2023 Lexus RX: handsome new design, more hybrid options

2023 Lexus RX: handsome new design, more hybrid options
The Lexus RX is quietly one of America’s most popular and important vehicles. It is the best-selling product of Toyota’s luxury division year-on-year and one of the five cars that luxury car buyers will most consider. The balance between serene driving experience and reliable resale value is just right. Lexus shouldn’t change much about it.

But it’s time to redesign it. The 2022 RX is based on a 2015 design. Driver tastes have changed over the past eight years, with new technologies and more expensive gasoline changing our expectations of our cars.

Can Lexus keep the virtues that make the RX the right answer for so many buyers and update it to keep it relevant for another eight years?

Enter the 2023 Lexus RX, with new hybrid powertrains, new cabin technology and the same reputation for reliability that took the old RX by storm in the mid-size luxury crossover SUV market.

It will go on sale by the end of the year. We expect to learn prices closer to that time. The current RX starts at $46,995 and extends to the more than $60,000 fully equipped.

A nice evolution

The 2023 RX shares a platform with the smaller Lexus NX and the Toyota RAV4. Those are cheaper SUVs, which may leave you wondering if the new RX will feel as refined as it should. But Toyota has long made many vehicles from a few platforms with great success. The new architecture is lighter than the old one, potentially making the driving experience even more responsive.

It’s also lower—so low that we might be tempted to call the RX a car if today’s automakers didn’t have to market most cars as SUVs.

The 2023 RX retains the curvy design theme that the model is known for. But designers have updated the look with a sharper hood edge and a floating roof design thanks to a darkened C-pillar reaching the taillights. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that the signature Lexus spindle grille is essentially gone. It’s a huge black trapezoid here, with dimples in the painted sheet metal above, suggesting the top portion of the old hourglass.

Four powertrains, three hybrid

Buyers can choose from four powertrains, none of which feature the V6 engines that have been a staple of the Lexus range for so long.

Instead, the new engine in the base RX 350 is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 275 horsepower. It sends power to the front wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission, with four-wheel drive available.

The RX 350h gets a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder coupled to a hybrid system and works via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). That setup is good for 246 horsepower.

A plug-in hybrid RX 450h+ is on the way. But Lexus says “vehicle details for the US market will be shared at a later date.”

At the top of the lineup appears a new RX 500h F Sport Performance Edition with every trick in the Lexus bag. It combines the turbocharged four-cylinder from the 350 with a pair of electric motors — one per axle — that work through a sport-tuned six-speed automatic transmission. That’s enough for 367 horsepower, while the combined driving still manages 26 mpg.

Updated cab, safety technology

The interior is a brand new look for Lexus. Instead of screens integrated into the dashboard surface, the driver’s instrument panel and available central 14-inch touchscreen appear to float above the dashboard. Mood lighting behind it adds to the effect.

Of course, since this is a Lexus, the seats and dashboard are covered in leather. But designers have lined the door panels with a material that looks like wool, creating more visual depth than we’ve come to expect from Lexus products. It is a handsome appearance.

Like the all-new NX, the interior door latches aren’t latches at all. What Lexus calls an “e-latch” opens the door with the push of a button, but engineers built in a mechanical backup for emergencies.

The Lexus Safety System 3.0 driver assistance systems are standard. It includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and motorbike detection, adaptive cruise control that varies speed through bends, lane warning and lane assistant. The automated parking setup can now handle both reverse parking and parking.

Stay tuned for pricing information and our driving impressions of the all-new 2023 Lexus RX closer to its launch towards the end of this year.