Recent years of the Lexus RX have had three primary attributes to potentially win over midsize-SUV shoppers: distinctive styling, a lower-than-average price tag among its peers, and the perceived reliability of its parent company. But it’s also been not all that exciting to drive and let down by a central display screen’s user interface that’s frustrating and distracting to use while you’re behind the wheel.
At least, those are the traits exhibited by the prior-generation RX, which dates back to 2016. Lexus is debuting a redesigned RX for 2023, replete with a range of new powertrains and other upgrades. Chief among them is — finally! — the removal of the much-hated touchpad controller.
What’s under the RX’s hood?
The entry-level RX 350 has long made do with a naturally aspirated V6 engine, but the new model lops off a couple cylinders but adds forced induction to make up for the power deficit. The 2023 RX 350 is driven by a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder pumping out 275 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque. Compared against the outgoing model, the new RX has 20 fewer horsepower but 50 more lb-ft.
Lexus says the front-wheel-drive RX 350 can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, and opting for all-wheel drive drops the estimated acceleration time to 7.2 seconds. The last front-wheel-drive RX 350 we tested posted a 0-60 time of 7.9 seconds, so the new powertrain — plus weight savings of up to nearly 200 pounds — appears to afford slightly quicker acceleration than its predecessor. We also expect the new four-cylinder to be slightly more fuel-efficient as well. The transmission remains an eight-speed automatic and, once again, both front- and all-wheel-drive powertrains are available.
Looking to add some guilt-free driving to the mix? You might want to consider the RX 450h+, which is a plug-in hybrid. That means it can drive short distances on all-electric power before switching over to regular hybrid operation with its gasoline engine. At the time of our review’s publication, however, Lexus had not provided any information on what kind of plug-in hybrid powertrain the RX 450h+ will have.
We do expect it will be more powerful than the 2023 RX 350h, which has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a hybrid system, a combined 246 horsepower and an estimated 0-60 mph time of 7.4 seconds. We wouldn’t be surprised if the RX 450h+ ends up having the same powertrain as its smaller Lexus counterpart, the NX 450h+. That vehicle has a plug-in hybrid system that produces 302 hp and can drive about 37 miles on a fully charged battery.
The RX 500h F Sport Performance is a different beast entirely. It uses a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, a six-speed automatic transmission and a hybrid system to produce a hearty 367 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. Lexus says 0-60 mph will take a respectably quick 5.9 seconds. The last-generation RX 450h we tested, which had 308 hp, needed 7.3 seconds to get up to 60 mph.
All-wheel drive is standard for the RX 500h F Sport Performance, and Lexus says it’s optimized to enhance traction on dry roads as well as the more typical snowy or icy conditions. More secure handling and upgraded brakes specific to the RX 500h F Sport Performance should also contribute to increasing the RX500h’s athleticism.
Lexus estimates the RX 500h F Sport Performance will achieve 26 mpg in combined city/highway driving. That’s 2 mpg better than the RX 350, which has 93 fewer hp. More power and better fuel economy — what’s not to like?
How’s the RX’s interior?