2023 Lexus RX 350: Bestseller Returns in Top Shape

Strong points
  • More dynamic appearance, easier-to-like grille
  • Improved chassis
  • New state-of-the-art HMI
  • Comfortable and quiet
Weak points
  • Too many on-screen functions
  • Will you fit into those F Sport seats?
  • Premium gas now required
  • Below-average cargo capacity
Full report

The Lexus RX has been thoroughly revised and improved for 2023, with engineers and designers making key updates across the line. Of course, some changes are more subtle than others, but as we found out during our test drive of a conventionally powered RX 350 equipped with the F Sport 3 package, the result is fairly impressive overall.

The brand’s two-row midsize crossover follows in the footsteps of the smaller NX, which was successfully redesigned a year earlier and became the best-selling Lexus in Canada in 2022. Built on a new platform making it both lighter and more rigid, the next-generation RX looks sharper and more dynamic than ever.  

Sure, the lines are very similar to those of the old RX, including the trick C-pillars that create a coupe-like roofline, and that’s a bit of a shame. However, details such as the stylish new headlights and taillights are what matters—the rear three-quarter view is particularly handsome. And for those who hated the giant spindle grille up front, Lexus has found a solution to make it more restrained and less in-your-face by essentially closing the upper section, like a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

By the way, you can wrap your new RX in a more unique and attractive body colour than the Nebulous Grey pictured here. How about Matador Red, Nori Green, Grecian Water or the glamourous Copper Crest? Meanwhile, the available 21-inch wheels add beautiful volume to the side profile, but keep in mind that ride quality won’t be quite as good as with the standard 19-inch alloys.

It’s What’s Inside That Counts

The interior of the 2023 Lexus RX also takes a page from the NX, getting rid of the awful touchpad on the centre console and offering an easy-to-reach, driver-oriented touchscreen instead (9.8 inches standard or 14 inches optionally).

The new Lexus Interface multimedia system powering the latter is a major improvement, too. And we like the fact that the menu icons are always accessible on the left side of the screen and the seat/HVAC controls at the bottom. It’s not a perfect system, obviously. For one thing, too many vehicle functions require too much interaction with the screen. Changing radio stations or even selecting a different drive mode are just a couple of examples.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

Good news: wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is included, as well as an intelligent voice assistant that can help drivers and front-seat passengers in multiple ways. Too bad it’s part of Drive Connect, which stops being free after three years. One cool thing about the available head-up display is the ability to conveniently identify the controls assigned to the four-pointed buttons on the steering wheel (which you can later modify via the centre display).

Plenty of Space for Passengers, Not Really for Cargo

In terms of space, the 2023 Lexus RX offers ample room for five and the 60 mm of extra wheelbase versus the previous generation contribute to increased legroom in the rear. The optional F Sport seats provide tremendous support in corners, but anyone who’s larger than average or wearing a jacket will feel squeezed in them. You’ll feel more comfortable in the standard buckets, for sure.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

As for cargo capacity, the 838 litres in the trunk are much more than what you’d find in the old RX, but still less than the average competitor. It gets worse when folding the rear seats, with just 1,308 litres of total cargo room available according to Lexus. Yes, the 40/20/40 split can prove useful, but the seats don’t fold flat at all.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, the three-row RX L is not coming back. Lexus is expected to announce a brand new model called TX anytime soon, similar to what Toyota did with the 2024 Grand Highlander.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

Top-Notch Safety, With One Major Irritant

Just like its predecessor, the 2023 Lexus RX has a knack for making passengers feel safe and inspiring confidence on the road. It’s solid, comfortable and remarkably isolated from the outside world. Visibility is adequate all around, except maybe for the blind spot on the left. The digital rear-view mirror makes it easier to see what’s behind the vehicle.

There’s no shortage of active safety and driver assistance features thanks to the Lexus Safety System+ 3.0, the most advanced and comprehensive yet. During our time with the RX, none of the electronic nannies felt intrusive to the point we wanted to turn them off, which is a good thing. Except one: driver attention assist, which uses an infrared camera mounted on the steering column, kept sending alerts all the time, even for normal shoulder checks or navigating through the menus and controls on the centre screen. We bet you’ll want to switch it off, too.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

No More V6

Similar to Toyota with the Highlander, Lexus dropped the 3.5-litre V6 for 2023 and replaced it with a turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine. Output is down from 295 hp to 275 hp, but it doesn’t really matter because peak torque is up from 267 lb-ft. to 317 lb-ft. Even with two fewer cylinders, the new mill doesn’t prove excessively rough or noisy at full throttle, and the eight-speed automatic transmission is a smooth performer.

Acceleration from 0-100 km/h is now achieved in 7.4 seconds (in Sport mode), or about half a second quicker than before, while maximum towing capacity is still rated at 3,500 lbs. Combined fuel consumption is 9.9 L/100 km according to Natural Resources Canada, but based on our experience you should expect more like 10-11 L/100 km. And remember that premium gasoline is required now.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

If you want to save at the pump, Lexus offers two hybrid alternatives (three when including the yet-to-be-launched RX 450h+ plug-in hybrid). The RX 350h uses a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre engine, while the top-line RX 500h F Sport Performance relies on the aforementioned turbo-four. These models manage 6.5 L/100 km and 8.6 L/100 km, respectively, and premium gas is once again required.

Our Verdict

The 2023 Lexus RX 350 is available from $61,465 including freight and PDI. Customers can select from several packages, increasing the price by as much as $15,500. The RX is now in the best shape of its long life, and more technologically advanced than ever with serious upgrades to safety and infotainment. We can assume it will remain highly dependable, as well, which is part of the reason why this model leads midsize luxury SUV sales in Canada.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

Granted, the new RX is not the sportiest or the most exciting SUV in its class, but the issues and irritants addressed by Lexus, like the polarizing front grille and frustrating HMI, combined with the variety of powertrain options should help it attract more customers.

Watch: 2023 Lexus RX From Every Angle

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