Lexus is well-established as the luxury arm of Toyota and has a reputation for luxury and quality. How does their latest mid-sized SUV compare to its German rivals?

I spent a week in the RX350h Limited followed by a week in the top-spec RX500h, including a family road trip to Napier, covering around 1,300km in total.

What We Like and Dislike About The 2023 Lexus RX350h/500h

What we likeWhat we don’t like
Interior quality
Ride quality
Great stereo
RX500 – power
RX350 – power
Over-zealous safety systems
Auto wipers

What’s In The 2023 Lexus RX Range?

The range starts with the RX350h Premium at $124,600 with a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine with hybrid electric system. This makes 140kW of power and 239Nm of torque, with the hybrid motor pushing output up to a combined 184kW. Power is delivered to all four wheels via a CVT transmission and E-four all-wheel drive system.

Next up are the Limited at $134,500 and Limited Enhancement Pack, each giving higher specs with the same powertrain.

Finally, there’s the range-topping 500h F Sport Performance which has a 2.4-litre turbocharged engine which develops 202kW and 460Nm, with the hybrid system bringing the total power up to 273kW. The F Sport has a six-speed automatic transmission driving all four wheels via Lexus’ DIRECT4 all-wheel drive system, as well as 4-wheel steering.

2023 Lexus RX Standard Equipment Highlights

  • 3-Projector Bi-Beam LED headlights with dynamic levelling system; headlight cleaners
  • BladeScan™ Adaptive High Beam System
  • Auto on & off headlights
  • LED daytime running lamps; LED fog lamps; LED cornering lights
  • Acoustic windscreen glass; front door water-repellent glass; rear privacy glass
  • All glass with UV reduction
  • Heated door mirrors with automatic power folding, reverse tilt, auto-dimming (driver’s side only)
  • Semi-aniline leather accented seats
  • Power adjustable front seats & lumbar adjustment with memory
  • Front & outer rear seat heaters & ventilation
  • 40:20:40 power folding & reclining rear seat
  • Colour Head-Up Display with 3 display modes 
  • 3 zone air conditioning with Lexus Climate Concierge, Nanoe X
  • Smart key entry system with push button start; card key
  • Rain-sensing front windscreen wipers
  • Leather steering wheel with paddle shifters & controls
  • woodgrain accent, memory & heater
  • Power tilt & telescopic adjustable steering column
  • Qi wireless device charger
  • Power back door; handsfree kick-type
  • Mark Levinson premium surround sound audio system with 14″ touchscreen display; 21 speakers
  • Apple CarPlay® (wireless) & Android Auto™
  • 5 x USB-C ports, 1 x USB port
  • Lexus Navigation System
  • Lexus Safety System+: Pre-Collision System with Autonomous Emergency Braking for pedestrians, vehicles & cyclists, driver monitor;
  • All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Curve Speed Reduction, BladeScan™ 
  • Adaptive High Beam System 
  • Lane Tracing Assist with Lane Departure Alert,
  • Steering Assist
  • Lane Centering Function
  • Vehicle Sway Warning
  • Intersection Turn Assist
  • Road Sign Assist
  • 10-Airbag System
  • Blind Spot Monitor with Safe Exit Assist
  • Panoramic View Monitor with dynamic guidelines
  • Parking Support Brake with Intelligent Clearance Sonar
  • Rear Cross Traffic Auto Brake
  • Rear Camera Detection
  • 4 x front & 4 x rear clearance sensors
  • 2 x ISOFIX & 3 x tether anchors on rear seat
  • Tyre pressure warning system
  • Alarm system with horn & siren alarm, intrusion & tilt sensor; engine immobiliser
  • 5 Star ANCAP Safety Rating (Tested 2022)

RX500h adds

  • Panoramic roof with sliding front section, fixed rear section & interior roller shade
  • F SPORT smooth leather accented & Ultrasuede seats
  • Power adjustable front seats & lumbar adjustment
  • Driver’s seat memory
  • Front seat heaters & ventilation
  • 40:20:40 manual split folding & reclining rear seat
  • Digital rear-view mirror
  • 6 x front & 6 x rear clearance sensors
  • Lexus Teammate Advanced Park
  • Active Noise Control & Acceleration Sound Control
  • Interior in leather accented ultrasuede with dark aluminium trim, in black or Dark Rose

