The Lexus RX has always been a strong selling CUV model for the Japanese luxury brand ever since its debut at the height of the original CUV craze. However, while occasional mutants like the ill-fated three-row version of the RX attempted to inject freshness into the sleek CUV, it became clear that the RX was rapidly aging in the face of a growing pool of competition. Lexus has finally given the RX the love it long deserved with the revamped 2023 Lexus RX. New styling aims to dictate the pace and the interior is better than ever. But is all of this enough to keep the RX firmly in the lead?
Revamped Exterior Styling Gives RX New Personality
The exterior styling of the 2023 RX has benefitted from perhaps the most radical redesign that the model has had in recent years. The spindle style front grille is still present but it has been modernized with the lower grille and the hood being reworked to work more in sync with each other while the new headlights pitch the odd looking ones that once defined its aging predecessor.
The side profile retains the sporty character that the RX has become known for over the years but the sloping roofline leads out to the reworked taillights which now have a unifying lightbar and a slicker shape to match. This new suit of clothes may seem like it’s a bit jumbled to look at but with the luxury crossover segment becoming clogged with entries that are all vying for the attention of customers, standing out in the race has become more important than ever. Lexus is hoping that the RX’s newfound athletic personality will appeal to those that want a family hauler but don’t want to sacrifice style or good looks in order to achieve it.
Two-Row Only RX Aims To Wipe Away Memories Of Three-Row Experiment
There was a time where Lexus experimented with a three-row version of the RX, however, it appears that Lexus has learned from that poorly thought out attempt with all 2023 RX models being two-row only offerings. The design of the cabin is noticeably more modern looking than before with 2023 models like our tester featuring textured fabric panels on the upper doors, ambient lighting and open pore wood accents on RX 350 models. The look as a whole feels more balanced and unified than before with some of the outgoing models rough edges being smoothed out or removed altogether.
A 9.0-inch infotainment system is standard on lower grade RX models with our RX 350h tester getting the optional 14.0-inch screen. Our tester’s larger screen shares some core characteristics with the smaller NX with the unit being tilted slightly towards the driver and benefitting from a revamped software package that improves usability and response times. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard but buyers looking for navigation, a heads-up display and a Mark Levinson audio system will have to check those items off the options list. The front seats in our example were supportive and offered generous bolstering with good amounts of leg room. The second row is also generous in regards to space but taller passengers do lose a bit of headroom due to the slope of the roof.
More Choice and All Four-Cylinder Power Makes RX A More Efficient Player
The outgoing model was well known for offering a V-6 option for buyers, but the 2023 model not only offers four different engines for buyers to choose from, but also debuts a four-cylinder dominated engine lineup. The base RX 350 gets a 275-hp, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder with standard front-wheel drive (all-wheel drive is an option). Meanwhile the RX 350h takes this engine but adds two electric motors to produce a combined system output of 246-hp. It also swaps out the eight-speed automatic for a CVT transmission.
Our 350h tester did a commendable job of handling most kinds of urban commuting but despite the promise of boosted performance that’s offered by the hybrid setup, our tester preferred to jog and not run to 60 mph and handling in our example didn’t inspire much confidence when pushing it to its limits in the corners with the tires howling in protest at their limits. Lexus claims that the 500h F Sport Performance will help solve that particular deficit but it does come with a higher price tag. The 350h instead prefers to be in its comfort zone and buyers looking to use it as a typical urban commuter will certainly be pleased with its light steering as well as its strong braking performance. Oh and its 37 mpg in city driving is nothing to scoff at either.
Cargo room in the Lexus RX is 30.3 cubic feet which allows it to be in the thick of it with the segments best with the low lift over making the art of loading groceries an easy task. The power liftgate is a welcome luxury touch and we also liked how easy it was to fold down the second row seats to help improve cargo space.
Pricing for the 2023 Lexus RX lineup starts at $49,050 for a base 350 model in front-wheel drive with the optional all-wheel drive system causing the price to creep upward to $50,650. An RX350h like our tester starts at $50,650. Like the non-hybrid model, the h also gets Premium, Premium+, and luxury trims with our Luxury grade example having a final sticker of just over $60,000. While this might seem steep, it’s still less expensive than the $62,350 500h F Sport Performance model.
The pricing also allows the RX lineup to be firmly in the hunt with other luxury rivals like the Cadillac XT5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, BMW X5 and the Volvo XC90. The XC90 and the X5 do have the Lexus beat in interior quality and performance but the RX does make up ground against the Cadillac XT5 with the Caddy suffering from an inferior interior and a less diverse lineup of performance hardware. As a whole the 2023 Lexus RX lineup is shaping up to the the best iteration of the model yet. While there are still some finer details that need to be ironed out before the RX can truly be considered a world-beater, Lexus still managed to get enough things right to make the RX a strong contender in the sales race.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.