an electronic CVT that produces 246 total horsepower and 233 lb-ft. of torque.

RX 500h F Sport Performance (hybrid): the 366 horsepower range-topper

Finally, the RX 500h F Sport Performance is powered by a 2.4-litre 4-cylinder 1-motor hybrid (366 hp / 406 lb-ft.) paired with a wet-clutch 6-speed automatic transmission. All three come with standard AWD, with the hybrids utilizing an electric motor located on the rear axle to provide near-immediate acceleration on low-grip surfaces.

We drove three RX models on roughly 45-minute loops near Santa Barbara, plus another roughly one-hour trip back and forth to our hotel. On the way to the vineyard staging ground, we drove a RX 350h and on the way back it was in a RX 350. We drove both models again in between, along with the RX 500h and had a brief 10-minute jaunt in the RX 450h+.

2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance | Photo: Amee Reehal 

All models, particularly the RX 350 and RX 500h F Sport Performance, impressed. In general, the 2023 RX delivers a smooth, quiet, and composed ride with solid, in not neck-snapping, performance. The cabin offers excellent seating, good visibility, and plenty of room for passengers, both up front and in back. 

The RX 350 and RX 500h F Sport Performance, get special mention for their quick acceleration, sharp handling, and general performance feel. The RX 500h F Sport Performance is the fastest Lexus SUV we’ve ever driven, and its DIRECT4 AWD system provides a responsive feel both in terms of acceleration and handling that is uncommon in the segment.

Towing, fuel consumption

The 2023 RX has a 2,000-pound (907 kg) towing capacity. Fuel consumption figures had not been at time of writing.

Verdict: is the next-generation Lexus RX worth buying?

2023 Lexus RX 350h (left) and 450h+ (right) | Photo: Amee Reehal 

The RX has been the best-selling Lexus in North America for some time, and expectations for the 2023 model are high. Lexus is forecasting 20 percent sales growth for the new model, with the intention of keeping it the number one vehicle in its segment. 

Based on the wide array of powertrains, trims, and technology we experienced in California, the 2023 RX is a good bet to achieve those goals. The new RX really delivers the premium experience, and with more available performance with the 500h F Sport Performance and a plug-in model on the way, its appeal should only grow.

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