Lexus updates popular RX luxury SUV for 2023
Lexus likes to say that when the RX midsize crossover SUV arrived in 1998, it didn't just change the market for luxury crossovers, it created the market. There's a lot of truth in that. The RX sold about 42,000 units in that first year on the market, and the pace hasn't slowed over the past 24 years. Lexus sold 115,320 of the RX line in 2021.
One of the reasons the RX has remained attractive and relevant is that Lexus is constantly working on the next generation. The RX will receive a full redesign for 2023, and we were invited down to Santa Barbara, California to drive pre-production examples of all the new RX models. Updated to fit the times, Lexus has leaned into its hybrid technology for the next generation.
The base engine for the new RX is a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, good for 275 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque, passed to the front or all wheels by an eight-speed traditional automatic transmission in the RX350. Or, buyers can choose the RX350h with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid engine with 246 total system horsepower and 233 lb-ft of torque, passed to all four wheels through a continuously variable transmission. Both of these engine options will accelerate the new RX to 60 mph in a little more than seven seconds, which is about average for midsize SUVs.
The top of the line drivetrain for the RX500h is the same 2.4-liter turbo engine, but with a hybrid electric motor. This one is rated at 366 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. Engine power is passed to a new DIRECT4 all-wheel drive system and Lexus boasts a 5.9-second 0-60 time for this model.
Fuel economy is pretty good for the base RX350 and RX500h, at about 28-29 mpg on the highway, and 22-27 in city driving. Those watching fuel prices will want to check out the RX350h for its rating of 34 mpg highway and 37 mpg in the city, with 36 mpg in combined real-world driving.
In keeping with tradition, the RX line will continue to be a five-passenger SUV. This provides better legroom for rear-seat passengers. At least for the launch models, the new RX will not include the RXL models with a third-row seat. For those who need to haul more people, Lexus makes the larger GX and LX models. Another advantage of the 2023 model is that Lexus added 2.36 inches to the wheelbase, which translates directly into rear seat legroom and increased cargo capacity.
Inside, the new RX continues the Lexus tradition of quality and luxury. The fit and finish are as fine as only Lexus can achieve, with reassuring top quality touch materials. Everything is laid out precisely and designed for ease of use. The other thing to notice about the interior is what Lexus calls the tazuna concept, which means that everything within the driver's reach and forward sightline, including all the essential controls and information such as control functions, gauges, and the available head-up display are intuitively oriented. That concept directs the expansive, minimalist layout of the RX line.
Outside, the body gets a new look, but it's in keeping with the RX tradition. It's just updated to look current and a little bit rakish, as befits the fashion in automotive design in this decade.
Lexus also keeps the RX up to date with technology. The standard center touchscreen is 9.8 inches on the diagonal, but there's an optional 14-inch high-definition screen, and that's well worth ordering just for the visibility of the GPS navigation maps. The system is compatible with both Apple and Android phones, too.
One other thing about the tech is the Mark Levinson surround sound audio. If you're plussing up your RX, the 21-speaker sound system is fantastic from every seat. It's perfect for driving alone, or enjoying music with your friends and family.
Speaking of family, there's the Lexus Safety System+ 3.0. This includes a pre-collision system that takes over to protect the occupants when a collision is imminent. There's also a proactive driving assist that automatically slows the RX for curves and it helps control the following distance to the vehicle ahead. It will even help steer clear of bicycles and pedestrians. Road sign assistance is included, and that will display the current speed limit on your dash or in the head-up display. Of course, lane assistance and adaptive cruise control are included, along with automatic high beams.
On the road, the RX is the culmination of everything Lexus knows about driving. The new SUV is calm, predictable, direct, and comfortable. If you have ever loved an older RX, you're going to love the new one even more.
Lexus has not yet announced pricing on the 2023 RX line, but the vehicles will be arriving before the end of the calendar year. As holiday presents go, a new RX would be far from the worst choice you could make.
2023 Lexus RX350 Premium FWD
Base price: $TBD
Price as tested: $TBD
Type: Midsize crossover SUV
Engine: 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (275 hp, 317 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 22/29
Overall length: 192.5 inches
Curb weight: 4,068 pounds
Final assembly: Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
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