2023 Lexus RX Review:Driving Impressions

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | Sep 09, 2022

Introduction - Find the best Lexus deals!

Seven years is a long time in the highly competitive midsize premium SUV space, which is how long it’s been since Lexus last redesigned the RX for the 2016 model year. The RX has been the best-selling Lexus for more than a decade. In the calendar year 2021, the RX represented nearly 40 percent of all Lexus sales, cars and SUVs included. The RX also tops sales among midsize premium SUVs. Competitors include the Acura MDXBMW X5Cadillac XT5Infiniti QX60Lincoln NautilusMercedes-Benz GLE, and Volvo XC90.

Recently, Lexus pulled the kimono back on its all-new sixth-generation RX to journalists and auto writers. The Japanese luxury car company provided an opportunity to see and drive the trend-setting midsize premium SUV on a daylong evaluation over the winding two-lane roads near Santa Maria, California.

2023 Lexus RX Price and Release Date - Find the best Lexus deals!

For 2023, Lexus expands the RX’s portfolio to encompass a wider choice of powertrains and trim levels. There are now six trims: Standard, Premium, new Premium+, Luxury, F Sport Handling, and new F Sport Performance. All feature 5-passenger seating. Lexus has not yet tipped its hand as to whether it will once again offer an extended-length 7-passenger RX L with 3-row seating, which did not enjoy a high take rate in recent years. And with the new Lexus TX large luxury crossover SUV on the way, it’s even more doubtful that we’ll see another 3-row RX.

At the start of 2023 production, the RX will be available with a choice of three propulsion systems: the RX 350 with a turbocharged 4-cylinder, the RX 350h powered by a naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine and all-wheel-drive (AWDhybrid electric system, and a performance-oriented RX 500h with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and AWD hybrid electric system. Later in the 2023 model year, the RX 450h joins the lineup with a 4-cylinder engine and plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) system.

Lexus will release pricing for the 2023 RX closer to when the midsize luxury crossover SUV arrives in U.S. showrooms later in the 2022 calendar year. Including the $1,150 destination charge, prices for the 2022 model-year RX range from $47,050 to $55,670, not including options. It’s anticipated that 2023 RX pricing will increase incrementally, starting just under $50,000 and topping out near $60,000.

Independent Expert Opinion: Design, Comfort, and Utility - Find the best Lexus deals!

2023 Lexus RX 500h Copper Crest Front Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

It isn’t easy to talk about the design of the Lexus RX without noting its exterior. From its inception as a handsome, ground-breaking passenger-car-based crossover SUV in 1998 to the most extreme and expansive interpretation of its spindle-shaped grille for the 2016 model year, the RX has always been about its attention-grabbing design.

The 2023 redesign lops off the top of the former spindle-shaped grille opening between the headlamps, replacing it with a beak-shaped dome that continues the character lines of the hood into the top of the front fascia. However, Lexus largely retains the more extensive lower section of the previous spindle-shaped grille.

Inside, the 2023 RX offers a pleasing array of colors, shapes, and textures with soft-touch surfaces and high-quality materials. Dominating the front compartment is a re-imagined infotainment system with a large touchscreen that Lexus mounts closer to the driver. The center console is much more practical for storage now that the previous remote touch interface is gone, adding a useful covered compartment under the dash for small electronica and USB power points.

The front bucket seats are generously sized and comfortable for long jogs. F Sport trim adds extra lateral bolstering for torso-hugging support in the tricky bits. As you’d expect, the power-adjustable front buckets are heated and ventilated with Premium and higher trims. A power tilt/telescopic steering wheel is standard, as is a power liftgate.

New for the 2023 model year are electric-operated door handles inside and out that work in conjunction with new safe-exit technology for interior occupants. To open a door from the outside, one reaches behind the exterior door handle and depresses an electric switch. Exiting the cabin, one pushes the inside electric door release pad rather than reaching for a mechanical door release lever.

