Monday, June 24, 2024

2023 Lexus RX 500h F SPORT Fifth Generation Radiant Crossover

Benjamin Yong Darpan, 29 Nov, 2023
  • 2023 Lexus RX 500h F SPORT Fifth Generation Radiant Crossover

Lexus had the distinction of launching the world's first compact luxury crossover when the RX 300 came out in the late 1990s. Now, in 2023, the "Radiant Crossover" is as good as it has ever been, showcasing a fresh style language, four powertrain options and an all-new 500h F SPORT Performance model.

"We're thrilled to offer our Canadian guests the next chapter of the RX story. The perfect luxury vehicle to convey the transformation that we're making to the Lexus brand," says Lexus Canada director Martin Gilbert in a media release. "The RX is not only our best-selling Lexus in Canada, but it's also built right here at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada in southern Ontario for the entire North American market."

Part of the transformation is the move from the iconic spindle grille to what the company calls spindle body, where the grille — which now requires less real estate due to the partially electrified powertrains needing less cooling — blends seamlessly into the rest of the exterior.

Add to the mix ten different paint choices, including the Lexus-first Copper Crest (Darpan's being the Iridium silver that shimmers in daylight), a sculpted 3-D body flare rising from the bottom of the rear doors, and cool wraparound taillight lenses resembling the visor on Kylo Ren's helmet, and you get what I consider peak RX design.

The F SPORT Performance also features big six-piston brake callipers, a textured mesh grille and matching intake bezels, and 21-inch alloy wheels. At the same time, on the inside, there's a perforated leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, beautifully patterned suede trim, branded sills and lots of aluminum detailing.

Buyers can upgrade to a 14-inch display (8.9-inch is standard), which runs the same infotainment software found in fellow GA-K platform SUVs like the Lexus RZ and Toyota bZ4X. Navigating the system is intuitive enough, but I discovered a couple of annoyances — for example, a pop-up asked me to sign in each time the RX started up, and SiriusXM sometimes wouldn't play properly when Apple CarPlay was active. An expansive panoramic glass roof is available as well.

And don't bother looking for interior door handles because there aren't any. They're oddly replaced with "e-Latch" popper buttons that seem a little unnecessary, though I suppose they add to the overall contemporary appearance of the cabin.

Propelling the 500h is a 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and two electric motors. Together, the setup creates 366 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. Unlike most other hybrids I've driven, the transition between zero emissions and gasoline operation is smooth. In other competitors, when the internal combustion kicks in, the experience can be quite loud and jarring.

DIRECT4 all-wheel drive sends torque forward and backward as necessary, and the Adaptive Variable Suspension equipped on our press vehicle constantly reads road conditions and adjusts damping on the fly to provide a comfortable, stable ride with responsive steering.

The 2023 Lexus RX 500h F SPORT Performance starts at $83,125 and is in dealerships now.

Highlights (base):   

MSRP: $83,125

Motor: 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder + two electric motors

Horsepower: 366 (net)  

Torque (lb-ft): 406 (net)  

Gearbox: six-speed automatic    

Layout: all-wheel drive  

Fuel economy:  12.5 L/100 km (manufacturer estimate)


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Highlights include a storage compartment under the floating 12.3-inch infotainment display doubling as a miniature table when open, illuminating haptic controls hiding underneath the wood trim controlling climate and drive settings, and Amazon Alexa integration so users can ask the virtual concierge to play music, place calls, control smart home devices and more.

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The plug-in powertrain takes advantage of a 68-kilowatt electric motor — sandwiched between the engine and eight-speed automatic transmission — and the total 323 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque outputted felt adequate climbing the steep inclines faced along the way at a good clip. The onboard 17.8-kilowatt-hour battery contains enough juice to travel 42 kilometres before the ICE kicks in.

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Lexus RZ 

Sold in three trims in Canada (Signature, Luxury, Executive), the middle one was present at EcoRun sprayed in Eminent White Pearl paint and sitting on 20-inch black and machined finish wheels. Since no ICE is present to cool, nor a "frunk" in place, the lightweight aluminum hood is positioned low, creating a sportier look and, as a bonus, improves passenger visibility. 

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Zero emissions and off-roading are usually mutually exclusive, but not if Jeep has anything to say about it. Cue the 2023 Wrangler Willys 4xe, an extra-rugged variant of the PHEV honouring Willys-Overland Motors that manufactured World War II and later military vehicles. And as if the special Electric Blue detailing isn't eye-catching enough, the optional bright Punk'n orange exterior colour should be.

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Honda Accord Hybrid

The 2023 Honda Accord Hybrid emerges 70 millimetres longer and more athletic-looking than the outgoing version, showcasing the brand's contemporary design ethos that has the four-door somewhat taking after the modern Civic. Retaining the fastback profile, the hood is stretched out, and the sedan appears to sit lower, while smoked headlight housings, dark 19-inch alloys, and near-full-length LED tail lamp bar add to the newfound sportiness. 

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The navigation system is equally intelligent, and route planning accounts for current energy reserves, traffic, topography, temperature and even how busy a station is in real time to calculate whether a proposed destination is realistic. Leather upholstery is standard, and there's a decent amount of storage space — sometimes a rarity in the segment.