2023 Lexus RX: Plug-in hybrid, Direct4 performance-hybrid version in redesigned lineup

Lexus has revealed that hybrid technology will play a wider role in the fifth-generation version of its Lexus RX crossover, due to reach U.S. dealerships by the end of 2022. 

That means a new RX 450h+ plug-in hybrid will be joining the lineup, with details to be shared “at a later time,” according to Lexus. 

Meanwhile, the luxury brand has shared details about the rest of the lineup, and it appears that means the gasoline V-6 that’s been a staple in the luxury crossover’s lineup from the start will be dumped. Instead, the lineup now includes three powertrains: a gasoline 2.4-liter inline-4, making 275 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque in the RX 350; a hybrid system with a 2.5-liter inline-4 making a combined 246 hp and 233 lb-ft of torque; and a 2.4-liter “Turbo Hybrid” system making a combined 367 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque in the RX 500h F Sport Performance.

2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance

2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance

The three models are expected to return EPA combined figures of 24, 33, and 26 mpg, respectively, with 0-60 mph times of 7.2, 7.4, and 5.9 seconds. All three versions offer all-wheel drive, although the base non-hybrid model can also be had in front-wheel-drive form. 

The RX 350 has an 8-speed automatic transmission, while the F Sport Performance gets a 6-speed automatic transmission as part of “a new hybrid electric system for the Lexus brand”—including a high-output rear motor, inverter, and reduction gearbox. 

Lexus DIRECT4 all-wheel drive system e-axle

Lexus DIRECT4 all-wheel drive system e-axle

Although that sounds much like what Toyota designed for the RAV4 Prime, it really is different. It employs a version of what Lexus calls Direct4, which directly connects a high-torque electric motor both to the front and rear wheels, bringing the instantaneous response of the motor system combined with the backing of the gasoline engine.

Additionally, Lexus says that the RX 500h will come with six-piston brake calipers and a more cohesive F Sport design package, including a mesh grille, 21-inch aluminum wheels, aluminum pedals, and a leather-trimmed interior. 

2023 Lexus RX

2023 Lexus RX

2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance

2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance

2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance

2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance

Inside, the new RX models get 14.0-inch touchscreen interface, an available head-up display, a panorama glass roof, and an electronic latching system for the doors that interfaces with safety systems. 

The RX family gets a new multi-link rear suspension, and these models have been designed on a “new” global platform it’s terming GA-K that Lexus says yields more leg room. The new model rides on a 2.4-inch longer wheelbase and has a 2.4-inch shorter rear overhang, with very little difference in overall dimensions for the new model. Rear load height is lower, adding to cargo functionality. 

2023 Lexus RX

2023 Lexus RX

Lexus already has one other plug-in hybrid model: the 2022 NX 450h+, which essentially harnesses a version of the system that made its debut in the Toyota RAV4 Prime. The NX 450h+ doesn’t perform as well or return the electric miles or mpg of its Toyota cousin. But with the company’s recognition that Lexus electrified models should perform better for the more expensive, upscale brand, we’ll see what a plug-in RX means sometime soon.

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