Lexus builds the new sixth-generation 2023 RX on the same GA-K platform as the compact Lexus NX crossover SUV. Although the new RX spans the same distance, bumper to bumper, as the outgoing 2022 iteration, Lexus added 2 inches of wheelbase to the 2023 model, presumably to enable more rear-seat legroom (which is ample). The wheels pushed closer to the corners and a slightly wider track help give the 2023 model a more road-ready look. Better filling the wheel wells for the 2023 model are standard 19-inch wheels, upgradable to 21s on the two F Sport trims. These replace the prior year’s 18- and 20-inchers, respectively. Also, Lexus moved the base of the windshield pillars rearward an inch, creating a more extended-looking hood long associated with luxury vehicles.

Independent Expert Opinion: Infotainment, Technology, and Safety - Find the best Lexus deals!

2023 Lexus RX 500h Interior Dashboard

Photo: Ron Sessions

The Lexus RX significantly improves its infotainment, safety, and advanced driving assistance systems for 2023. The most significant update is the adoption of the new Lexus Interface system. Already up and running in the 2022 Lexus NX and LX, the new system ditches the old console-mounted remote touch interface, adds improved voice-control functionality, and employs a touchscreen that is both closer to the driver and significantly larger. Two infotainment touchscreens are available for 2023: a 9.8-inch one replaces the previous year’s 8-inch display on Standard, Premium, and F Sport trims, and a 14-inch unit supersedes the 2022 model’s 12.3-inch one on Premium+ and Luxury trims, as well as those equipped with optional navigation.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto cellphone mirroring are on board, as well as integrated streaming of Apple or Amazon music. The voice-control technology with the new Lexus Interface system makes many cabin tasks, such as changing audio sources, adjusting climate control settings, and requesting navigation directions, much easier and quicker than before. The driver can push the voice-control button on the steering wheel or simply say a keyword prompt such as “Hey Lexus,” at which point the system responds to requests. The RX retains a rotary analog volume knob at the bottom of the infotainment screen, but otherwise, interactions with the system occur with steering-wheel buttons or the touchscreen itself.

New for 2023, Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 replaces LSS+ 2.0 used in the prior year’s model. It enhances the previous pre-collision system with intersection turn assistance, oncoming pedestrian detection during right and left turns with brake intervention, head-on vehicle detection, enhanced adaptive cruise control with speed reduction for curves, and enhanced lane-tracing and lane-centering assistance.

Also new for 2023 but not considered part of LSS+ 3.0 are traffic-jam assist and safe-exit technology. The former allows limited hands-free driving in congested traffic up to 25 mph. The safe-exit system uses the sensors from the blind-spot warning system to alert interior occupants with a beep if a vehicle or pedestrian is approaching from the rear blind spot.

Available Advanced Park is an active parking-assistance system that uses four cameras and a dozen ultrasonic sensors to enable automatic operation of the accelerator, brakes, steering, and gearshift to execute parallel and perpendicular parking maneuvers.

Independent Expert Opinion: Driving the 2023 Lexus RX - Find the best Lexus deals!

2023 Lexus RX 500h Copper Crest Rear Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

The big news for 2023 is that the Lexus RX moves from the V6 power that it has offered under the hood since its 1998 introduction to a choice of four available 4-cylinder powertrain configurations, all but one of them combined with hybrid electrification. All four were available for test drives at the recent media drive program along the Central California coast.

The 2023 RX 350 discontinues the prior model’s naturally aspirated 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 in favor of a turbocharged 275-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. As with most of the RX’s European midsize premium SUV competitors, Lexus did this to improve fuel economy, which the 2023 RX 350 turbo-4 accomplishes with a 2-mpg gain over the previous V6, according to Lexus estimates. The new 2.4-liter turbo-4 also develops nearly 20 percent more peak torque than the old V6. And, as with most turbocharged competitors, Lexus tuned the RX’s engine to develop its 317 pound-feet of torque over a broad engine-speed range, from just 1,700 rpm up to 3,600, which coincides nicely with most everyday driving situations.

