The Lexus RX has been a staple mid-luxury crossover SUV for 24 years, satisfying its loyal consumer base with reliability, technology, and safety. But, no, it’s never wowed you with extraordinary design statements in the past. Still, the all-new 2023 RX, which shares the same platform as the latest NX will attempt to do that with a seamless grille integrated into the bumper, a sea of tranquil color options (10 total) including Copper Crest and Matador Red Mica, and F Sport Performance variants.
Launching with six grades, the new RX goes head-to-head with the Acura MDX, BMW X5, Volvo XC90, and Mercedes-Benz GLE and focuses on the highly educated, creative professionals, and open-minded visionaries in their late 40s to early 50s. Currently, the average age of an RX buyer is the mid to late 60s, so there is much work to be accomplished on the Lexus marketing side. A few ideas to reach a younger demographic is to pair the vehicle with health and wellness activities, culinary and wine happenings, and curated hotel events. The segment leader also wishes to increase awareness of the popular model while promoting its hybrid electric and performance hybrid technologies. We are ushering into an age where electrification is taking precedence over fossil fuel mobility; thus, the shift to green energy and carbon-free education must increase exponentially.
During my test drive of the 2023 Lexus RX in Santa Barbara, CA I was able to experience the various models in the lineup which feature four all-new electrified powertrains, incorporating a first-ever PHEV to be announced later in the US. The RX 350 comes in FWD or AWD and pairs with the 2.4-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder and distributes 275-horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque. It unites with an 8-speed automatic transmission and the 216-cell battery is located below the rear seat. This package is pretty efficient with 29 combined MPG. Next up is the RX 350h AWD with a 34 combined MPG. The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine connects with a hybrid motor to produce 246-horsepower and 233 lb.-ft. of torque. However, I am not a fan of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) which struggles upon acceleration and is quite whiny. The RX 500h F SPORT Performance AWD is my powertrain of choice with a 2.4-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder, 6-speed automatic, and integrated Power Control Unit and electric motor. The combo generates 366-horsepower and 406 lb.-ft. of torque and reaches 60 miles from zero in 5.9 seconds. DIRECT4 AWD enhanced the cornering control and overall handling of the RX on the curvy Cali roads. Lastly, the RX 450h+ AWD plug-in will feature a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, an 18.1-kWh lithium-ion battery, and a rear E-Four motor. Sounds fun and sustainable!
Now here is where things get tricky from a selection standpoint. I counted 10 RX renditions for the 2023 model, so Lexus loyalists and newcomers will have to do their research before settling on the most fitting RX for their lifestyle. The RX 350 is offered in Standard, Premium, Premium+, Luxury, and F SPORT Handling (AWD only) trims. The RX 350h comes as Standard, Premium, Premium+, and Luxury. And then you have the one-and-only RX 500h F SPORT Performance AWD. Keep in mind that F SPORT Performance provides no added engine enhancements as it’s mostly an appearance package along with DIRECT 4 AWD for 80% rear torque and Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) with four degrees of steering articulation. This stealthy package, my favorite, also features 21” Black Matte 10-spoke alloy rims, Michelin Pilot SPORT 4 SUV summer tires, black 6-piston aluminum front brake calipers, aerodynamic trim pieces, two pieces rotors, and dark chrome window trim. The interior (either Black or Rioja Red) features a thick, thumb-indented F S SPORT performance steering wheel with paddle shifters, F SPORT aluminum pedals, F SPORT instrumentation, and bolstered seats. Although, the bolstering is not adjustable like Mercedes-Benz models, making the seat too narrow for my torso. The 14” Lexus Interface multimedia display and Navigation are sophisticated as well. My only grip is the one knob for volume but the system lacks a tuning knob. Two large temperature dials dominate the center stack.
A few keynotes regarding the 2023 Lexus RX highlight the following:
- 198 pounds lighter than the prior model
- Tailgate opens/closes three seconds faster
- A new digital latch opens the doors
- Interiors can have embossed ultra-suede or leather trim
- Tabs in the rear cargo area drop the second-row seats
- Drive mode (Normal, Eco, Sport) is engaged through the screen
- Panorama glass roof
- 21-speaker Mark Levinson PurePlay Surround Sound
- Six USB ports and a wireless charger
- Premium Triple-Beam LED headlamps
Of course, safety is always at the forefront with Lexus including Lexus Safety System + 3.0 (LSS+3.0), Traffic Jam Assist, Digital Latch with Safe Exit Assist, Panoramic View Monitor, Advanced Park, and Head-Up Display to name a few. LSS+3.0 is an advanced suite of active engagement packages such as Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Motorcycle Detection, Intersection Support, and Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection.
Pricing will be announced shortly for the 2023 Lexus RX.