It is the Lexus RX. For more than a decade, the RX has offered an excellent balance of high-tech features, long-distance comfort and rock-solid resale value. So redesigning is no small challenge. Improving the best-selling recipe at any restaurant in town without screwing up must be nerve-wracking. Let’s see what Lexus has delivered with the all-new 2023 RX.
A nice makeover
Everyone knows an RX when they see it. The 2023 RX retains the classic round design that made it famous. But designers have honed it all around, with sharp hood lines and a floating roof design thanks to a darkened C-pillar.
The hallmark of every current Lexus design is the huge spindle-shaped grille. It’s been a love-it-or-hate-it look for years, but designers have recreated it here in an interesting way. It seems to fade as it comes up, merging neatly into the hood at the top. It’s a modern look. If you buy an RX this year, you’re probably driving it well into the era when grilleless electric cars are becoming commonplace. This subtle almost grille look will probably age well.
Four powertrains, three hybrid
Lexus engineers have worked wonders with V6 engines for the past decade. But they had moved on, artists working in new media in 2023.
The base RX 350 has a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder turbo that produces 275 horsepower. It sends the power through an 8-speed automatic transmission. Both front and four-wheel drive is available.
A more economical hybrid option. The RX 350h gets a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder coupled to a hybrid system. It sends power through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). That setup is good for 246 horsepower.
A plug-in hybrid RX 450h+ plug-in hybrid is on the way, but Lexus is keeping the details of that close at hand for now.
The headliner, however, is the RX 500h F Sport Performance Edition. It combines the turbocharged four-cylinder from the 350 with a pair of electric motors – one per axle – and a sporty tuned six-speed automatic transmission. The combination is good for 366 horsepower and 27 mpg combined.
Luxury, however, is more in handling than horsepower. What sets a true luxury car apart is a smooth ride on a leisurely commute and a snappy ride when the road opens up.
To that end, Lexus engineers have given the RX its most advanced suspension ever. MacPherson’s front struts are tuned for sharper turn-in, while the wishbones and bushings provide the cocoon-like highway ride Lexus is known for.
The F Sport Handling and F Sport Performance models receive an adaptive variable suspension that adapts the damping force of the shock absorbers almost immediately to the conditions. Our test rider found that it delivered “one of the quietest, most comfortable” rides in its price range, as well as “a welcome feeling of increased agility”.
A new level of technology
Lexus has never skimped on cabin technology, but the 2023 RX has one of the most advanced cabin technology suites on the market.
Using an available Traffic Jam Assist function, the car can steer, accelerate and brake itself through stop-and-go traffic.
The standard central touchscreen is 9.8 inches, a 14-inch model is available. But you will hardly need to use it. Just say “Hey Lexus” to access most features via voice commands. Designers have also thoughtfully added a volume knob so you can adjust the audio system without taking your eyes off the road.
An available head-up display gives you all the information you need right in front of the driver.
Our favorite feature may sound prosaic. The 2023 RX is available in a wide variety of colors. The automotive industry has made way for shades of gray in recent years. The RX is offered in a beautiful Nori Green Pearl, a vibrant blue called Nightfall Mica, and a vibrant Matador Red. Hybrid models get the Copper Crest option, a color like a polished penny that captures the late day sun beautifully. We hope the competition steals this trick from Lexus and colors get more interesting soon.