RX 350h Offers Lexus Luxury with Hybrid Efficiency

CHATHAM, Mass. – The fifth generation of the Lexus RX luxury sport utility vehicle (SUV) offers American consumers a broad range of powertrain choices and trim levels, and I spent a fun few days behind the wheel of a hybrid RX 350h which offered quick, powerful performance while achieving 36.3 miles per gallon fuel efficiency.

And it did all this in a supremely luxurious package – in fact the review unit was a RX 350h Luxury model, one of the six trim levels the RX range offers (Standard, Premium, RX-first Premium+, Luxury, F SPORT Handling and RX-first, F SPORT Performance).

Leather seats, 14-inch touch screen, 12-speaker premium sound system and power adjustment for seats, mirrors and steering wheel reinforce the luxury designation of this RX 350h as does the smooth, efficient performance of the all-wheel-drive (AWD) hybrid powertrain.

Efficiency, power and technology are cornerstones of the powertrain.

Three different powertrains are offered in the new RX range: internal combustion engine (ICE), hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). All have an ICE as part of the configuration with the 350h utilizing an inline 2.5-liter, four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine producing 185 horsepower and 178 pounds-feet of torque.

Supplementing the ICE are a pair of permanent-magnet, synchronous electric motors fore and aft supported by a 216-cell nickel-metal hydride battery which provides the AWD motivation (the ICE powers the front wheels). Combined with the ICE, the 350h produces a net output of 246 horsepower and 233 pounds-feet of torque.

The power flows to either the front wheels or all four, depending upon the RX computer’s assessment of road conditions, through a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The hybrid battery is recharged through power generated by the ICE as well as regenerative braking which occurs when the driver, with the transmission selector in either D or S, removes his/her foot from the accelerator or applies the brake pedal.

The powertrain produces excellent performance – 0-to-60 miles-per-hour times in just over seven seconds – and solid fuel economy. The federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the RX 350h at 36 miles per gallon in everyday driving (37 urban, 34 highway) and my heavy right foot coupled with some extensive highway trips resulted in an as-tested 36.3 mpg.

The driving experience in reaching those figures was very enjoyable – quiet, sure-footed regardless of road surfaces or curves – which can be attributed to a solid platform.

Underneath, modern, refined structure and equipment

The 2023 RX rides atop the company’s GA-K platform, which is 198-pounds lighter than the previous platform. Its center of gravity is 0.6 inches lower than its predecessor thanks to its use of stronger metals (such as 1180 MPa steel on side rockers, 1470 MPa steel for the roof, and 2GPa steel for B-pillars) and innovative adhesives and welds.

Overall rigidity improves as well with the addition of bracing at the radiator support, center floor, rear suspension towers and back door opening. Although the 2023 RX remains 192.5 inches long, its wheelbase grows by 2.36 inches to 112.2 inches and its track is widened by 0.59 inches to 65 inches in front and 1.77 inches to 66 inches in the rear.

The rear section of the platform features an all-new multi-link suspension design, attached to a rigid high-torsion rear body frame that facilitates more consistent suspension input/travel during acceleration, deceleration and steering moments. Up front, MacPherson-type struts provide the basis for the suspension system.

Bringing the RX 350h to a stop is a power-assisted braking system featuring ventilated 13.30-inch rotors at all four wheels and floating-piston design calipers front (double piston) and rear (single piston).

The extensive advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) begins with the standard Lexus Safety System+ 3.0 which features pre-collision system; proactive driving assist; road-sign assist; lane-departure alert with steering assist; lane-tracing assist; intelligent high beams, and all-speed dynamic radar cruise control.

Also standard on the Luxury trim level are blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert; intuitive parking assist with auto braking, and, not technically ADAS to some, but definitely to me, a heads-up display.

The test SUV also had the optional traffic-jam assist ($800); advanced park ($250) assist, and panoramic 360° monitor ($800).

Luxury, technology and amenities fill the cabin

Lexus was created by Toyota in the mid-1980s as a luxury/premium-vehicle brand, aimed at competing with the world’s top marques like Mercedes-Benz and BMW. During the four decades since the introduction of the Lexus LS400, the brand has carved out its position as a luxury one and the interior of the 2023 RX 350h reinforces this commitment.

The semi-aniline leather-trimmed (five) seating positions are heated and ventilated (rear, $680 option); all are electrically adjustable (rear, $550 option) as is the steering wheel (which is heated and covered by the driver memory system), and the doors are trimmed with Ultrasuede which both enhances the look and feel of the overall interior.

A three-zone automatic climate-control system with recirculation mode keeps the occupants comfortable while the 12-speaker premium audio system, controlled by the 14-inch display enhances the overall environment.

The infotainment system features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; streaming Bluetooth connectivity; WiFi hotspot with available 4G connectivity, and satellite radio.

Solid luxury SUV value

The 2023 RX range fits into the crowded, competitive two-row, mid-size luxury SUV segment. As such, the as-tested price of $64,115 (including the options mentioned above as well as several others including $1,565 for excellent triple-beam LED headlights, and $1,150 for delivery, processing and handling) represents solid value. A front-wheel drive, ICE RX 350 has a starting price of $48,550 while the top-of-the-range RX 500h F Sport Performance AWD starts at  $62,750,

Driving the RX 350h both locally on the tight streets of Cape Cod and during a lengthy, mostly highway trip to Northern New Jersey, was a wonderful experience. The SUV provided great transportation for four attending a 91st birthday dinner – comfortable, quiet and smooth.

The RX handles whatever the road or driver throws at it. It is solid refined and an excellent buy in its segment.

Next week TBR Drives the new 2024 Subaru Crosstrek

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.