Exterior Colours available

  • Sonic Quartz  n/a F SPORT Performance
  • Sonic Shade
  • Graphite Black
  • Sonic Copper
  • Titanium n/a F SPORT Performance
  • White Nova | F SPORT Performance only
  • Cobalt | F SPORT Performance only
  • Burgundy n/a F SPORT Performance
  • Sonic Iridium
  • Terrane Khaki n/a F SPORT Performance
  • Deep Blue n/a F SPORT Performance

For a full list of specs and options available for the Lexus RX head on over to Lexus New Zealand’s website

How Does The 2023 Lexus RX350h/500h Compare To Its Competition?

Make/ ModelEnginePower/
SeatsFuel L/100kmTowing
Mercedes GLE 300d 4MATIC2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel198/50056.22,700690$159,899
BMW X5 xDrive 30d3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel190/560553,500680$149,900
Lexus RX500h2.5-litre turbo 4-cylinder hybrid202/46057.22,000612$149,800
Land Rover Defender 110 SE3.0-litre V6 petrol-hybrid294/55059.93,500786$141,000
Audi Q7 45 TDI quattro3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel170/50058.13,500740$140,490
Lexus RX350h Limited2.5-litre 4-cylinder hybrid140/23956.02,000612$135,800

Please note that DriveLife does its best to ensure the information above is correct at the time of publication, however, prices, specifications and models can change over time. Please bear that in mind when comparing models in the comparison table.

First Impressions Of The 2023 Lexus RX350h/500h

I’m not normally much of an SUV fan, to me they often look over-large and ungainly – but not the Lexus RX. They have absolutely nailed it with this design. It’s sharp and modern, sleek and muscular. The wheels, despite being huge at 21”, look just right. I love the way Lexus kept the rear roofline level for practicality but swooped down the rear window line through the C pillar for good looks. I think the arches look perfect, with no silly grey plastic tacked onto them. And that deep crease that swooshes along and up the side looks great.

The front has the Lexus huge grille, but blended at the edges rather than having a defined surround and I think it’s much better for it. The front looks a little bit frowny and menacing, in a good way.

Around the back, there’s a full-width red strip that looks really cool, particularly at night (80’s styles making a comeback?). The fake vents at the side draw your eyes in via the crease lines in the boot, giving the whole rear a coherent and tidy look. Lexus has hidden the rear wiper in the roof spoiler, giving a much cleaner overall look.

What’s The Interior Like In The 2023 Lexus RX350h/500h?

Lexus has always done excellent interiors, and they’re continuing this tradition with the RX. With suede trim on the top of the doors and dash with exposed stitching around the edges, and luxurious leather all over the place, this is the sort of car you sink into with comfort and say “ahhh”. It’s all rather lovely. All of the touch points are padded including a pad on the centre console for the driver to rest their knee against.

Our 350h came with grey leather and brown accents, which looks fantastic, although I am not a fan of the light wood trim. It looks fine in most places, but wood effect on the steering wheel is too much for my tastes.

The 500h was all shades of grey, with carbon-fibre-ish inlays, but the (otherwise identical) steering wheel was all leather, which looked and felt much nicer.

The steering wheel has multi-function touch controls that I found a bit odd to use. They’re marked with arrows in four directions and when you brush a digit against them, the HUD tells you the function of each direction. This becomes more intuitive as you go, but is quite fiddly especially as there is a fractional delay then you have to brush the button, wait for it to activate, and then click it. It irritated me more the more I drove the car as sometimes it seemed to need one press, sometimes two.

The main feature of the dash is a huge touch screen that has the heater control knobs at the bottom. The resolution and clarity are great, and the interface is quick and easy to use. The 360-degree camera system is excellent, and automatically activates at low speeds. There’s also a view button which gives you a swoop around the car followed by a top-down view. Most controls are digital but you do get a physical volume knob. The screen did seem to take a while to boot when you started the car – a good 20 to 30 seconds. This could be irritating if you were in a rush to go but the reverse camera and sensors were taking time to activate.

