Lexus has moved its large SUV offering onto the parent company’s TNGA-K platform, for the 2023 RX, which promises improved ride comfort and handling. Handling has never been a strong trait for the RX so has the switch moved the nameplate up a peg?
Here we’re testing the RX 350h in Luxury AWD form. Customers can opt for the slightly more affordable FWD version without the ‘eFour’ rear-mounted electric motor. Unfortunately for us sporty car fans, the F Sport pack is not available on the RX 350h in Australia.
2023 Lexus RX 350h Luxury AWD: Specifications
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder hybrid
Output: 184kW (combined)
Gearbox: CVT auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 19×9.0, 235/60
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 2020kg
Power-to-weight: 10.97:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 5.4L/100km
Our consumption: 6.3L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 65L/95 RONPower efficiency: 34.07kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 3.53 seconds*
0-100km/h: 7.62 seconds*
60-110km/h: 5.49 seconds*
1/4 mile: 15.61 seconds at 145.9km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.675g*
100-0km/h braking: 41.46 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.588g*
Decibel at idle (standby): 23*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 74*
Starting price: $90,675
*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different
2023 Lexus RX 350h Luxury AWD: How much does it cost?
The 2023 RX range spans six main variants, from the RX 350h (FWD and AWD) in Luxury and Sports Luxury trim, the RX 350 in F Sport and Sports Luxury, and the RX 500h F Sport Performance at the top. Prices start from $86,904 for the base RX 350h Luxury FWD and top out at $124,675 for the 500h (excluding on-road costs).
Going for the 350h Luxury with AWD (as tested) seems to be a great middle ground and perhaps the best all-rounder in the lineup. You still get Lexus’s renowned hybrid technology and an attractive official fuel consumption rating of 5.4L/100km, but the price tag is relatively attainable, particularly against some of the equivalent European rivals.
2023 Lexus RX 350h Luxury AWD: Interior & packaging
Every 2023 RX model comes with the company’s new 14-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay, digital radio, and, at minimum, a comprehensive 12-speaker Panasonic sound system as standard.
The screen itself is nicely integrated into the wrap-around dash design, and the graphics are very sharp and vibrant in terms of colour profile. However, there does seem to be a lot of blank space on the screen when a number of main menus are selected.
For example, playing radio, you can display a list of the available stations down the right-side of the screen. But then on the left it’s just a giant blank space. Similarly, in the main settings menu there is just a single-file list with plenty of space on the left.
Some apps will load up animations into that space but overall it doesn’t seem well organised. Everything is there, though, which is the main thing. In saying that, this RX 350h Luxury does not feature a surround-view camera as standard. It should, being a $90k vehicle, be included by default, in our opinion.
Switching over to Toyota’s GA-K platform hasn’t caused any change to the overall vehicle length (4890mm), but 60mm has been added to the wheelbase (now 2850mm), and 25mm in added width (now 1920mm), and 10mm in extra roof height (now 1695mm).
These changes mean the cabin is even bigger. Not that the previous model was too small, this new version is more accommodating than ever. Rear passengers are treated to abundant legroom and heaps of headroom, with this test car showcasing the full-size panoramic glass roof which actually offers a centimetre or two of extra headroom.
In the front the dash design feels enclosed and sporty, but not too confined, and there is a lot of storage space around and within the centre console. We counted at least five different device charging options just in the front, with three USB-C ports, a conventional USB and a wireless charge pad.
Two more USB-C ports are located at the back of the console for rear passengers, and rear passengers get separate temperature control and vents, although no fan speed adjustment.
One aspect to the new-look cabin design that doesn’t look good is the shiny black plastic section that surrounds the main screen and gauge cluster. This, when the car is off, can look quite mucky as it is prone to show dust and fingerprints really easily.
Compared with the previous 450h model, this offers a lot more boot space. This is rated at 612 litres, up from 453L, and with the rear seats folded down the capacity expands to 1678L (up from 924L).
2023 Lexus RX 350h Luxury AWD: Powertrain & handling
Propelling the new RX 350h is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, producing 140kW and 239kW, paired up with an electric motor assist system. Going for the AWD version adds a 40kW/112Nm eFour rear electric motor. All up, the combined output is listed at 184kW.
That’s a nice amount of power for a luxury SUV. And although Lexus doesn’t offer a combined torque figure, you’d have to imagine the system develops more overall torque than any equivalent petrol engine that develops around 184kW.
On the road the CVT auto gearbox is obviously boring, as they always are, but it doesn’t seem to matter as much in a vehicle like this. Because it is smooth and it tends to assist with the overall relaxing, cruising nature of the RX. It’s only when you’re giving it some and expecting it to behave like a sports car where the CVT gets a little annoying. It moans and acceleration doesn’t feel natural.
Speaking of sportiness, we did some performance testing on a private road with a Vbox and we saw some very respectable results. Lexus claims 0-100km/h in 7.9 seconds for this model but our tests revealed a best time of 7.62 seconds. Interestingly, this is almost exactly the same figure we got in the RX 350 with the 205kW 2.4 turbo (separate review of that coming soon, but it is featured in our video below).
It gets up to speed without much effort in normal circumstances, and the torque of the electric motors means you don’t look like a revhead streaming through traffic. But, most attractively, the real-world fuel consumption is outstanding.
After a week of driving, including performance testing, our total average was just 6.3L/100km. That’s a very good figure for a big, luxury SUV that weighs 2020kg. Let alone one that can dash to 100km/h in mid-7s. This is where Lexus’s extensive experience in hybrid technology really shines. It does drive in electric mode but only at very low speeds; there is no defined EV mode or range.
As for the handling. Firstly, it is definitely more dynamic than the previous model. While the old one was a bit soft and often exhibited body roll and somewhat sloppy characteristics when pushed, this new model and the new platform is able to provide increased body control and a better driving ‘feel’ when pushed.
The ride remains comfort-focused rather than centred on outright agility and sportiness, in our opinion, but there is some tautness during smaller bumps and then some bounciness during bigger undulations and dippers. It’s a strange combination but our guess is the 2020kg mass doesn’t help.
There is a bit of road roar/tyre roar with this spec model, even though it wears rather tall profile 235/60 tyres. Tyres like this are handy as it means you can venture off road and you don’t have to worry so much about scuffing big rims. They also provide plenty of give on rough roads.
2023 Lexus RX 350h Luxury AWD: Key attractions/reasons to buy
One of the key attractions to any Lexus has got to be the build quality and long-term reliability. Lexus has one of the best reputations for long-term ownership peace of mind, and, with that, Lexus vehicles often retain their value quite well against many Euro competitors.
The other big lure is the hybrid tech. With our real-world economy figure of just 6.3L/100km under testing conditions, you could probably achieve quite a bit lower after extended normal use. Compared with others in this class, the RX 350h offers the practicality of a regular petrol engine but the eco boost of an electric motor.
2023 Lexus RX 350h Luxury AWD: Key considerations before you buy
The main criticism for us is, in this spec, it is a little bit boring. The handling, while significantly improved over the old model, is decent but not above class benchmarks, and the interior is spacious and comfortable but the on-board tech can be a bit complicated – mainly the touch-screen layout and the complex steering wheel buttons (see video below).
2023 Lexus RX 350h Luxury AWD: Video
How does it rate against its rivals?
It has evolved in pretty much every way compared with the previous model, so every area is tweaked and better than before. While it doesn’t set class standards for handling or excitement in our view, the new RX 350h carries on tradition by being very smooth and easy to drive, comfortable, practical, and beautifully refined. The hybrid system also provides good performance yet returns excellent economy.