2023 Lexus RX 350h AWD Review: Fresh, Efficient and Comfy

This Lexus is very much not a sports car, and that's okay.

lexus rx parked next to a snowy boat launch
Tyler Duffy

Lexus offers something of a bipolar SUV lineup. On one end, Lexus sells two tiny crossovers, the UX and the NX; on the other, Lexus offers two hulking, Land Cruiser-based off-roaders, the LX and the GX. One vehicle (at least for now) covers the vast gulf between them, the Lexus RX — and that's the gulf where most SUV buyers reside.

The RX is neither the sexiest nor the most capable Lexus vehicle. But its positioning makes it the Lexus a strong plurality of shoppers end up buying. Typically, the RX accounts for over a third of Lexus's American sales, and outsells the entire Lexus car lineup combined. So even if it's not an enthusiast favorite, the RX, by volume alone, can't help but be kind of a big deal.

The fourth-gen RX had grown dated, after launching in 2015, so Lexus overhauled it entirely with an all-new fifth generation for the 2023 model year. It joins several of its Toyota and Lexus comrades on the current TNGA platform (TNGA-K, if you want to be specific), abandons available V6 engines for an entirely four-cylinder lineup, and it has a — let's call it interesting — new spindle grille that gradually integrates into the car's bodywork at the edges.

Lexus loaned me an RX 350h AWD — the entry-level RX hybrid — to sample over the holidays. It doesn't get the pulse racing like the new 366-horsepower RX 500h F Sport Performance AWD version, or a hearty helping of egg nog. But it does offer a compelling package of comfort, luxury and fuel economy. And driving it around for a week was — if nothing else — a welcome respite from my kids' repetitive viewing of Christmas Chronicles 2.

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How does the Lexus RX 350h drive?
lexus rx 350h from the front by a snowy boat launch
Tyler Duffy

My start with the Lexus RX 350h was sub-optimal. The car service delivered it on December 23rd during a winter storm advisory. We had a family holiday shindig to attend. Temps were frigid. But the snow wasn't too bad — we ended up with about an inch — so I loaded up the family, ventured out...and promptly hit a large patch of black ice that sent the car into a slow-motion sideways spin down a hill.

It was a reminder that AWD is not all-conquering. And neither am I, even after decades of experience driving in winter.

Under improved conditions and tires connected to the road, the RX 350h was solid, but not sporty. It's not quick off the line (or at any point, really). The steering is soft. The handling isn't laser-precise. The groaning gas engine discourages vigor at every opportunity. And the Sport Mode — accessible via a sub-menu — does not help much.

But typical driving in an RX is more humdrum than the Nürburgring, and the RX 350h is tuned well for that. The supple suspension matched up with gnarly Detroit-area pavement bumps with ease. The car's ample sound deadening delivered the sought-after Lexus solace, provided the accelerator was not pressed down with zest. And the 350h serves ups an estimated 36 mpg, about 20 percent more efficient than the outgoing Lexus RX 450h hybrid.

What's the Lexus RX 350h interior like?
lexus rx 350h interior shown from the driver's side door
Tyler Duffy

Interiors are a hallmark for Lexus. And even in less-than-fanciest spec, the RX 350h felt more premium and less dated than the outgoing RX. Lexus chooses materials well; I would not have known the eco-friendly NuLuxe was not leather if I hadn't looked it up. The front and rear seating areas offer ample space, and the cockpit feels ergonomic and driver-oriented.

The biggest change is probably the infotainment system, which finally joins the rest of us here in 2023. Out goes the dreaded clickpad; in comes an expansive touchscreen and Lexus's new Interface system.

The RX 350h's interior's biggest drawback is the cargo area. 46.2 cubic feet sounds tiny for an SUV; on paper, that's less than a Mazda 3 and closer to a Mini hardtop than many potential competitors. But it's fairly handy in practice. About 30 cubic feet of that cargo is space in the trunk with the seats up, which is more than many competitors. It accommodated a full grocery haul, and it proved just the right size for transporting a load of presents to the in-laws.

How much does the Lexus RX 350h cost?
lexus rx 350h from the side next to a snowy boat launch
Tyler Duffy

Interestingly, Lexus does not charge a premium for taking the RX hybrid. The RX 350h AWD starts at $50,150 MSRP, the exact same price as the cheapest RX 350 AWD.

What are some RX 350h alternatives?
lexus rx 350h from the rear next to a snowy boat launch
Tyler Duffy

There isn't really an exact rival for the RX 350h. For price and size, the RX slots between a compact and midsize crossover, so it doesn't match up with the X3 or X5 in the BMW lineup or the equivalent GLC and GLE in the Mercedes one. The closest like-for-like RX alternative is probably the Audi Q5; one might also cross-shop it with the Volvo XC60. But none of those vehicles offer a conventional hybrid powertrain like the RX 350h.

The Lexus RX 350h: The Verdict
lexus rx 350h parked by a snowy lake
Tyler Duffy

The RX 350h has a lot going for it. It's luxurious and comfortable like a Lexus should be, and with its fuel economy, it presents a sensible option within the RX lineup. But you have to really want that Lexus badge for it to make sense.

After all, the Hyundai Tucson Hybrid
drives with more verve, is dramatically more spacious, looks more interesting, gets the same fuel economy — and starts for around $20,000 less. And if you really care about efficiency, hey, there are electric cars now.

The 2023 Lexus RX 350h
close up of the lexus rx 350h grille
Tyler Duffy
  • Powertrain: 2.5-liter inline-four hybrid; CVT; AWD
  • Horsepower: 246
  • Torque: 233 lb-ft
  • Fuel Economy: 37 mpg city, 34 mpg highway (estimated)
  • Seats: 5


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