The Mark Levinson stereo is excellent – with good bass, clarity and separation. Definitely one of the RX’s stand-out features. I did find one odd quirk with it, where I had Bluetooth audio paused but was using Google Maps for directions. I tried turning the volume up for louder directions but it popped up a message saying “audio paused, volume will not be adjusted”. Bah.

There’s a rubberised cubby for your bits and pieces, and a sliding cover over the wireless charging pad. With 3 USB-C ports, a USB-A and a power socket, you should be able to power everything you need in the front of the RX. There are two cupholders and one pushes down to make a deep holder for a drink bottle. At the back of the console behind the shifter and parking brake buttons, there’s a big felt-lined centre cubby with a clever hinge system that opens either towards the driver or the passenger.

The heated and ventilated seats in both the 350h and the 500h are comfortable, with no complaints from front or rear passengers on a long trip. The Sport has all-leather rather than the suede bolsters in the 350h, a distinctive stitching pattern and bigger shoulder supports, but they are otherwise very similar. There’s a comfort entry feature that pulls the driver seat back and steering wheel away when you turn off the car. I detest this feature so I turned it off.

The rears in both cars are the same, with suede bolsters and plenty of leg and headroom. Rear passengers get USB-C ports at each side, and the backs are split 40/20/40 for lots of load flexibility. They also have powered lowering and raising, which is pretty cool.

The boot is a good-sized 612 litres, with tie-down loops and hooks, plus a power socket. In the 350h there’s no spare wheel, just a repair kit, but you get a little bit of extra storage under the floor in the plastic tray that holds the tool kit. The 500h has a space-saver spare wheel.

Something else the RX has is soft, i.e. non-mechanical, door handles. The outside handles don’t move when you pull them, they activate a popper which opens the door. Similarly from the inside, you press a button to pop the door. There is an emergency manual pull feature from the inside. These handles are weird and everyone who rode in the car disliked them. Plus they nanny you; Imagine you’ve stopped for a few seconds to drop off a passenger, you pull over, and they press to get out. Car says no. You have to put the car into Park, it engages the parking brake, then they can get out. Similarly, you can’t move the car if a door isn’t shut properly. Great for safety, annoying in daily use.

What’s The 2023 Lexus RX350h/500h Like To Drive?

First, the RX350h, which I drove for around 1000km, including a trip from New Plymouth to Napier and back. Around town, it’s a lovely car – quiet thanks to the hybrid system, comfortable, as the suspension smooths out bumps nicely. It’s easy to park thanks to the 360-degree camera system, and it’s comfortable and spacious inside. So far so good.

The safety systems in modern cars can be quite irritating, and a lot of that is down to regulations – to get the highest safety rating you have to have all of these systems and have them all turn on every time you start the car. But how they are implemented is also down to the manufacturer, and some do it less intrusively than others. I feel that Lexus has gone too far with the RX, to the point where it feels like it’s nagging and nannying you, unless you turn half of the systems off. This gives Lexus the safety rating they want but if everyone turns the systems off it doesn’t actually make anyone safer.

The brakes are a bit grabby at low speeds, though this is often something you find in hybrids with the regen systems. The Driver Attention Alert system was a little bit too keen, beeping at me to pay attention if I scratched my nose, or looked sideways at a junction for too long. I soon turned it off.

The wipers are automatic, but I found that they didn’t start to work until I turned them on, then back to auto again, and then they went too fast. I had this issue consistently in both the 350h and 500h.

When it came to our road trip, I was expecting to love this car and to make our weekend trip in comfort, but once we got outside the city things started to unravel a bit. The ride was still comfortable and soaked up the bumps, but at higher speeds felt floaty and vague. The steering is accurate but with no feel of what the wheels were doing, and on corners the car felt heavy and wanted to understeer at normal speeds. I realised after a while that the RX350h seemed to be like a boat over hills and bigger bumps, cresting the bump and then levelling out.

