Don’t Call The 2023 Lexus RX Beige, It Packs Some Serious Power Behind Its Predator Grille

2023 Lexus Rx Topshot

For nearly a quarter of a century, the Lexus RX has been the go-to posh midsize crossover. Plush, tirelessly reliable, and rather sensible, it’s an archetype that’s great for the brain but unlikely to set anyone’s soul alight. That might be about to change. Welcome to the 2023 Lexus RX, a midsize crossover that promises to be anything but mid.

From the front, you might be forgiven for thinking that Rick Moranis got his hands on a Honda Civic Hatchback. Yes, the exploded blobfish nose makes an appearance here, for better or for worse. If you ever wondered how Lexus would evolve the spindle grill, it looks like we now have an answer. Honestly, I don’t hate it. The wavy edges of the grille are gloriously weird, plus the low height of the grille really helps visually ground the RX to the ground.

2023 Lexus Rx 1
Photo credit: Jason Torchinsky

While the nose of the RX is divisive, the rest of the styling’s actually pretty good. Instead of a Tupperware-clad road hippo, Lexus has given us a sort of stubby, tall wagon that looks pretty brilliant. The stylists have ditched the squared-off wheel arches, shrink-wrapped the sheetmetal, and flattened out the hood to create a mostly handsome midsize crossover. Of course, it certainly helps when the smallest wheels available are 19-inch alloys, with wheel diameter extending all the way up to available 21-inch alloy wheels. They’re no Lorenzos on Yokohama tires, but a little bling-bling never hurts.

[Editor’s Note: You may be wondering why the hell we’re writing a story on a car this boring. Well, in part, it’s because this car is going to litter every damn Whole Foods and sorority parking lot across the nation, so we may as well warn you. Also, Jason’s at Toyota’s headquarters in Texas gathering a bunch of Toyota news, so we may as well relay what he tells us. If you fell asleep before getting to this editor’s note, I’m sorry. Even though you can’t even read this apology. -DT]. 

Hero 2023 Lexus Rx 500h Fsport Performance 1
Photo credit: Lexus

Moving to the side of the vehicle, check out how the tail light serves as a point of tension for the whole quarter panel. By letting the tail lights do all the heavy beltline lifting, Lexus’ designers have been free to cleave visual weight from the corner of the bumper, pump up the wheel arches, and banish unpainted cladding without making the design look bloated. Plus, not only does the dramatic lower character line kick up to the same angle as the upper character line, there’s a really cool convex triangular surface below it.

2023 Lexus Rx 500h Fsport Performance 9
Photo credit: Lexus

Moving back to that rear bumper, some 2.36 inches (59.9 mm) has been sliced out of the rear overhang, only to be added to the wheelbase. This keeps overall length to 192.5 inches (4,900 mm) while offering a claimed increase in rear legroom. Nice. Also out back, the full-width double-L tail light treatment has an absolute fuckton of road presence. It just looks meaner than a pissed-off rottweiler and is arguably the most inspired full-width tail light I’ve seen in a long time.

While white is a great color for press photos as it really shows off a vehicle’s lines, I’m glad to see Lexus getting adventurous with the colorways. Discerning buyers can choose from fabulous shades like Nori Green, Matador Red, Copper Crest, and a retina-searing blue called Grecian Water. Of course, there are also greyscale colors to choose from if you want to be boring, but you’ll probably lean towards the good colors. After all, dear reader, you have great taste in automotive websites.

2023 Lexus Rx 350 3
Photo credit: Lexus

While the outgoing RX was a quantum leap forward from its predecessor in terms of design, the new RX relegates its quantum design leap to its interior. Hey, that’s not a bad place to make a massive improvement. A good-looking car matters, but you’re not going to see the outside very often while you’re driving it. The old model’s god-awful mouse is gone, replaced with Lexus’ latest touchscreen infotainment system. While the available 14-inch touchscreen display should be a massive step forward in cabin tech, it comes with a caveat. Lexus has made its native navigation system a subscription service, so expect to pay a monthly fee if you want your RX to have all the features. I guess it wouldn’t be a Lexus without mildly infuriating infotainment.

Mind you, who cares about the infotainment when you have cabin design like this? The ambient lighting that runs behind the screen looks fabulous while embossed stitched materials on the door cards look positively plush. More importantly, look at the massive upgrade in front seats! I see optional adjustable thigh support, fabulous bolsters on F-Sport models, and optional chauffeur-spec controls for the front passenger seat. Brilliant.

