The fifth generation Lexus RX for 2023 got a complete redesign inside and out, comes now with a variety of different powertrains, yet retains all of the sweet spot hallmarks that have made it the bread and butter top seller for the brand.
With trademark Lexus styling, it’s offered in several flavors. There’s the RX 350 with its turbocharged 2.4-liter engine, the RX 350h sporting the venerable 2.5-liter Hybrid powertrain, and new for this year a plug-in hybrid RX450h+.
Lastly and the one we tested was the RX 500h F Sport which is the top-line choice for the performance minded. With 366 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque it’s the most powerful Lexus RX yet, but this is a hybrid too that blends that power with higher than expected fuel economy.
It’s 2.4-liter turbocharged engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with an integrated electric motor. At the rear is an additional electric motor drive unit that gives the RX 550h seamless AWD and enables immediate power and torque. So no, there isn’t any turbo lag.
The driving experience is very traditional in its feel for a hybrid, with a traditional automatic transmission shifting real gears under your foot. The sound you hear is very engineered because it’s mostly coming through the audio system. Yes it’s fake but it sounds more appealing than the real thing.
Power is more than fun for such a large SUV. Best yet the chassis backs it up with a competence and a sporting character that allows you to play and enjoy it. Our RX 500h F Sport had the AVS adaptive suspension that can be soft and cushy most of the time with that traditional Lexus feel but can tighten up and flex its muscle when you start mashing pedals and rowing the tiller aggressively.
It’s ride was quiet and refined for the most part, the only catch being occasional harshness as a result of its 21-inch wheels and less forgiving low-profile rubber.
In all of it, fuel efficiency was pretty impressive. While the other RX hybrid models do offer the most in the way of mpg, the RX 500h threads the high-performance needle with and EPA rating of 27 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. In our week of testing we saw a 24 mpg combined real world result. Keep in mind the AC on at all times at over 100 degrees in our Arizona summer days.
Comfort behind the wheel was a major highlight as expected. Lexus F Sport seats upholstered in a nice grippy suede hold you tight and offer both heating and ventilation. Soft stitched trims everywhere you touch and a sense of quality all impress. Boundless tech including a digital instrument cluster and large 14-inch touchscreen display for infotainment.
Many of the knobs and buttons one has been accustomed to looking for have been combined into the touchscreen which requires a reprogramming of your habits to get used to. Once there, there’s more to do and more ways to have it.
Sound from its Mark Levinson audio back-end was excellent as expected but much of the feature content for the system is subscription based. There’s a lot of features and services mind you, but they ultimately cost extra to maintain after you buy your vehicle.
At $70,780 as tested the Lexus RX 500h offers up a lot of quality, design panache, driving pleasure and yes even efficiency. It is one of the more expensive options from the RX line which starts at about $50,000. You do however get the most here, at least in terms of performance and features.