Not surprisingly, hooked to a step-shift 8-speed automatic transmission, the new turbo-4 feels more responsive around town than the previous V6, the latter of which must be revved to 4,700 rpm to make its peak torque. That aligns with Lexus estimates that show, for example, the 2023 RX 350 AWD model a bit more than a half second quicker to 60 mph from rest than its 2022 counterpart.

With EPA fuel-economy estimates of 37 mpg city/34 mpg highway/36 mpg combined, the RX 350h hybrid is the fuel-efficiency champ of the 2023 RX lineup, at least until Lexus releases estimates for the 2023 RX 450h PHEV later in the model year. Using a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder and E-Four hybrid electric AWD with 246 total system horsepower, the 2023 RX 350h’s estimated fuel economy tops that of the 2022 V6 hybrid’s by 5-6 mpg while also knocking a half second off the latter’s zero-to-60-mph time.

Lexus has released scant details of the RX 450h plug-in hybrid that will go on sale later in the 2023 model year, but one was available for short drives. Equipped with a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, an E-Four hybrid electric AWD system, and a large, 18.1-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, this is likely the same system that’s in the NX 450h plug-in hybrid with 304 total system horsepower. No official zero-to-60-mph estimates are available, but the RX 450h delivered pleasingly ample and turbine-smooth acceleration response during the test drive.

I spent the most time driving the new RX 500h. This is the first “performance” iteration of the Lexus brand’s top seller, available only in F Sport Performance AWD trim. It’s not as hard-edged as some of the performance versions of European-badged midsize premium SUV competitors. Still, it takes the RX driving experience to a sportier level than in previous versions. It combines the 275-hp 2.4-liter turbo-4 and a hybrid system featuring Direct4 AWD and an 80-kilowatt e-axle at the rear for a total of 366 hp and an estimated 406 pound-feet of torque. Hooked to a 6-speed step-shift automatic transmission, Lexus claims it can grab 60 mph from rest in 5.9 seconds. While that’s not exactly nosebleed territory, it does make the 500h the quickest RX while still delivering an estimated 27 mpg in combined driving. Lexus also pumps a modicum of “enhanced” performance sounds through the 500h’s audio speakers.

The RX 500h in F Sport Performance trim also offers enhanced dynamics. Lexus upsized the front brake rotors from 13.4 to 15.7 inches and upgraded the front calipers to 6-piston aluminum units to handle higher thermal loads. The 235/50R21 Michelin Pilot Sport summer tires add significant grip and confidence on winding roads.

The RX 500h F Sport Performance also brings Dynamic Rear Steering, which adds 4 degrees of opposite-phase rear steering for greater turn-in agility at low speeds and higher speeds, and up to 4 degrees of same-phase rear steering to enhance vehicle stability. Adaptive variable damping, shared with the RX 350 F Sport Handling trim, takes the edge off sharp impacts while firming up for good vertical body control and minimizing body roll in sharp corners.

Driver-selectable drive modes return for 2023, now accessed via menus in the center screen rather than by a dedicated button on the console or dash as before.

The RX remains a crossover SUV that stays true to its luxury mission but gains in handling precision and overall performance.

Independent Expert Opinion of the 2023 Lexus RX - Find the best Lexus deals!

Unique and distinctive in the car-based premium midsize SUV segment it pioneered nearly a quarter century ago, the all-new sixth-generation Lexus RX fine-tunes its well-received mix of style and luxury for 2023 while expanding its portfolio with increased electrification. Moving to the new Lexus Interface infotainment system will be a welcome improvement for a broad swath of buyers. And adding a performance hybrid to increase the RX’s appeal to driving enthusiasts will bring more buyers into the Lexus tent. The RX’s new front-end design, polarizing to some, will ensure that the Lexus brand’s top seller will not fade into anonymity.

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive and consumer websites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals, and newspapers.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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