Through the past four generations spanning more than two decades, the Lexus RX has been a perennial leader among midsize luxury utility vehicles. The recently introduced fifth-generation 2023 model is poised to continue in this position by expanding the variety of trim levels and powertrain choices.
The latest RX, which replaces the previous seven-year-old design, is based on a new platform that Lexus says provides a lower centre of gravity and trims about 90 kilograms. Overall length remains about the same, but the distance between the front and rear wheels has increased by more than five centimetres, which benefits rear legroom. Cargo volume is up slightly and load-floor height has also been lowered for easier access.
Lexus has retained the RX’s general appearance, including the signature spindle grille, but it appears less exaggerated, as do the headlight shapes. The doors and fenders have also been smoothed, while the floating-style rear roof pillars maintain their familiar look. Behind them, a new taillight bar extends the full width of the vehicle.
As with most new cars, the interior is dominated by an infotainment screen (up to 14 inches depending on the model) that appears to extend from the gauges. The rest of the layout is familiar, although the previous shifter — massive by today’s standards — has been replaced by a much smaller toggle unit.
At least for now, the RX is only being offered with two rows of seats. Lexus hasn’t indicated when, or if, the seven-passenger extended-length version will return to the lineup.
For 2023, the all-wheel-drive RX consists of six trim levels and four powertrains. For the latter, the choices begin with the RX 350 that comes with a turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder producing 275 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque.
The RX 350h hybrid gets a non-turbo 2.4-litre four-cylinder and an electric motor. Net output is 246 horsepower and 233 pound-feet.
An eight-speed automatic transmission is linked to the turbo engine, while a continuously variable unit (CVT) connects to the hybrid.
A new model for 2023, the RX 500h F Sport Performance hybrid combines the turbo 2.4 with an electric motor and six-speed automatic transmission to deliver 367 horsepower and 406 pound-feet.
Later in the model year, the RX 450h+ will join the group. It’s expected to employ the same plug-in hybrid system used in the smaller NX 450h, which puts out 302 horsepower.
According to Lexus, the 500h F Sport Performance can reel off zero-to-60-mph (96 km/h) times of less than six-seconds, which is more than a second quicker than the AWD RX 350.
Combined city/highway fuel consumption for the base RX 350 is estimated at 9.9 l/100 km which reduces to 6.5 l/100 km for the RX 350h. That’s a 34-per-cent improvement.
The base Standard trim starts at $60,800 (including destination fees). The range ends with the $80,000-plus RX500h F Sport Handling and F Sport Performance versions.
Lexus’ Safety System+ 3.0 is standard on all models. It includes emergency braking, with cyclist and pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. Optional is blind-spot detection with rear backup assist, while Curve Speed Management helps keep the RX at a safe speed when entering a turn at more than 50 km/h.
Compared with the competition, which includes luminaries such as the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE and Cadillac XT5, the Lexus RX’s abundance of trim and powertrain options places it at the leading edge of the group.
Although it’s perhaps not the most attractive member in its class, the RX shouldn’t be overlooked when considering a luxury tall wagon.
What you should know: 2023 Lexus RX
Type: Front- /all-wheel-drive midsize utility vehicle
Engines (h.p.): 2.4-liter I-4, turbocharged (275); 2.5-liter I-4 with electric motor (246); 2.4-liter I-4, turbocharged, with electric motor (367)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic; CVT (opt.); six-speed automatic (F Sport)
Market position: The Lexus RX represents serious competition for the rest of the upscale pack, however few, if any, offer the range of power systems that the RX does.
Points: Styling is similar to that of the previous model, with only subtle adjustments that clean up the appearance. • The range of powertrains provides something for nearly everyone. • Some buyers might be disappointed by the missing model with three rows of seats. • Sportier plug-in version with limited electric-only propulsion is in the works. • The new model should prove as popular as the previous one.
Driver assist: Blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); automatic emergency front braking (std.); inattentive-driver alert (opt.); lane-departure warning (std.); pedestrian detection (std.)
MPG (city/hwy combined): 24 (RX 350)
Base price (incl. destination): $50,000 (est.)
- Base price: $82,850
- Popular and fun to drive; x-Drive50i makes up to 617 horsepower.
- Base price: $74,600
- G80 sedan-based utility is well equipped. Turbo I-4 and V-6 engines.
- Base price: $65,400
- Performance-themed model offers three turbo engines up to 434 h.p.
– written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media