Look at those seats!
Photo credit: Lexus

Under the hood there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that Toyota’s creamy 3.5-liter 2GR-FKS V6 is gone. The good news is that now RX shoppers have a choice between boost and two levels of electrification. The engine in the standard RX 350 is a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine lifted from the smaller NX 350 crossover. This engine cranks out an entirely respectable 275 horsepower (202 kW) and 317 lb.-ft. (428 Nm) of torque, which go to the road through an eight-speed automatic gearbox and available all-wheel-drive. Lexus quotes a 0-60 mph (0-96 km/h) time of 7.5 seconds in front-wheel-drive trim and 7.2 seconds in all-wheel-drive spec, probably because hectic front-wheel-drive burnouts are a very real threat.

For shoppers seeking a greener option, Lexus is continuing in hybrid tradition with the RX 350h. It packs the same sort of drivetrain as a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine blended with electric motors. While 246 horsepower (180 kW) and 233 lb.-ft. (316 Nm) of torque isn’t likely to put a Super Soaker in anyone’s trousers, this all-wheel-drive miser is said to go from 0-60 mph (0-96 km/h) in a very respectable 7.4 seconds. If this still isn’t green enough for you, details on a plug-in hybrid RX 450h+ will come along at a later date.

2023 Lexus Rx 500h Fsport Performance 4
Photo credit: Lexus

But what if you want it all? What if you’re a combination of Mother Earth and the Dos Equis guy who takes great joy in taking the carpool lane to save fuel and blast by stopped traffic at Mach Jesus? Good news, Lexus likes the same shit you like. Say hello to the RX 500h F SPORT Performance. That’s a big-ass number after RX, so what on earth is powering this thing? How about the turbo motor from the RX 350 plus a serious jolt of hybrid electrification with an electric motor up front and another one on the rear axle. How does a combined 367 horsepower (270 kW) and 406 lb.-ft. (550 Nm) of torque sound?

If this all seems a bit un-Lexus to you, hold onto your hat – there’s more. Instead of a sensible CVT, the top-dog RX sends combustion power through a six-speed automatic gearbox. The 0-60 mph (0-96 km/h) dash is dispatched with in a claimed 5.9 seconds, although acceleration isn’t this posh family hauler’s only party trick. Not only should a performance vehicle go quickly, it should stop with even more urgency. Keeping this in mind, Lexus has seen fit to equip the RX 500h F SPORT Performance with six-piston front brake calipers, some rather serious kit for the weekly kale run.

2023 Lexus Rx 500h Fsport Performance 28
Photo credit: Lexus

Of course, all of this is possible thanks to Toyota’s TNGA-K architecture. Stiffer than a bad neck after sleeping on cement, this platform packs multilink rear suspension, plenty of structural adhesive, and a solid track record of passive safety. Thanks to TNGA-K, Lexus claims that the new RX is up to 198 pounds (89.8 kg) lighter than the old car. Good stuff. Mind you, this may be a stiff platform, but that doesn’t mean a sacrifice in ride quality. Increased torsional stiffness lets the suspension do its job without having to worry so much about vibrations through the vehicle’s structure. Let’s hope that Lexus has maintained the creamy ride quality it’s known for.

So how much is the 2023 Lexus RX going to cost? Truth be told, we don’t know yet, but we’ll keep you updated as new information arises. Expect pricing and perhaps some details regarding the RX 450h+ plug-in hybrid to go public closer to the new RX’s on-sale date late this year. Hey, perfect timing for Lexus’ December to Remember event, where you can put an enormous bow on a new crossover and beg your spouse not to divorce you for buying a rather expensive holiday present.

Lead photo credit: Jason Torchinsky

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28 Responses

  1. This now brings the RX closer to the look of the Highlander. Not necessarily a bad thing, but the profile is remarkably similar.

    The 3rd gen RX had a huge cargo capacity: 80 cf, that dropped to 58 cf in the current generation. This model is supposed to be a little bit better, but jeez.

  2. It looks like a Venza mated with an out-going Honda beak. I’m sure it’ll sell very well no matter what it looks like. They’ve proven that time and again.

  3. “Moving back to that rear bumper, some 2.36 inches (59.9 mm) has been sliced out of the rear overhang, only to be added to the wheelbase. This keeps overall length to 192.5 inches (4,900 mm) while offering a claimed increase in rear legroom”

    I had to take a second look at the pics after reading that, at first glance I thought it was a facelift. I mean, it *really* looks like a heavier-than-usual midcycle refresh, between the dramatically different (from prior Lexi, that is, not from the latest Civic) nose piece and the carried-over “floating” roof trim.

