Considering it’s the most popular nameplate in the brand’s line-up, it’s been difficult to understand why we’ve had to wait so long to get an all-new version of the Lexus RX.
One of the first crossovers to really connect with buyers in the luxury market and serve as the minivan alternative for the stereotypical soccer mom, the next-generation, 2023 Lexus RX will debut on May 31. But about the only thing Lexus is willing to let us know is that the debut is scheduled for 8 p.m.
Oh, and it did provide this first teaser image.
What’s widely expected is that we will see some significant changes in the exterior design, with a new take on the now-standard spindle grille, and an overall shape heavily influenced by what Lexus first showed off with the latest update of the smaller NX crossover.
The agent for change
The Lexus RX — which is also known in some markets as the Harrier — first appeared in late 1997 as a 1998 model.
It marked a significant step for Toyota’s luxury brand which, until then, focused on sedans, coupes and convertibles. But it immediately tapped into the growing family market for crossovers, clicking with buyers who no longer wanted to be seen in a minivan.
The RX also had the distinction of becoming the first Lexus model assembled outside Japan, production expanding to the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Plant in Cambridge, Ontario in 2003.
As with so many other Lexus products, the brand has also introduced a hybrid power option expected to remain available with the upcoming 2023 RX launch. More recently, a three-row version, the RXL, was added, but it’s expected to be split off from the RX line and be renamed the new Lexus TX.
Ready to rumble
Set to compete with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLE, the Genesis GV80 and the Lincoln Aviator, the midsize Lexus RX will boast clear design changes both inside and out. There have been signals it could get slightly different dimensions and that could mean a bit more — much-needed — cargo space.
Look for a significant update to the instrument panel, with new digital displays for both the gauge cluster and infotainment system. The latter will be larger, according to sources, and more sophisticated. That’s in line with the new NX and other models and means it will get the latest Lexus operating system. That includes a new voice assistant that will respond to plain English commands simply by saying, “Hey, Lexus.”
In its push to improve fuel economy, Lexus has been migrating to downsized turbo drivetrains and the new RX would seem a likely beneficiary of that strategy. The current model features a 3.5-liter V-6 that could give way to a 2.4-liter turbo-4 making in the range of 275 horsepower. But buyers may get a more powerful V-6 option on upper trim packages.
The hybrid is also expected to return — though a new gas/electric package might be used, borrowing the system in the current Toyota Highlander. That would mean twin electric motors paired to a 2.4-liter inline-4. In the Highlander it delivers 243 hp and as much as 26 mpg.
There are some rumors that Lexus might even add more hybrid options, some betting on a plug-in hybrid package.
As for pricing, look for a starting price estimated at around $45,000, though a fully loaded 2023 Lexus RX could push up into the $60,000 range.
We hope to have more to report on May 31.