2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Hybrid First Drive Review: A 366-hp Mouthful

lexus rx Full Overview

Pros

  • Quickest RX yet
  • Efficient for 366 hp
  • Quiet

Cons

  • Could be quicker still
  • Sportier options exist
  • 14.0-inch screen not standard

The 2023 RX with the hardest-to-remember name is also the best model in the lineup. Officially called the 2023 Lexus RX500h F Sport Performance AWD, that mouthful of a luxury SUV is the most powerful RX you can buy as well as a solid mix of luxury and sportiness. It also just happens to be a hybrid and sits at the top of the new RX’s line of four models. With the new 2023 RX, the one with the highest number in its name is quite good if you can appreciate what the Lexus is going for.

Meet the RX Hybrid Spice Trio

We’ve never seen the Toyota-Lexus 2.4-liter turbo I-4 in a hybrid powertrain until now. By itself, the engine makes the same 275 hp as it does in the regular RX350. Add in an inverter and a motor at the rear axle, and you’re looking at 366 combined horsepower. Unlike the other RX hybrids, the RX500h has an AWD system specific to this model called Direct4, which can distribute torque front to rear in milliseconds and splits that range from 70/30 percent front/rear to 20/80. We look forward to thoroughly track-testing this system in one way only MotorTrend can, but in the meantime, know that the other benefit of the system—perhaps when driven at more sane speeds—is the way the automaker says it minimizes body motions.

This catches our eye, because body control was an issue we noticed with the Lexus NX, a smaller SUV that rides on the same platform. Unlike the RX350h that uses a CVT and the RX350 that gets an eight-speed automatic, the RX500h sticks with a six-speed auto to keep weight and size in check, Lexus says. The transmission performed fine in the RX500h, which, despite its F Sport Performance name, never forgets it’s an RX luxury SUV first—this is no Supra-SUV wannabe.

Sporty, Not a Sports SUV

At least on the smooth roads where we drove the RX500h, there’s a cushiness to the suspension in the standard drive mode that suggests Lexus is going for more of a luxury-leaning sport model than a focused canyon-carver. We detected more steering feel in the standard RX350, but the RX500h remains somewhat fun and maneuverable thanks to the powerful powertrain, the artificial engine sound pumped into the cabin, and the Dynamic Rear Steering system.

In the RX500h’s version of rear-steer tech, this means the rear wheels can turn up to 4 degrees in the same direction as the fronts or in the opposite direction depending on speed. For example, turn onto your street at city speeds, and the rears may turn in the opposite direction as the fronts to make the SUV feel a little bit nimbler. Having driven a number of different RXs on the same day and on the same roads, we detected a subtle, positive difference with the rear-steer system. This isn’t the first time Lexus has offered this tech, which is also available from competitors such as Mercedes and Genesis. Either way, the RX500h’s version is cool and, unlike the Direct4 system, something owners may appreciate on a more regular basis. What we’d like in the future, however, is more than 4 degrees of rotation to further enhance the experience.

A Qualified Recommendation

Accelerating to 60 mph in a claimed 5.9 seconds isn’t actually that quick these days, but it’s easily the fastest-feeling 2023 RX offered today. And in most situations, the RX500h more than delivers what drivers need for any situation. What makes the model special is the way it does all that while still offering an estimated 27/28 mpg city/highway. That’s great when you consider all the power and features the RX500h includes, especially compared to the RX350 AWD’s 21/28 figures. Yes, the 246-hp RX350h hybrid comes in at 37/34 mpg and has a longer driving range, but that model transmits far more vibration through its pedals than the RX500h.

With the RX500h’s almost natural-feeling brakes, you don’t even need to care that it’s a hybrid. Just appreciate its added power without any fuel economy sacrifice when matched against the RX350. If you’ve ever wanted more excitement from your midsize luxury SUV without going full RS, AMG, or M, try the RX500h.

Looks good! More details?

2023 Lexus RX500h F Sport Specifications
BASE PRICE $58,000 (est.)
LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.4L 275-hp DOHC 16-valve turbo I-4, plus rear electric motor; 366 hp/406 lb-ft comb
TRANSMISSION 6-speed auto
CURB WEIGHT 4,750 lb (mfr)
WHEEL BASE 112.2 in
L x W x H 192.5 x 75.6 x 67.3 in
0-60 MPH 5.9 sec (mfr est)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB 27/28/27 mpg (est.)
FUEL ECON
EPA RANGE, COMB 464 miles
ON SALE Winter 2022

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button
BIELSKO1