Car Reviews

2023 Lexus RX First Drive Review: Bold colors, three hybrids, irksome tech

SANTA MARIA, Calif. – Each automobile has its colour. It’s normally the one prominently photographed in press or advertising pictures; the one its designers thought made the most important impression. They’re typically daring hues, although hardly ever fashionable. The unique Lexus RX will endlessly be remembered painted Desert Bronze. It was as daring and distinctive because the car itself – keep in mind, the RX was the primary actual luxurious crossover, arriving earlier than the BMW X5 and on the similar time Acura was making an attempt to pawn off Isuzu Troopers. The RX would go on to be achingly bland, however to start with, it was radically new and completely different. Desert Bronze drove dwelling that time.

As if to make an identical assertion, the fifth-generation, 2023 Lexus RX arrives resplendent in Copper Crest. Regardless of the identify, it’s extra of a rose gold in individual, and nothing else on the highway is painted something fairly prefer it from the manufacturing unit. It’s very of-the-moment, and in 25 years, we’ll all keep in mind this RX on this colour. In fact, the true query is whether or not the automobile itself shall be price remembering.

It is at the very least a better-looking car than the one it replaces, making use of up to date Lexus styling cues extra cohesively to a physique that appears prefer it was meant for them from the start. The silhouette is even much less SUV-like now. Though the assorted fashions’ floor clearances are throughout 8 inches and the general peak solely 0.4 decrease than earlier than, the brand new RX certain appears to be like decrease than the previous one in individual, and simply low basically for an SUV. There’s a little bit of a large hatchback factor occurring, which isn’t essentially a nasty factor.

Key inside dimensions are nearly unchanged, if really barely beneath the earlier technology. Clearly the sizable variety of loyal RX clients didn’t have a beef with obtainable house. For what it’s price, a pair of rear passengers reported that the again seat was very comfy with loads of house regardless of a tall driver up entrance. Cargo capability measures 29.6 cubic-feet with the again seat raised, which might be similar to a Toyota Venza.

Inside high quality doesn’t appear to be fairly to the extent of its predecessor, and the addition of a colossal display screen hardly ever does aesthetic favors to a dashboard design. The RX is not any exception, and whereas the brand new touchscreens obtainable in 9.8- and 14-inch sizes present improved performance over the previous Distant Contact touchpad-and-display system, that was a bar that could possibly be cleared with a brief hop. The brand new system nonetheless frustrates with a scarcity of bodily shortcut buttons, extreme menu display screen back-and-forths, and simply an excessive amount of positioned inside its purview. Even the driving modes are locked away inside a touchscreen menu reasonably than the beautiful rotary knobs present in previous-generation Lexus fashions.

The most recent array of driver help tech is equally up to date but in the end irritating. The most recent Lexus Security System+ 3.0 suite options up to date and extra options, together with a ahead collision warning system that detects extra incoming obstacles from extra instructions; steering help paired with the lane-departure warning system; and the optionally available Visitors Jam Help that permits for low-speed hands-free driving in gridlock. Sadly, the motive force inattention warning system in a number of take a look at autos steadily boisterously alerted a number of drivers to concentrate to the highway regardless that their eyes had certainly by no means wavered from it. That may drive you bonkers. The lane tracing help system, which was supposedly upgraded, did a fairly inconsistent job of protecting the RX centered in its lane whereas utilizing adaptive cruise management. In a single modest right-hand freeway sweeper, the automobile simply ignored the traces utterly and determined it ought to go straight into the left lane. System off.

One new “Help” ingredient was extra spectacular, the Professional-active Drive Help that includes highway knowledge from the navigation system and visible knowledge from onboard cameras to gradual the car when coming into a nook or going downhill. We didn’t discover the cornering bit, however there was noticeable regenerative braking utilized in each the RX 350h and RX 500h when descending a grade. It’s indicative of a low regen setting in an EV. Up to now, you’d have to pick out “B” with a Toyota hybrid’s transmission selector to realize what’s successfully akin to engine braking. Now, the automobile does it routinely. There are differing ranges of help obtainable, together with the choice to easily flip it off.

The 2023 RX is brand-new from the ground-up, adapting the identical TNGA-Okay platform variant as each front-drive Toyota and Lexus north of a Corolla. Lexus likes to go away off the “TN” when describing it as a result of the T stands for Toyota, however relaxation assured, the RX shares its mechanical DNA with a RAV4 or Sienna.

BMW consumers could snicker at that, however in the end, the RX enjoys the identical dynamic and packaging enhancements as each TNGA car that’s debuted – and at this level, there have been many. It responds extra sharply to inputs, reveals larger composure on undulating pavement and gives a driving place that’s extra sitting-in than sitting-upon. Lexus fortunately supplied a previous-generation RX to drive back-to-back, and the brand new model had noticeably tauter steering, with much less play on heart, no matter driving mode. All the things feels only a bit sharper.

The RX 350h (pictured beneath) additionally now boasts a quieter and extra refined iteration of Toyota’s acquainted hybrid powertrain setup. As a refresher, that features a naturally aspirated inline-four, two motors up entrance that assist energy the wheels and car equipment, and a planetary gearset that mixes with these motors to create what Toyota calls an e-CVT (because the finish result’s just like that of a standard belt-and-pulley CVT). A 3rd motor on the rear axle creates at-the-road all-wheel drive by kicking in when front-wheel slippage is detected.

The upside is phenomenal gas economic system for a midsize SUV: 36 mpg mixed, or 12 mpg higher than the RX 350’s new 2.4-liter 275-horsepower turbocharged inline-four (extra on that later). The draw back is pokey acceleration. The 0-60 time is formally 7.4 seconds, and it feels even slower when motoring onto the freeway as a result of gravelly naturally aspirated engine and droning e-CVT. Principally, it’s what you’d anticipate from a hybrid. 

