Class: Premium Midsize Crossover
Color: Grecian Water
Miles driven: 117
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Observed fuel economy: 20.1 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 21/28/24 (mpg city/highway/combined)
Fuel type: Premium gas
Snow Performance: N/A
Base price: $56,600 (not including $1150 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Cold Area Package ($100), Digital Key ($275), digital rear-view mirror ($200), LED headlamps ($1565), Panorama Glass Moonroof ($500), Mark Levinson audio system ($2265), power rear hatch ($150), Traffic Jam Assist ($620), door edge guards ($155), rear bumper applique ($90), running boards ($725)
Price as tested: $64,395
The great: Comfortable and upscale cabin, long-trip highway refinement
The good: Easy-to-use infotainment system
The not so good: Occasionally clunky low-speed power delivery
Any discussion surrounding the Lexus RX should include a hat’s-off recognition of the vehicle’s place in automotive history. Largely forgotten today, the 1998 Lexus RX was arguably the first luxury crossover. More importantly, it remains an industry benchmark in terms of sales volume, and in defining the category itself.
The RX formula was simple enough: Borrow the architecture of an excellent crossover (Toyota Highlander), engineer the chassis for optimal passenger comfort, add a refined V6 powertrain, and upgrade the cabin to premium standards.
Though formulaically simple, God is in the details, and the Lexus RX has always been more than sum of its parts. Design execution and assembly quality play huge roles here, and the RX has always looked and felt as if the design and assembly people responsible for the vehicle were building it for themselves.
Redesigned for 2023, the RX has not strayed from its core mission. Indeed, it is as refined and comfort focused as it has ever been, but…the V6 is gone. There’s still plenty of power on tap, and it’s likely that this author is the only person lamenting the passing of the old-school, relatively low-tech engine, but with it went a little bit of powertrain refinement—just a bit—and I sort of miss it. More on this is a moment…
Though the RX has not grown in overall length, its wheelbase has been stretched to 112 inches, an increase of more than two inches. Most of the space created by that stretch has been allocated to the rear seating area, where passengers will enjoy a dose of extra legroom.
With the redesign comes a jump in the number of trim level/powertrain configurations—from eight to ten—and in the number of powertrain offerings, in this case from two to four.
The 2022 RX was powered by either a 3.5-liter V6, or a hybridized version of the same engine. As noted earlier, the V6 disappears for 2023, replaced by a turbocharged 2.4-liter four. The hybrid V6 is replaced in most trim levels by a hybrid 2.5-liter four. New for 2024 is a turbocharged and hybridized 2.4-liter. The new engine delivers 367 horsepower and is available exclusively in the performance-oriented RX500h. Not yet available, but due soon, is a plug-in hybrid drivetrain which borrows heavily from the setup found in the Toyota RAV4 Prime—a profoundly spirted small crossover.
RX350 models feature the 2.4-liter turbocharged engine. RX350h models are powered by the 2.5-liter hybrid setup, and, as noted above, the RX500h has exclusive rights to the turbo/hybrid 2.4-liter mill.
Trim levels ascend through base, Premium Plus, F Sport, Luxury, and F Sport Performance. Base prices range from around $50,000 to $65,000, not including options, none of which, save for the Mark Levinson audio system, are especially pricey.
Note that moving forward, the RX will not be offered with a 3rd seating row. A new longer Lexus model, the TX, based on the recently introduced Toyota Grand Highlander, will fill that role.
Consumer Guide recently spent a week with an AWD 2023 RX 350 F Sport and came away very impressed by the latest example of Lexus’ midsize crossover. Our test vehicle, well equipped with such niceties as LED headlamps, the aforementioned premium audio system, and running boards, came to $64,395.
Sometimes referred to by Lexus, primarily on its website as the RX 350 F Sport Handling, the 350 F Sport, unlike the 500, does not boast a power pump relative to its RX stablemates. Instead, the F Sport enjoys unique—and arguably sporty—interior and exterior trim upgrades, as well as a specially tuned version of the RX’s Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS). Note that, perhaps because drivers don’t fuss with them that often, the drive-mode selector has been moved from the console onto the touchscreen. This is kind of a hassle when you hit the highway and want to move from Sport to Comfort mode, an action some drivers may often take.
As for the powertrain, the new 2.4-liter turbocharged engine produces 275 horsepower and mates to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The four produces less horsepower than the V6 it replaces, but considerably more torque, and the net impact of the new drivetrain seems negligible. That said, the drivetrain is not as smooth as the silky V6 setup, shifting too often at low speeds, and lagging throttle inputs briefly when rolling from stop. There’s nothing actually wrong with the 4-cylinder powertrain, it’s just not as near perfect as the old powertrain was. On the plus side, the EPA combined fuel-economy estimates for the models with the 2.4-liter engine are up 2 mpg for 2023.
As we’ve noted before, even in F Sport trim, most Lexus models are not actually sporty, and the 2023 RX 350 F Sport is no exception. Our test vehicle proved spry enough, with responsive steering, plenty of power, and affective brakes. No complaints from this driver, but know that the F Sport is not direct competition for BMW M models, not Mercedes-Benz AMG vehicles. That said, we wait with anticipation to spend time with the RX 500h, which promises to be entertaining to spend time with.
Inside, the RX 350 is very much like the old RX, only better. The cabin is still an understated classy affair, and there’s plenty of adult space in both seating rows. And, likely to the delight of most repeat Lexus customers, the old touch-pad style infotainment interface has been replaced by a normal—and very well designed—touchscreen system. I didn’t hate the touchpad, but it seems as if nearly everyone else did. It’s gone now. Problem solved.
We were disappointed that several times during our evaluation, our phones suddenly disconnected from the infotainment system, this during music/podcast play. The only way we found to reconnect our devices was to shut the vehicle off, restart, and reconnect.
And a shout out to Lexus for not relegating desirable safety and convenience features to pricey packages in the manner of German luxury vehicle brands. The Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 suite of standard features virtually every such system now available, including Road Sign Assist, adaptive cruise control, Curve Speed Management, Safe Exist Assist, and Intuitive Parking Assist.
The new RX is more refined, more efficient, and more technologically advanced than the vehicle it replaces. While we’ll (I’ll) miss the smooth old V6, it’s hard to argue that this benchmark premium midsize crossover isn’t still a best-in-class offering, especially when price enters the equation. And even if it isn’t truly sporty, we appreciate the F Sport for its improved handling and aggressive styling.
2023 Lexus RX 350 F Sport Gallery
Click below for enlarged images