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Car reviews - Lexus - RX


We like
Fuel economy of hybrid variants, gutsy performance of flagship model, massively improved HMI, exceptional assembly and materials quality, characterful turbo ‘four’
Room for improvement
Tyre thrum on base model’s Dunlops, no PHEV or BEV from launch, no seven-seat option available, brake pedal feel of hybrid variants, lengthy wait for flagship RX500h

A polished performer with trademark Lexus quality throughout, the RX is hard to fault

9 Feb 2023



THE new-generation – and heavily electrified – Lexus RX SUV range has arrived in Australia this week, commencing with the petrol-electric RX350h hybrid and priced from $87,500 plus on-road costs.


That figure means the entry point to the RX range is now $15,296 more than before. The range is topped by a newcomer to the RX line-up, the RX500h F Sport Performance flagship retailing from $126,000, or $15,117 more than the outgoing RX450hL Sports Luxury AWD.


Lexus says the fifth generation RX “redefines” its signature driving dynamics with more performance and improved steering, braking and handling characteristics. The model has been designed to look “sharper on the road”, while also providing “new levels” of comfort and refinement.


Three powertrain options are available across the RX range. Entry level RX350h variants are powered by a 184kW petrol-electric combination and is available in either two- or all-wheel drive, the latter adding $4500 to the list price.


The RX350 offers petrol power from a turbocharged unit making 205kW and 430Nm and offered exclusively with all-wheel drive, while the range-topper features a high-performance 2.4-litre turbo-petrol engine in a parallel hybrid arrangement producing 273kW and driving all four wheels.


Lexus says it expects the range-topping RX500h to account for a quarter of all RX model sales but cautions delays of up to 12 months are possible owing to current supply restrictions – and the model’s popularity in all markets.


The petrol-powered RX350 will likewise account for 25 per cent of RX sales, with the remaining 50 per cent taken by petrol-electric hybrid RX350h variants.


The seven-seat RX-L is no longer available but is expected to be replaced with an all-new three-row model within 18 months.


More information on the 2023 Lexus RX range, including detailed pricing and specification information, can be found here.



Driving Impressions


Sampling all available grades of a new model over the same roads is a benison seldom offered at a new vehicle launch. Fortunately, Lexus was keen for the Australian motoring press to see just how different – and how similar – its three distinct RX lines were on ‘typical’ local roads and didn’t shy away from the process.


Roads that would have quickly shown up any fault in ride, handling or steering did not faze the RX in the slightest; and although there were differences between the trio – owing primarily to additional weight and weight distribution factors – we must remark that all performed exceptionally well, particularly the flagship RX500h.


The 273kW/551Nm ‘500’ is the firecracker of the RX range in performance terms. It is the first Lexus to combine a turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor and the benefits shine through not only when accelerating from a standing start, but when driving out of corners – and when overtaking as well.


The torque on hand in the 500h feels ‘always accessible’, irrespective of driving mode. Even when dawdling around town the driveline feels punchy, ready to fire at a moment’s notice, and the results upon opening the taps are impressive. It is the kind of performance six-cylinder and diesel buyers will feel at home with – minus the clamour and fumes of course.


Add to that reassuring all-wheel drive grip and sweetly calibrated rear-wheel steering assist and the RX seems to shrink around you as you drive, feeling closer to the next-size-down NX when pushing through tighter corners at speed.


It isn’t easily upset by surface irregularities or potholes either. In fact, the ride quality of the RX500h is wonderfully well balanced, even with the wick set to its sportiest mode. The steering is millimetre-accurate with sedan-like feedback and appropriate rack speed. Assistance levels are likewise spot-on.


In fact, the only real none of contention in the RX500h is the abrupt brake pedal response, which – like many Toyota/Lexus hybrid models – lacks the kind of progression needed to truly push-on with confidence. That isn’t to say the six-piston stoppers don’t have the stopping power needed to haul the RX to an effective stop – they do, in abundance. We’d just like a more natural feel from the pedal, please Lexus.


Sampling the RX350 (petrol) and RX350h (hybrid) immediately after the “big dog” showed obvious differences in performance and handling, but not to the degree you might expect – in fact, even the front-wheel drive base model is a tidy piece of kit.


There are obvious differences in power delivery of course, the energetic four-cylinder and its strumming engine note a smooth operator that feels entirely different to the torquey, electrically assisted hybrid. Both offer plenty of get-up-and-go, but fuel economy benefits favour the ‘h’ considerably. Over the same drive loop, and at identical speeds, the hybrid used 30 per cent less fuel than the petrol variant, an impressive 6.4 litres per 100km.


There is difference too in the damping quality of the duo sampled. The F Sport (petrol) feels better tied down than the Sports Luxury (hybrid), which seemed to have more float over pockmarked surfaces. There’s a clear difference in body control that certainly favours the sportier tune of the F Sport variant and, perhaps oddly, without significant impact on the overall ride quality.


The adaptive dampers of the F Sport seem to better maintain contact of rubber to road, smoothing out larger peaks and troughs without fuss while still delivering a very calm and sorted ride.


We found three of the four variants sampled on launch to be exceptionally quiet as well, the base grade two-wheel drive offering some tyre noise (on Dunlop rubber) we did not note elsewhere. In fact, excusing a little wind rustle from the wing mirrors, and a hint of engine note when pushed, the Lexus RX offers an exceptionally hushed ride we think fits the ‘premium’ bill very well.


The cabin of the RX is a lovely place to spend time. The seats are exceptionally comfortable, and very supportive, particularly in the F Sport grade. The driving position is likewise excellent and the view out very good, except for the rear three-quarter view which, like many modern SUVs, falls foul of the vehicle’s design. Fortunately, the useful camera system and generous mirrors help alleviate any blind spot.


Cabin space is generously proportioned between front and rear with exceptional head and legroom throughout. Even with a taller colleague at the wheel it was noted there was several inches of headroom remaining, which should bode well for families of lanky teens.


We were thrilled to see Lexus has ditched the trackpad-style controller for its human-machine interface in favour of a far more user-friendly touchscreen array. The mix between hard and soft buttons feels just right in the RX, with commonly utilised controls remaining as switches and dials, and less commonly used settings tucked away as in-screen menus. Why other car companies can’t make this work is beyond us…


The vehicle’s climate control system, heated and ventilated seats, and heated steering wheel (where fitted) maintained a comfortable cabin despite the diversity of weather experience on launch, the calibration of the rain-sensing wipers likewise very hard to fault in changing conditions.


Finally, and perhaps as expected, it’s worth noting the quality of interior and exterior materials and finish. The RX is beautifully presented with a cohesive design and an exceptional level of assembly. From the stitchwork of the upholstery to the detail in the switchgear, the lustre of the paint and the uniformity of surface joins the RX is extremely difficult to fault.


Which should make the decision to test drive an RX that much easier... Lexus’ customer service levels, proven reliability and trusted technology are just part of what makes the experience of owning a premium car what it is. And when you add to that the fact the RX is attractively styled, pragmatically proportioned and wonderful to drive vehicle.


The Lexus RX has been a strong seller in Australia for a very long time, and the newest model is sure to continue that trend.

Model release date: 9 February 2023

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