Bold and luxurious – the all-new Lexus RX
Review and photos by Tom Sedens. There are always more photos at the end of my reviews.
The RX SUV has always been a mainstay for Lexus. You see a lot of them, including many of the original models that are now 4 generations old and a testament to Lexus reliability and longevity. The RX continues to be a popular choice in the highly competitive and crowded luxury SUV category because it ticks off all the right boxes for many buyers.
Completely redesigned from the wheels to the roof rails, the 5th generation RX embodies the transformation of the Lexus brand. Featuring a brand-new global platform, bold new exterior and a completely re-envisioned cabin, it is a definitive and confident step into the future while continuing to excel at all the things the world has come to love about the RX in the past.
While instantly recognizable, the new RX design is at once sleek and sophisticated, while looking ready to pounce with its lower, more-planted stance. The seamlessly integrated grille is striking and LED lighting all the way around is as eye-catching as it is effective.
The honed body combines a flowing roofline and muscular, flared rear fenders into what I found to be one cohesive shape and stunning 21-inch rims fill the wheel wells, shod with 235/50-sized tires.
Stepping into the RX cabin immediately evokes a feeling of luxury – world-class materials surround the driver and passengers and the fit and finish is nothing short of spectacular. Real leather upholstery (which is not as common as it used to be in the luxury space – almost all the players start with faux leather), laser cut open-pore wood trim (including brilliant inserts in the steering wheel), beautifully textured and stitched soft-touch panels – it all comes together in an elegant and simplified design that maximizes driver-focused functionality and the sublime comfort that Lexus is known for.
Behind the heated steering wheel is a clean and effective digital gauge cluster – a tach in the middle, with additional information on the sides.
Incredibly comfortable and well-bolstered seats, heated and ventilated, are thrones as suitable for the commute as they are for cross-country trips. The massive 14-inch high-definition touchscreen uses the highly-intuitive Lexus Interface and puts everything at the driver’s fingertips, including the impressive 12-speaker sound system – which isn’t even the best system you can get in the RX.
Doors use digital latches inside and out – we loved the feeling of popping in the textured little panel on the door and feeling the door open instantly.
Rear passengers have ample space to stretch out in comfort and even the seats in the back are heated and ventilated. I thought it would have more headroom (at 5’10”, I had a couple of inches to spare) but the huge panoramic roof overhead makes the spacious cabin seem plenty airy.
The rear of the centre console houses a separate rear climate control system, two USB-C charging ports and ________air vents. The middle seatback folds down to become a lovely armrest with dual cupholders and a lidded bin.
Under the centre stack is a rubberized storage bin and two USB-C plugs. Below that is a sliding lid under which you’ll find a wireless charging mat, another rubberized storage area and further USB-A and USB-C plugs.
I loved that one of the dual cupholders is adjustable for height, allowing for big travel mugs, etc. The armrest lid is brilliant – push a button on either side and it will swing open for either the driver or passenger, using hinges on either side. Under it is a simple carpeted bin.
The trunk is accessed via a powered trunk lid and is large and well proportioned – on the sides, you will find bag hooks and a 12V plug. There’s a deep but relatively small underfloor bin, perhaps to be used to secure smaller items from prying eyes. As one would expect from Lexus, even the trunk is finished beautifully.
Of course cargo space can increase by folding the rear seats, which is done remotely from the trunk with two buttons, one for each seat.
Under the Hood
Under the hood, a new turbocharged 2.4L 4-cylinder engine puts out 275 horsepower and 317 lb.ft of torque. Paired with an 8-speed transmission and standard all-wheel drive across all trims, this drivetrain is more fuel efficient than the V6 of old. Lexus indicates it will use 11.2/8.4 L/100 km (city/highway).
The new powertrain balances performance and efficiency with ease – it accelerates quicker than the previous V6, yet uses less fuel in every driving situation. Two hybrid drivertrains are also available, including a remarkable 367-horsepower performance hybrid that will accelerate to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds. That said, this new engine has plenty of jam and although it’s not as sweet sounding or quite as smooth as the V6 was, it is a fantastic performer and really cracks off some fun acceleration runs if you push it.
The buttery transmission shifts imperceptibly, sticking to Lexus’ mission of comfort and smoothness. I’m guessing most won’t, but you can shift gears manually using the paddle shifters if you want. There are several drive modes – Normal, Eco, Sport and Custom – but unfortunately you have to dig through the touchscreen to get to them. I’m not a fan of that.
The RX’s suspension is tuned for comfort without giving up excellent handling, although I found there was more body lean than I expected around the corners. For an even more involved and sportier driving experience, the F Sport trims include an adaptive variable suspension that continuously adjusts to the current situation to provide the best possible performance. Let’s be honest though – sporty driving is not what the RX is about. Although its highly competent road manners are admirable, you won’t ever have a ton of fun in it – the steering is numb, and the vehicle is absolutely tuned toward comfort before anything else. And that’s perfectly fine.
A confidence-inspiring all-wheel drive system was invisible on the dry pavement, yet clawed its way through snow and over ice when called upon.
Although there’s a healthy snarl from the engine when you step on it, I was more impressed with how hushed the cabin was, even at highway speeds. Brakes are powerful and easy to modulate. Visibility out of the RX is pretty good, although shoulder checking gets a bit tight visually due to the mass of steel and interior trim as the roofline swoops down towards the back.
The RX can be driven in absolute confidence, knowing the Lexus Safety System + 3.0 surrounds driver and passengers with a full suite of passive and active safety systems. Not only does it allow for complete peace of mind, the technology works beautifully without ever being noticeable. It’s an exhaustive list of features – Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Motorcycle Detection, Left Turn Oncoming Vehicle Detection/Braking, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Curve Speed Management, Risk Avoidance Emergency Steer Assist (with Active
Support), Right/Left Turn Oncoming Pedestrian Detection/Braking, Road Sign Assist, Emergency Driving Stop Support, Front to Front Oncoming Vehicle Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and Automatic High Beams.
One of my favourite visual things inside the RX are the dual-zone climate control dials for temperature adjustment. The adjustment is done using a knurled ring, and inside that ring is a separate circular screen displaying the temperature and a sweet horizon-style graphic. It looks fantastic!
I really appreciate that Lexus kept the glossy piano black trim to a minimum around the interior. It’s a horrible trend that plenty of manufacturers have picked up on – it just picks up dust and fingerprints and gets scratched quickly. There’s very little of it in the RX, which is great news.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was high. She loved the styling, saying it looked really sleek. She was also impressed by how modern the interior felt without making anything difficult to use or figure out.
Combining a bold, refined exterior with a world-class cabin that envelops driver and passengers with luxury, technology and comfort, the new RX is everything we’ve loved in the past and everything we expect from the future.
Pricing: 2023 Lexus RX 350
Base price (of Luxury trim): $68,971.25
Options: $650 Copper Crest paint
Freight: included in pricing
A/C tax: included in pricing
Price as tested: $69,621.25
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Lexus of Edmonton.
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