Luxury crossovers may seem like a relatively new phenomenon, but they have been around for decades, and one of the first was the Lexus RX.
Launched in 1998, the original model was a huge success, and that trend has continued for four generations, with Lexus selling 100,000 RX annually in the United States for eight consecutive years.
The company wants to build that momentum with the redesigned 2023 RX, which has an evolutionary design, advanced technology and a new plug-in hybrid powertrain.
An evolutionary, but more integrated design
Although the designers did not want to make a fuss, the 2023 RX takes on a sharper look and an updated version of the company’s controversial spindle grille. The latter is immediately different because it has a more straightforward design as well as softer edges and diamond-like inserts. The grille is flanked by the new headlights, which features swoosh-style daytime running lights. They are located above the minimum air curtain which is surrounded by black as well as a combination of combined fog light.
Going further back, we see an evolutionary design that incorporates streamlined styling and round wheel arches. Designers have also cleared the shoulder line, while adding more obvious richness to the bottom doors. The model mounts on 19-inch wheels with a dark gray machined finish, but customers will be able to upgrade to 21-inch in a variety of designs.
Some major changes have taken place due to the RX adopting an angular and more integrated design. However, the thing that comes out instantly is the taillights, which are now connected by a thin illuminated strip. Further down, there is a ventilated rear bumper with a sportier design that features an angular lower accent and a bi-tone look.
A classy and high-tech interior
Luxury vehicles are interior related and current owners will be happy to take a look inside the redesigned RX. The model follows in the footsteps of the 2022 NX and includes a digital instrument cluster as well as a brand new Lexus interface system, miles away from its predecessor.
The company doesn’t say much about the infotainment system, but it does offer cloud-based navigation, an intelligent assistant and over-the-air updates. While a 14-inch display would be optional, we can expect the base models to be equipped with a smaller 9.8-inch screen like the NX.
Thanks to the new Touch and voice-focused infotainment system, the designers were free to streamline the center stack and remove the medium switchgear found in the outgoing model. The analog watch has also been scrapped due to the new RX living in a digital world.
Elsewhere, the push-button has an interior door handle, a minimalist shifter and an elegant dashboard that can be accentuated with the many colors of lighting available. Buyers will also find aluminum, ash bamboo, black cascade or black open pore wood trim.
Full details will be announced near launch, but the 2023 RX will be offered in six different trims known as Standard, Premium, Premium +, Luxury, F-Sport Handling and F-Sport Performance. We’ll talk about the next one in a moment, but Lexus further mentioned that the model will be offered with a panoramic glass roof and a head-up display.
A new platform and a big weight loss
A completely new model requires a new architecture and for the 2023 Lexus RX it is the GA-K platform, shared with ES and NX. The new platform allows increased rigidity and weight storage of up to 198 pounds (89.8 kg). Lexus did not go into much specificity, but noted that the crossover has a brand new multi-link rear suspension design attached to a “rigid high-torsion rear body frame that allows more consistent suspension input / travel during acceleration, corrosion and motion. Steering moment. “
Despite having a wheelbase of 2.36 inches (60 mm), the 2023 RX remained 192.5 inches (4,890 mm) long as the rear overhang was reduced by the same amount. This is good news because rear seat passengers will get extra legroom, while everyone can appreciate the increased cargo capacity.
New engine and available plug-in hybrid power
The fight against displacement continues as the RX 350’s 3.5-liter V6 has been replaced by a new turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder. It produces 275 hp (205 kW / 279 PS) and 317 lb-ft (429 Nm) of torque, which is reduced by 20 hp (15 kW / 20 PS) but increased by 50 lb-ft (68 Nm) compared to the outgoing model.
The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, which can be combined with front or all-wheel drive. Lexus says that the next variant will be able to accelerate from 0-60 mph (0-96 km / h) in 7.2 seconds, which is 0.7 seconds faster than its predecessor.
However, it should be noted that consumers should not expect huge gains in the fuel economy. Lexus estimates that the RX 350 will return a combined 24 mpg, which is no better than the older V6-powered models that offer up to 23 mpg.
With gas prices hovering near all-time highs, many consumers will probably choose the 2023 RX 350h instead of the previous 450h. It has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine coupled with a fourth-generation hybrid system and a standard all-wheel drive system.
Power output takes a big hit because the 2023 RX 350h is rated at 246 hp (183 kW / 249 PS) and 233 lb-ft (316 Nm), which is lighter than 308 hp (230 kW / 312PS). And 247 lb-ft (335 Nm) of torque on the old RX 450h. However, Lexus says the new model is actually faster because the dash will take 7.4 seconds instead of 60 mph (96 km / h) 7.9 seconds.
Of course, hybrids are primarily about fuel efficiency and that’s where the RX 350h comes in. Lexus believes the model’s combined fuel economy rating will be 33 mpg, or 3 mpg better than its predecessor.
Buyers can also choose a brand new RX 450h + plug-in hybrid. Lexus wasn’t ready to talk about the US specification, but the model will probably share its powertrain with the NX 450h +. It has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, three electric motors and an 18.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. This setup offers plug-in hybrid NX 302 hp (222 kW / 306 PS) and 37 miles (60 km) electric-only range.
The new RX 500h F Sport performance is a 367 HP hybrid
While the plug-in hybrid is notable, the variant that has raised the most eyebrows is the new RX 500h F Sport performance. It is a performance-based hybrid with a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, a six-speed automatic transmission and a rear eAxle with a “high output electric motor” that promises “improved performance and faster acceleration”.
This setup enables all-wheel drive crossovers to produce 367 hp (274 kW / 372 PS) and 406 lb-ft (550 Nm) of torque, which is enough to make the Acura MDX Type S smile. The good news doesn’t end there, because the RX 500h F sport performance goes from 0-60 mph (0-96 km / h) in 5.9 seconds and has a combined estimated fuel economy rating of 26 mpg, which is more than 7 mpg.
In addition to the powerful hybrid system, the RX 500h F Sport has a sporty exterior with unique performance bumper, a mesh grille and more aggressive air intake. They’re joined by black accents, extra body color elements, and a six-piston brake caliper.
A perforated leather steering wheel that continues the sporty styling in the cabin featuring a paddle shifter. Drivers will also receive aluminum paddles, suede-trimmed door panels and F Sport scarf plates.
Will go on sale later this year with enhanced security features
When the 2023 RX hits US dealerships later this year, it will come with the Lexus Safety System + 3.0 suite of driver support systems. It includes all-speed dynamic radar cruise control with a new curve speed management function, as well as an advanced pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, intersection support and new motorcycle detection.
Buyers will also receive an emergency driving stop system and lane exit warning with steering assist. The crossover can be equipped with an advanced parking system, which now supports front parking conditions.
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