At the top end of its sprawling range, the new Lexus RX is better to look at, better to drive, and better inside than its predecessor – that doesn’t always translate for buyers on a budget, though.
At the bottom end, some luxury cars feel like they’re punishing you for saving your pennies. From button blanks to nasty materials, there are plenty of tricks of the trade designed to push you into a more expensive model.
The 2023 Lexus RX350h Luxury 2WD is not one of those cars. It might be the cheapest model in the range, with the least powerful powertrain and front-wheel drive, but it still feels like a properly luxurious large SUV.
In fact, it might even be the pick of the range.
Pricing is up for the new RX. Previously, the range opened at just north of $73,000 before on-road costs, now you’re on the hook for at least the $87,500 before on-roads of our base tester.
Lexus correctly points out the fact the entry RX300 petrol has been axed for 2023, and the new car is a better-equipped, higher-specification vehicle than before.
Even with the price increase it’s hard to argue the RX doesn’t represent solid value alongside its German competitors, especially when you consider the fact none offers a straight rival for the RX350h.
Genesis probably offers the most direct competitor in the GV70, which in 3.5T AWD Sport guise is priced at $84,600 before on-roads. It’s worth noting it’s a much more powerful, much thirstier alternative however.
2023 Lexus RX pricing:
- Lexus RX350h
- Luxury FWD: $87,500
- Luxury AWD: $92,000
- Luxury FWD + Enhancement Pack: $92,600
- Luxury AWD + Enhancement Pack: $97,500
- Sports Luxury AWD: $111,900
- Sports Luxury AWD + Enhancement Pack 1: $114,900
- Sports Luxury AWD + Enhancement Pack 2: $115,800
- Lexus RX350
- F Sport AWD: $99,900
- F Sport AWD + Enhancement Pack 1: $102,900
- F Sport AWD + Enhancement Pack 2: $104,000
- Sports Luxury AWD: $105,900
- Sports Luxury AWD + Enhancement Pack 1: $108,900
- Sports Luxury AWD + Enhancement Pack 2: $109,800
- Lexus RX500h F Sport Performance AWD: $126,000
All prices exclude on-road costs
Like its NX little brother, the RX has been given a high-tech makeover for 2023. Even the base model looks and feels thoroughly modern, which isn’t something you could say about the old car.
There are no more fiddly touchpads or hidden buttons here, just a thoroughly modern touchscreen neatly integrated into a handsome dashboard. It’s a huge improvement, and despite the obvious similarities with the smaller NX it feels a bit more grown up.
Where the little NX feels a bit claustrophobic up front with a sunroof, the RX has a better seating position for taller drivers. There’s more legroom, more space beneath the roof lining, and more space between the front passengers to stretch out.
All the materials look and feel high-quality, as you’d expect of a Lexus. The steering wheel is trimmed in what feels like soft, waxy leather, and the leatherette seat upholstery on our tester was a pretty convincing substitute for the real thing.
You miss out on some of fancy trim inlays on the dashboard, but otherwise this doesn’t feel far off what you get in a Sports Luxury or F Sport. And with the move to a touchscreen-based design, there are no button blanks. Even better, the base model gets proper buttons on the steering wheel instead of the frustrating touchpads on higher-end cars.
The touchscreen is significantly better than the touchpad-based tech in the last RX, with crisp graphics and a logical layout.
The loss of physical buttons isn’t keenly felt because there are still big shortcuts for your climate controls, and Hey Lexus voice prompts generally work well. The cameras are clear and bright, too.
Four USB ports feature (three USB-C, one USB-A), but our tester didn’t have a wireless phone charger. You can have one in the Luxury, but you need to pay for an Enhancement Pack to get it.
Also missing from the base model is the high-grade digital instrument cluster featured in higher-end models. Instead, you get a basic-looking unit with little in the way of customisation on offer. Given the top-spec cluster isn’t a class leader either, the loss isn’t too keenly felt – but it’s the only part of the RX that feels a bit cheap.
Rear seat room is solid. Legroom represents an improvement over the last car, thanks no doubt to a longer wheelbase, and the bench is nice and plush. Headroom isn’t great though, especially with a sunroof fitted.
With the rear seats reclined it’s okay for adults back there, but with them set to a more upright position that frees up extra boot space it’s a bit tight back there. Headroom is decent, but it’s tighter than in a BMW X3, let alone an X5, back there.
With two USB-C ports, air vents, a fold-down central armrest, and retractable window shades, the kids aren’t short of creature comforts.
ISOFIX points feature on the outboard rear seats, and there’s a trio of top-tether points.
Claimed boot space is 612 litres with all five seats in place, expanding to 1678L with the second row folded.
The 2023 Lexus RX350h uses a 2.5-litre four-cylinder hybrid powertrain with 184kW of power.
It’s available with either front- or all-wheel drive, and uses an eCVT transmission. It sticks with an older nickel-metal hydride battery in place of the lighter, more energy dense lithium-ion units rolling out in some Toyota hybrids.
Claimed fuel economy is 5.0 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, we saw 5.9 litres per 100km over a week of mixed driving.
It drinks 95 RON premium unleaded fuel, and has a 65-litre fuel tank.
