The Lexus RX is quietly one of America’s most popular and important vehicles. It’s the best-selling product of Toyota’s
luxury division year after year and one of the five vehicles luxury car shoppers are most likely to consider. Its balance of serene driving experience and dependable resale value is just about right. Lexus shouldn’t change it much.
But it is time to redesign it. The 2022 RX is based on a 2015 design. Drivers’ tastes have changed in the past eight years, with new technologies and more expensive gasoline altering 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 made the old RX conquer the midsize luxury crossover SUV market.
It goes on sale near the end of the year. We expect to learn pricing closer to that time. The current RX starts at $46,995 and stretches to the over $60,000 fully equipped.
A handsome evolution
The 2023 RX shares a platform with the smaller Lexus NX and the Toyota RAV4. Those are less-expensive SUVs, which might have you wondering whether the new RX will feel as refined as it should. But Toyota has long made many vehicles out of a few platforms with great success. The new architecture is lighter than the old one, which might even make the driving experience more responsive.
It’s also lower – so low that we might be tempted to call the RX a wagon if automakers didn’t need to market most cars as SUVs these days.
The 2023 RX retains the curvy design theme the model is known for. But designers have updated the look with a sharper edge to the hood and a floating roof design thanks to a blacked-out C-pillar that reaches the rear lights. If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that the trademark Lexus spindle grille is essentially gone. It’s a huge black trapezoid here, with dimples in the painted sheet metal above suggesting the upper portion of the old hourglass.
Four powertrains, three hybrid
Buyers can choose from four powertrains, none of which feature the V-6 engines that have been a staple of the Lexus lineup for so long.
Instead, the new engine in the base RX 350 is a turbocharged 2.4-liter 4-cylinder making 275 horsepower. It sends power through an 8-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels, with all-wheel-drive available.
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The RX 350h gets a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder mated to a hybrid system and works through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). That setup is good for 246 horsepower.
A plug-in hybrid RX 450h+ is on its way. But Lexus says, “vehicle details for the U.S. market will be shared at a later time.”
At the top of the lineup, a new RX 500h F Sport Performance edition appears with every trick in the Lexus bag. It combines the turbocharged 4-cylinder from the 350 with a pair of electric motors – one per axle – working through a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic transmission. That’s enough for 367 horsepower while still managing 26 mpg in combined driving.
Updated cabin, safety tech
The interior is an entirely new look for Lexus. Rather than screens integrated into the surface of the dashboard, it looks as though the driver’s instrument screen and available 14-inch central touchscreen hover over the dash. Ambient lighting behind them adds to the effect.
Of course, this being a Lexus, leather lines the seats and dashboard. But designers lined the door panels in a material that looks like wool, creating more visual depth than we’re used to from Lexus products. It’s a handsome look.
Like the all-new NX, the interior door latches aren’t latches at all. What Lexus calls an “e-latch” opens the door at a touch – but engineers built in a mechanical backup for emergencies.
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The Lexus Safety System 3.0 suite of driver aids is standard. It includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and motorcycle detection, adaptive cruise control that varies speed through curves, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist. The automated parking setting now handles both back-in and head-in parking maneuvers.
Stay tuned for pricing information and our driving impressions of the all-new 2023 Lexus RX closer to its launch toward the end of this year.
This story originally ran on KBB.com.