For years now, the Lexus RX has epitomized the suburban luxury crossover. Yet, underneath its skin it’s full of high-tech, including a hybrid all-wheel drive system that has powered the rear wheels with strictly electric motors way before that was fashionable. Well now, they’re taking the fifth generation RX to a whole new level of excitement with the RX500h F Sport Performance!
When it comes to luxury-minded utility vehicles, the Lexus RX is certainly among America’s most desired, though this Radiant Crossover soft-roader has never been among the most thrilling to drive in its class. Well, the RX is all-new for 2023, and looking to change that, primarily with this RX 500h F Sport Performance AWD.
Pulling the Performance is a 271-horsepower I4 turbo engine that feeds power to an old-school 6-speed automatic transmission. While in back is an 80-kW eAxle that delivers instantaneous torque directly to the rear wheels. All told, the DIRECT4 all-wheel drive system rates 366-horsepower and 406 lb-ft. of torque. A 275-horsepower turbo-4 is the RX standard, while a 246-horsepower hybrid returns as well, soon to be joined by a first-time plug-in model. Additional performance aspects of this Performance include 21-inch wheels, an Adaptive Variable Suspension, upgraded 6-piston F Sport brakes, and Dynamic Rear Steering.
On the road, it reacts fast and aggressive. But unlike most hybrids, we didn’t seem to spend much time running strictly on battery power. So clearly, performance is the name of the game here, which of course we wanted to test to the fullest at our Mason Dixon track.
The 500h launches pretty hard, but not unusually harsh. Grip was quite good, and the all-wheel drive system well sorted, as we didn’t really feel like we were being pushed or pulled; it was just a smooth and Lexus refined trip to 60 in 5.7-seconds. We never felt a need for more gears, as the 6-speed automatic kept the power flowing effectively, shifting smoothly with just a hint of aggression. Things were not so smooth in our braking test, but that’s just because we were being hauled down from 60 very quickly in just 102-feet.
Still a Camry-based chassis, the latest version is close to 200-lbs. lighter than before, which gives the RX a livelier feel. The rear suspension is also a new multi-link design that delivers more consistent response, along with more compact packaging.
Now admittedly, we probably didn’t do ourselves any favors by letting our performance-minded selves take the wheel, choosing this 500h F Sport Performance as our first taste of this new gen RX. It’s clearly not quite the usual RX experience, as ride is rougher than typical for Lexus; though we have no doubt the rest of the lineup delivers a much posher familiarity.
F Sport seats have it feeling not quite as roomy as we remember, but not the case for back seat passengers, who get more legroom than before. And there’s more cargo space too, climbing to 29.6 cubic-ft. with a max of 46.2; plus, a lower floor to make loading easier. Elsewhere inside, F Sport Performance gets a unique steering wheel with paddle shifters, exclusive gauge displays, and aluminum trim. The infotainment screen moves from the top of the dash to a housing in front of the dash with some manual controls at the bottom. While the signature analog clock is gone, we won’t miss the fussy console touchpad controller.
Same overall length as before, but more than 2 additional inches of wheelbase, plus a wider track, not only helps it feel more planted, but it looks more like a hatchback than ever. F Sports get unique front and rear bumpers, along with added black trim.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the 500h haven’t been finalized, but Lexus claims 27 for both City and Combined, 28-Highway; we averaged 26.6 miles-per-gallon of Premium. RX pricing starts at $48,550, with the step up to the 500h not unreasonable, at $62,750.
Admittedly, this 2023 RX 500h F Sport Performance AWD is not very Lexus like, but that may be why we like it so much. It’s not that we don’t like what the RX traditionally brings, it’s just that we love seeing more and more of the performance side of Lexus emerging. Rest assured, the 5th generation RX still delivers the extreme comfort and indulgence that helped it establish the midsize luxury SUV category in the first place. There’s just a whole lot more to like about the RX now.