There are sporty models in the Lexus RX range, but this isn’t one of them. It majors on relaxed, efficient motoring, and that’s alright.
The hybrid system will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a previous-generation RX, or a less expensive Toyota hybrid. It generally starts in electric mode, and the petrol engine stays out of the picture until around 20 or 30km/h. When it does fire, it does so quickly and quietly.
Lexus has always been good at the real nitty-gritty of luxury cars – making them feel quiet and refined – and the RX is no different.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. Although it’s capable of gentle acceleration at low speed on electric power, anything more than that still requires the petrol engine – and when it fires, Lexus hasn’t managed to entirely eliminate the feeling it’s working hard.
This is a car that’s happiest at a cruise, where it can lean on the electric motor, and the CVT doesn’t have to flare revs to get you rolling. And that’s okay, because it’s perfectly in keeping with the rest of the car’s character.
The base model’s small (well, relatively) wheels and chubby tyres, combined with the fact it’s not an F Sport, lend it a lovely ride. It does a great job smoothing out pimply city streets at low speeds, softening off harsh edges of potholes and carpark speed humps better than most of its rivals.
Light steering, clear cameras, and decent visibility make this an easy SUV to park in tight spaces. It’s also slightly smaller than an X5, which is noticeable in tight underground carparks.
There’s almost no road noise in the cabin, and the hum of traffic and pedestrians is nicely blocked out. It’s just a relaxing place to spend time, because it isn’t trying to be something it’s not.
I would opt for all-wheel drive, though. Put your foot down pulling out of an intersection in the wet, for example, and the eco tyres light up quickly. It doesn’t inspire confidence like the all-wheel drive model, which is worth its weight in gold if you’re carrying your kids around.
At higher speeds, the RX350h is a relaxed cruiser. It’s whisper quiet on the highway, and the suite of active driver assists are all nicely calibrated. The adaptive cruise control system smoothly, smartly keeps a gap to the car in front, and the lane centring is confident without trying to wrestle the wheel from your hands.
You do notice the hybrid system is working hard at higher speeds if you go to overtake, with a flare of revs and a decent helping of engine noise in the cabin, but it settles down nicely at a cruise.
Between the hybrid powertrain and the comfort-oriented ride, this isn’t an SUV for people who want to carve corners. It’s more talented than its predecessor, with fluid steering and decent body control, but if you want to hustle your RX the F Sport, or RX500h F Sport Performance, are better bets.
RX350h Luxury highlights:
- Bi-LED headlights
- LED daytime running lights, fog lights
- Heated exterior mirrors with driver’s side auto-dimming
- Rear privacy glass
- 19-inch alloy wheels with bright machined finish
- Roof rails
- Power tailgate
- 14-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wireless Apple CarPlay
- Wired Android Auto
- 12-speaker Panasonic sound system
- Satellite navigation
- DAB+ digital radio
- Lexus Connected Services
- 5 x USB-C, 2 x 12V, 1 x USB-A
- 8-way power front seats with two-way power lumbar
- Heated front seats
- Leatherette upholstery
- Tri-zone climate control
- Power-adjustable steering column
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Paddle shifters
- Ambient lighting
Enhancement Pack ($5100 FWD, $5500 AWD) adds:
- Panoramic sunroof
- Leather upholstery
- Ventilated front seats
- Easy access seat
- Driver’s seat memory
- Head-up display
- ‘High-grade’ instrument cluster display
- Smart key card
- Wireless phone charger
- Touch-sensitive steering wheel controls
The Lexus RX has a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
The rating applies to all variants – which includes petrol and hybrid powertrain variants.
It scored 90 per cent for adult occupant protection, 89 per cent for child occupant protection, 89 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 93 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety features include:
- 8 airbags incl. front centre, driver’s knee
- Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)
- Pedestrian detection (day, night)
- Cyclist detection (day, night)
- Motorcyclist detection (day)
- Emergency steering assist
- Acceleration acceleration suppression (low speed)
- Adaptive cruise control
- Curve speed reduction
- Overtaking prevention
- Lane departure warning
- Lane Trace Assist (centring)
- Auto high-beam
- Road sign assist
- Front, rear Parking Support Brake
- Front, rear parking sensors
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Reversing camera
- Safe Exit Assist
- Tyre pressure monitor
- Trailer sway control
RX Sports Luxury adds:
- Adaptive High-Beam System
- Panoramic View Monitor (360 cameras)
The Lexus RX is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres, and the first five services will each set you back $695 under the Lexus capped-price service program.
Lexus also offers its owners a range of perks as part of its Encore program, ranging from the option to have their vehicle collected before a service, access to concerts or events, and benefits from partners such as Ampol.
Usually base luxury cars feel a bit undercooked, but the entry-level RX350h Luxury is all the large prestige SUV you’d ever need.
More expensive models offer richer interior finishes, more features, and more power, but you don’t actually need more than the RX350h Luxury offers… except maybe for all-wheel drive.
Its interior feels and looks luxurious, the technology is much improved compared to the old car, and it drives with the same slightly understated polish we’ve come to expect from the brand.
No, it won’t set your pulse racing. But that has never really been the point of the RX anyway.
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