Lexus rolled out an all-new version of the most popular nameplate in its history, and the 2023 Lexus RX gets far more than just a new design.
The fifth-generation crossover is loaded with new luxury and technology. It’s lighter, sportier and offers buyers four new powertrain options — including a first-ever plug-in hybrid, the 2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance model.
During a debut at parent company Toyota’s headquarters in Plano, Texas, Lexus officials offered a first look at the new RX. Long seen as the go-to model for soccer moms, the luxury brand hopes to polish its image, aiming for younger buyers who want a crossover that’s not only roomy but also fun to drive.
“Nothing exemplifies our commitment to the transformation we’re making as a brand and next chapter for Lexus product more than the renewal of our best-selling vehicle — the RX,” said Andrew Gilleland, group vice president and general manager, Lexus Division. “We’re breathing new life into the segment-leading RX with enhanced safety and technology, human-centered design and undeniable performance from a diverse mix of powertrains.”
A ground-up makeover
Set to reach showrooms later this year, the 2023 RX has gone through a complete transformation. It’s new GA-K platform has a lower center of gravity which, Lexus officials promise, will enhance its handling. And shedding 198 pounds compared to the old model won’t hurt. That also will help deliver improved fuel economy.
Lexus did note the crossover’s new “base” engine, a turbocharged 2.4-liter inline-4, will make 275 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque and get mileage initially estimated at 24 mpg combined. The outgoing RX 350’s 3.5-liter V-6 manages 295 hp but only 268 lb-ft of torque.
The new RX 350 will be paired with an 8-speed automatic and offered in a choice of either front- or all-wheel drive.
Buyers also will get the choice of a conventional hybrid, the RX 350h. It pairs a 2.5-lite inline-4 engine with the now-familiar Lexus two-motor hybrid system to make a combined 246 hp and 233 lb-ft. This package will get a combined 33 mpg. The hybrid package uses a CVT gearbox and is offered solely in all-wheel drive.
Pumping up performance
For those who want maximum pep, the RX 500h uses a new hybrid system putting the emphasis on performance while still delivering solid fuel economy of 26 mpg — and adding the ability to travel 42 miles in all-electric mode. The new package punches out 367 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. The rear e-axle helps maximize low-end grunt, allowing the Performance model to launch from 0-to-60 in 5.9 seconds.
Power is directed through a 6-speed automatic and the 500h becomes the first version of the RX equipped with the brand’s sport-oriented Direct4 all-wheel-drive system.
The fourth new powertrain package will be offered in the RX 450h. It’s also a plug-in hybrid but Lexus says specific details “will be shared at a later time.”
“It’s the franchise”
Since it went on sale in early 1998, the RX has been the Lexus brand’s bestseller. “It’s the franchise,” Senior Vice President Jack Hollis said as the new model rolled out onto the stage.
The basic dimensions of the 2023 model are virtually unchanged, at 192.5 inches in length, and a wheelbase of 112.2 inches. It sits 66.7 inches tall, with a width of 75.6 inches.
But the look is significantly different, starting with a new take on the familiar Lexus “spindle grille.” It flows more smoothly into the front end, Lexus now describing it as the “spindle body design.” The grille is framed by wide LED headlamps featuring Nike-swoosh-like running lamps and, lower down, air curtains meant to reduce mileage-robbing turbulence around the front wheels.
The overall look, with its sweeping roofline, integrated spoiler and rising character line, is meant to give the 2023 Lexus RX family a more planted and sporty appearance.
The RX 500h gets a number of unique touches, including a mesh grille, a unique front bumper and 21-inch aluminum wheels. It also boasts six-piston brake calipers.
A peek inside
While the interior takes on a bit more sporty feel, the RX still offers the sort of details that has made it the bestseller in its segment — starting with the higher seating position and plenty of space for family and friends. The crossover will add features like a head-up display and the new Lexus infotainment system with its optional 14-inch touchscreen.
That package features an entirely new user interface allowing a motorist to control a wide range of vehicle functions by simply saying, “Hey, Lexus,” and adding commands in plain English.
On the F Sport Performance plug-in, the interior adds a perforated leather-trimmed steering wheel with paddle shifters, aluminum pedals and other sporty details.
Plenty of tech
The 2023 RX gets the latest version of the automaker’s advanced driver assistance technology, the Lexus Safety System+ 3.0. It includes features such as pre-collision warning with pedestrian and motorcycle detection, active cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist and more. An auto park system is optional.
While there’ll be more trim and powertrain packages than ever for 2023, the longer, three-row version of the crossover won’t be back in 2023. Not as an RX, anyway. Later this year, Lexus will launch an all-new TX nameplate instead.
Look for the 2023 Lexus RX line to begin rolling out later this year. The automaker will announce pricing closer to that launch time but, like most manufacturers, few would be surprised to see Lexus raise prices due to the semiconductor shortage and increased parts and raw material costs.