For 2023, although, the RX is doing its greatest to alter these expectations with two extra hybrid selections. The brand new RX 450h+ adopts the identical plug-in hybrid powertrain format as the brand new NX 450h+ (particulars had been scarce so we solely assume the methods themselves are similar). It successfully takes the common hybrid powertrain and enhances it with a considerably bigger, 18.1-kilowatt-hour battery that can enable some quantity of electrical vary that shall be introduced later. The NX 450h+ can go 37 miles with the identical battery, so one thing in that ballpark appears probably. Though it is going to be obtainable later than the opposite RX fashions, we received an opportunity to take a brief 15-minute drive the place we found it just about drives just like the NX 450h+ and carefully associated RAV4 Prime. Accelerating in EV-only mode is easy and rewarding in its capability to drive with out burning fossil fuels, however is in the end gutless as there’s simply not sufficient obtainable on the higher finish of the ability band. Driving in hybrid mode retains you working on electrical energy as a lot as attainable, however in the event you punch it, the gasoline engine will come on for a lot zestier acceleration than the RX 350h can muster due to the larger quantity of electrons obtainable. That zest additionally cuts down on the droning even when it nonetheless has the e-CVT.

Then there’s the brand new RX 500h, which has a wholly new hybrid powertrain for Lexus (it’ll be ultimately shared with the Toyota Crown). It options the identical turbocharged engine because the gas-only RX 350, which is important in itself for a Lexus hybrid utility. As an alternative of the e-CVT, the RX 500h has a single electrical motor sandwiched between the engine and a standard six-speed computerized transmission. Inside that sandwich is a clutch pack that permits the engine to both energy the wheels or act as a generator to feed the battery (the Toyota Tundra has an identical hybrid setup, however has a torque converter instead of the clutch pack). The tip result’s a much more regular driving expertise with gear adjustments, no droning and loads of easy, low-end torque courtesy the turbocharger and electrical motor. Drivability is markedly higher, however Lexus says this new hybrid idea was created for the needs of efficiency functions (very like the Tundra).

The electrified all-wheel-drive system is simply as new. Though the RX 500h additionally depends on a separate electrical motor to solely energy the rear axle and not using a mechanical connection to the powertrain up entrance, it isn’t only a reactive system that solely engages when the entrance wheels want a hand. Like many mechanical all-wheel-drive methods, the “Direct4” AWD system proactively sends energy to the 80-kilowatt “eAxle” based mostly on enter from wheel velocity, acceleration and steering angle sensors, plus the present drive mode. The entrance:rear energy break up can fluctuate as a lot as 100:0 to twenty:80. The purpose is successfully to offer a front-biased system when in cruising conditions, a rear-biased system when carving corners and one thing near 50:50 when gunning it from a cease.

It is a neat system, however we frankly look ahead to making an attempt it in one thing apart from the RX. Whole system output of the RX 500h stands at a wholesome 366 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, however the 0-60 time is 5.9 seconds. That’s a bit underwhelming for one thing formally dubbed the RX 500h F Sport Efficiency, which is an impression shared after really driving the factor. It positively strikes, however for a range-topping luxurious mannequin, it’s laborious to not be underwhelmed with the shove you get.

No less than it’s faster than the surprisingly sluggish RX 350, which hits 60 mph in both 7.6 seconds with FWD or 7.2 with AWD. It produces a commendable 275 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque from its 2.4-liter turbocharged inline-four, and is definitely a few half-second faster than the previous 3.5-liter V6 (295 hp and 267 lb-ft), however these are nonetheless compact non-luxury SUV acceleration occasions. Shouldn’t a luxurious car transcend “ample”? All of the extra purpose to go together with one of many hybrids, then. The RX 350 could get 2 mpg mixed higher than the previous V6 (25 mpg mixed with FWD and 24 mpg mixed with AWD), however that’s clearly far worse than the RX 350h’s 36 mixed and the RX 500h’s 27 mixed.

The RX 500h is solely supplied in F Sport Efficiency guise, whereas the RX 350 is offered in an F Sport Dealing with variation. Each get widespread styling variations, which could be seen above with the common (left) and F Sport (proper). The grille is the obvious change, although there are refined trim variations that’ll let you know whether or not you’re a 500h or 350 (the hybrid’s additional black trim and bulging decrease rear bumper are the perfect giveaways). Each are additionally obtainable with adaptive suspension, whereas the RX 500h alone could be optioned with a rear-wheel steering system. Not one of the roads we drove throughout our take a look at had been near being twisty sufficient to note the 4 levels of attainable rear wheel articulation, neither is the RX giant sufficient to make the parking benefits apparent. Each 2023 RX will get a revised suspension, together with MacPherson struts up entrance and a brand new five-link rear that takes up much less house than earlier than.

When the 2023 Lexus RX goes on sale on the finish of this yr at costs to be introduced later, repeat consumers ought to discover that it builds neatly on its predecessor with key enhancements and additions. Certainly, repeat consumers are a giant deal as Lexus anticipates 33% of RX consumers shall be earlier house owners with a further 9% coming from one other Lexus. Now, for many who haven’t taken an RX dwelling in some unspecified time in the future since that Desert Bronze unique’s debut, there’s a good likelihood you’ll be underwhelmed by its efficiency and irritated by its expertise. Its a number of hybrids give it one thing no different midsize luxurious SUV has, nevertheless, and given gasoline costs and the local weather disaster, that benefit is big.

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