the rx has broken ground for lexus ever since it first hit the scene, and now the new fifth-generation model is introducing a new variation on the brand’s “spindle” grille design. with a body-colored upper area, the 2023 rx’s face is an interesting evolution of the polarizing lexus look that’s found across the lineup. no matter what you think of the new design, the new rx is poised to increase its coverage of the luxury-suv spectrum with new powertrains including a plug-in-hybrid model and a 367-hp rx500h f sport performance hybrid variant that features a new all-wheel-drive setup lexus calls direct4.
rumors suggest that lexus will introduce a new three-row crossover called the tx in the near future, so we don’t think that the previous rx’s “l” model will return this time around. this will allow the rx to occupy the two-row-crossover space somewhere between compact and mid-size that has proven so successful for this model over its history. with a 2.4-inch longer wheelbase, the new rx promises more rear-seat room but has the same overall length, meaning its overhangs are shorter and its proportions look a bit more athletic.
toyota’s ga-k architecture, shared with many models including the highlander, rav4 and smaller lexus nx, is underneath the latest rx. it introduces a multilink rear suspension to replace the previous model’s unequal-length-control-arm setup. lexus also claims that the new model is up to 198 pounds lighter than before.
the 3.5-liter v-6 engine used in the previous rx350 and rx450h is gone and has been replaced by a variety of four-cylinder drivetrains that include a base gas engine and three separate hybrid variants. the rx350 has a turbocharged 2.4-liter inline-four with 275 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque; like in the nx350, this engine is available with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. the rx350h uses a familiar toyota hybrid setup with a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four and electric motors that combine to produce 246 hp; it comes standard with all-wheel drive and will achieve an estimated 33 mpg combined, 3 mpg better than the old rx450h’s v-6 hybrid setup.
things start to get interesting with the new rx500h f sport performance model. meant to be considered in the same performance tier as the v-8–powered is500, this version of the rx has a new hybrid system with a turbocharged 2.4-liter inline-four gasoline engine and a six-speed automatic transmission rather than the planetary gearset typical of toyota hybrid powertrains. it makes a total of 367 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, and lexus says that the all-wheel-drive system, which it calls direct4, incorporates a more powerful electric motor on the rear axle that’s meant to improve handling performance.
there will also be an rx450h+ model with a plug-in-hybrid powertrain. lexus isn’t providing specifics, but we’d guess it’ll have a similar setup as the 302-hp nx450h+ and toyota rav4 prime phevs. the plug-in nx provides an epa-estimated electric driving range of 37 miles, so the rx phev should fall somewhere close to that.
trim levels for the lower models will include base, premium, premium+, luxury, f sport handling, while the rx500h f sport performance will sit at the top of the range. 19-inch wheels are standard across the board, with 21-inch wheels optional. the redesigned interior looks similar to the nx’s and is available with an optional 14.0-inch touchscreen that runs lexus’ latest infotainment system. interior color options include six different hues, including red and brown, while bamboo, open-pore wood, and aluminum trims will be available.
we think the 2023 rx’s base price will rise somewhat compared with the outgoing rx350’s $46,995 starting cost. the rx350h hybrid is likely to start somewhere around $50,000, while the rx450h+ is likely to approach $60,000. there’s no precedent for the rx500h f sport performance model, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see that model reach into the $70,000 range. lexus says the new rx will go on sale at the end of this year.