Cruise control worked well, but turning on steering assist was a pain. I had both hands on the wheel at all times but it constantly kept beeping at me and telling me to steer, even on straight roads. I turned it off. Outside the city on state highways, Lane Assist also kept beeping all the time and was also turned off pretty early in the trip.

Then there was the performance, or lack of it. This car feels slow! It’ll happily cruise all day at 100kph but I hope you’re not in a hurry to get there. I pulled out to overtake a truck doing around 80, floored the pedal and… wait.. wait.. lots of noise…, my wife looked across at me with an expression of “Are you going to put your foot down soon?” It really didn’t feel like we’d make it past, on a long straight with loads of space.

On our return journey we drove over the saddle road near Palmerston North, and I put the 350h into Sport mode. Climbing the hill the engine sounded strained, noisy and unpleasant and in my notes I wrote “CVT horrible”. Sport mode also somehow made the car feel even more wallowly and lumpen, and wholly unenjoyable to pilot over a winding hill road. I found myself thinking I’d be having fun on this road in a different car. The brakes are good, though a bit wooden in feel, and they definitely started to feel a bit less convincing at the bottom of the hill.

I know it’s not a sports car, but given how good driving dynamics are getting in modern SUVs, the RX350h’s handling was a real disappointment. 

The RX350h was one of those rare cars that had so many little irritations, I liked it less as the week went on. So, into the RX500h F Sport. I turned off Comfort Entry, Lane Assist, Driver Attention Alert, then set off. The ride is firmer, still a little bit boaty, but comfortable.

The performance though! The 500h is much more eager to pick up and go with its turbocharged engine, but more importantly, I think, a proper 6-speed auto transmission rather than a CVT. It makes the car so much more engaging and eager, plus the four-wheel steering improves the handling and turning circle.

Put it in Sport mode and you get a growly V8 sound from the speakers which sounds great, and adds to the sport credentials. I didn’t have the chance to take it over that saddle road, but I’m sure it would have been a huge improvement.

Lexus quotes fuel consumption of 6.0l/100km for the 350h and 7.2 for the 500h. I managed 6.7 and 9.6 respectively.

2023 Lexus RX350h/500h – Specifications

Vehicle TypeMedium Hybrid SUV
Starting Price$135,800$149,800
Price as Tested$135,800$149,800
Engine2.5-litre, 4 cylinder Double Overhead Cam 16-valve, Hybrid2.4-litre, 4 cylinder Double Overhead Cam 16-valve, Turbocharged, Hybrid
Power, Torque
140/239Lexus Hybrid Drive total system output: 184kW202/460Lexus Hybrid Drive total system output: 273kW
TransmissionElectronically-Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission E-Four All-Wheel Drive6-Speed automatic multi-stage hybrid transmission with M mode DIRECT4 All-Wheel Drive
Spare WheelTyre repair kitSpacesaver spare
Kerb Weight, Kg1,960-2,0602,095-2,160
Length x Width x Height
4890 x 1920 x 1695
Boot Space / Cargo Capacity,
(seats up/seats down)
Fuel tank capacity,
Fuel Economy,
Advertised Spec – Combined – 6.0
Real-World Test – Combined – 6.7
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Advertised Spec – Combined – 7.2
Real-World Test – Combined – 9.6
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing Capacity
Kg, unbraked/braked
2,000kg braked; 750kg unbraked
Turning circle
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
WarrantyFour-year unlimited-kilometre warranty
Six-year corrosion perforation warranty
Eight-years or 160,000 kilometres System high voltage battery warranty
Safety informationANCAP Rating – 5 stars – 5 Stars – PPT855
ANCAP Rating – 5 stars – 5 Stars – PMQ38

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Rob Clubley
I love everything about cars! Driving, looking at them, modifying. It's great to see what people do with cars, the different car cultures. If I was rich, my garage would be bigger than my house!
2023-lexus-rx350h-500h-hybrid-car-reviewThe Lexus RX is a fantastic-looking SUV with an excellent interior. If you want a great ride, efficient hybrid powertrain, and luxury and comfort inside, and you’re not too interested in driving dynamics, then the RX350h might be for you. If you want all that and some get-up-and-go from your Lexus SUV, you’ll definitely want the RX500h F Sport.


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