    1. Not that Toyota/Lexus hasn’t done the heavy-refresh-as-a-redesign thing (see 2016 LX 570), but…look again. It’s a completely different shape. As I pointed out, the greenhouse—in particular—is much more upright than the outgoing RX, and helps to make it seem much tidier and less bloated.

  4. Why did they make this look like a Beluga Whale? The Infiniti QX56 is one of the ugliest SUV’s ever (just under the 2nd gen Durango), because it has the Beluga Whale face. The hood on the Lexus is all too similarly beluga-y.

  5. I don’t hate it either, which genuinely surprises me, as I have despised the spindle since the start. I see they fixed it by essentially lopping off the top. However, I also see the ichthyological inclination remains as strong as ever. Keep trying Toyota, you’re getting there, albeit glacially.

  6. I believe the RX is the very last vehicle (for the US market) on the old K platform. I’m sure TNGA-K comes with some benefits, because my best friend’s 2016 RX 450h handles like a 70s Cadillac on stilts, and that is *not* a compliment.

    To me, the most interesting portion is the decision to make the A-pillars more upright, compared to the very rakish ones on the outgoing RX. They make it look a lot more athletic.

    The RX was always a bargain amid German competition, especially if you didn’t need an athletic longitude platform. However, if you *did* decide you wanted to equip your RX like, say, a high-end X5 (better seats, more power, gee-whiz features), Lexus didn’t really oblige. Now, it seems they’re there, and it looks like the RX is a vehicle that can be comfortably optioned past $70K, and still make sense in that space. Between it, an upcoming GX redesign (which will still be truck-based, but likely much more modern and fuel-efficient), and a dedicated three-row crossover to replace the RX L (likely to be called TX), the future is looking bright for Lexus.

  7. Since you mentioned it, it’s also worth pointing out that the RX was the first vehicle to formally have and ditch the mouse, coinciding with the 2020 facelift. At that time, Lexus replaced the mouse with a trackpad. They also moved the infotainment LCD five inches closer (to the driver) and gave it touchscreen functionality, along with the then-latest infotainment OS, essentially a reskinned version of the same one used by the 12.3” Toyotas, like the optional setups on the Venza and Highlander.

  8. That hood looks like someone took the hood slider on their generic CUV in Automation and just yanked it as far forward and up as they could. “Here’s the Artemisia Vulcanis, a luxury SUV from Fruinia.”

    It doesn’t look as bad as it should (other than the cheap looking Nissan/Infiniti C-pillar). At least the grill is smaller – is this the historic turning point where designers finally begin to shrink them? In 5 years will cars look normal other than being super angry that they’re cars?

  9. This design is overworked, like a Hyundai. The ends look good from perpendicular, but that front three-quarter view has the same problem as all crossovers, SUVs and pickups seem to suffer from: it’s too tall.

    From the side, the DLO (which isn’t even a DLO thanks to the D-pillar) is fussy and the swage line moving upwards as it goes rearwards just argues with that droopy window/not window.

    I don’t like it.

  10. “While the outgoing RX was a quantum leap forward from its predecessor in terms of design, the new RX relegates its quantum design leap to its interior.”
    Wow, really digging at them here: either the change is measured in the minimum discrete unit possible or they are body-hopping 80s Scott Bakula.

  11. Why not just badge this as a Toyota? Seriously, looks more Toy than Lex. Then again, the RX’s prior donor car, is the Harrier, which is already sold stateside as the Venza. At least they had the common sense to toss the CVT for a transmission with actual gears. Imagine if they gave the GR treatment to this as a ‘yota. Sure, we’ll get the F-sport, but is it really? Why not pop in the 2UR-GSE from the IS 500 F-sport performance? 472 horsies seems about the right amount of power for heading to jamba juice before picking up the kids from soccer practice. Why have only 4 cylinders plus some electric zippers when you can have the beast? Until big T announces a true successor for the 2JZ (the I6 in the supra doesn’t count, because BMW), we are stuck with this crap. Why go with dynamic force when you can get the MOA8Cyl’s?

  12. I also would have accepted a V35A-FTS entry as the top-end variant in lieu of the 2UR-GSE… so long as it comes with a tune similar to that of the LX600/Land Cruiser. But I still think that the Dynamic Force engine series has a long way to go to prove itself.

  13. There are a couple of photos there where I had to look again to actually distinguish the “L” badge on the grille from the “H” badge my brain automatically filled in.

    Eh, it’s not for me, but good on them for pushing more fuel efficient powertrains?

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