2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance Review & Test Drive

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2023 lexus rx 500h f sport performance

At this juncture in my automotive career, I tend to think that I can point out a good vehicle when I experience one, and my recent week has been one of those occasions that I experienced something excellent in the new Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance. Such a vehicle, now in its fifth generation, continues to be a benchmark for the luxury midsized 5-passenger crossover segment. Not to mention, the Lexus RX in 1998 fundamentally defined the midsized luxury crossover segment birthing what would be a force for others to contend with and often attempt to replicate to gain the RX’s newfound success. Today, the RX sets a new precedent that utilizes the proven Toyota and Lexus hybrid technology with the expected quality and luxury that’s synonymous with the Lexus brand.

The new Lexus RX in the top-level 500h F Sport Performance trim delicately blends all of the points that such a vehicle must hit to become a hit among the discerning audience designated for the RX. The new styling that we find in the RX 500h F Sport Performance embarks on a new bold quest for Lexus that tries not to offend but brings 21-inch wheels, large 6-piston front brake calipers biting down on 15.74-inch rotors, an all-wheel-drive hybrid drivetrain with over 400 lb-ft of torque, and in-your-face exterior colors like test vehicle’s Copper Crest paint. The Lexus RX isn’t going to be another vanilla American suburb cruiser, it’s an audacious experience in more ways than one, and that’s a good thing if you’re wondering.

2023 lexus rx 500h f sport performance side

Performance and Driving Character

The Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance embarks on a unique path for its powertrain, one that utilizes many decades of successful engineering in a hybrid powertrain. The RX 500h uses a 2.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that’s good for 271 horsepower on its own but has the aid of two electric motors for a total system output of 366 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque. The system, as expected, works seamlessly, and thanks to a proven 6-speed automatic transmission, there’s more of a direct connection and feeling in the drivetrain to extract optimal performance from the drivetrain to the wheels. Where the front wheels have the connection of the engine and added power from a front electric motor with 86 horsepower, the rear eAxle gets an 80-kW motor with 102 horsepower to be the singular power source for the rear wheels but makes for an interesting and welcoming power spread. Using all of the power sources available at full bay gives you enough grunt to get the RX 500h F Sport up to 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds. Yes, that means this is the quickest RX ever. Bringing things to a stop is just as inspiring, with an assured brake pedal feeling that has excellent transitions from the braking regen to the friction brakes, which are massive in size and are even up to the task of light track duties.

2023 lexus rx 500h f sport performance rear

The transitions from the electric motor to firing up the gas engine are mostly seamless, and there are hardly ever any stumbles in power delivery. Even the transmission just having 6 gears feels up to the task of going through the cogs without missing a beat, where the instant torque of the electric motors more than makes up for the longer gearing when the system holds a gear. The turbocharged 4-cylinder also does well to keep things moving with some authority, and the sound that you hear isn’t a cheapened buzzing noise that many are accustomed to with 4-cylinder engines. Lexus went the extra distance to pipe in a surprisingly decent mix of cabin sound, with the engine tone kept at a minimum through clever sound deadening. The end result is a pleasing growl tone that sounds and ultimately feels refined, the way a Lexus should be.

2023 lexus rx 500h f sport performance wheel tire

On the open road, the RX 500h F Sport Performance handles well, and the suspension and its adaptive dampers do well to soak up road imperfections well. Even switching the drive mode to Sport putting the dampers into a firmer setting still retains soft ride quality but keeps the front end from lofting a bit more than I would like in Normal mode. Overall, the suspension quality is on par for a Lexus in never being overly firm no matter which mode.

The driving dynamics are excellent for its class, and the RX 500h F Sport Performance responds well to inputs, even if the steering is mostly void of any road feedback or feeling. Speaking of steering, there’s the use of a Dynamic Rear Steering (DRS) system that turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the front at low speeds to virtually shorten the wheelbase for easy maneuvering and parking. The turning radius is exceptional, and the feeling from the rear steering feels more natural than others and doesn’t catch you off guard having to compensate or correct mid-turn-in. At higher speeds, the DRS system has the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front for ease of nudging the vehicle into the next lane.

2023 lexus rx 500h f sport performance

Fuel Economy

As a hybrid, the Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance does well to return consistent fuel consumption numbers. However, the RX 500h doesn’t appear to put its hybrid roots at the forefront, where the hybrid system seems more of an economical way to extra additional performance. With that, the RX 500h F Sport Performance easily matches the EPA estimates of 27 mpg combined, 27 mpg city, and 28 mpg highway figures in the real world. I did observe about 23 mpg around town, pushing the RX a little hard through some twisty roads, but the mpg settled around 26.5 mpg after obeying the speed limit and then later returned just over 30 mpg in heavy rush hour traffic.

2023 lexus rx 500h f sport performance gauge cluster

Interior and Technology

The interior of the new Lexus RX was already a big hit with me in my review of the new RX 350h earlier this year. With the RX 500h F Sport Performance some of the cabin touches are elevated a bit with the trim featuring aluminum and the heated and ventilated F Sport seats up front with their added bolstering. Also, the rear outboard seats feature heating and ventilation, a welcomed addition for a luxury midsized 2-row crossover. Otherwise, most of the interior doesn’t depart far from what you find in other trim levels, which all have excellent fit and finish throughout with some added and welcomed soft-touch areas, such as the lower door trim in the RX 500h F Sport Performance.

2023 lexus rx 500h f sport performance dashboard

The cabin has generous dimensions throughout, with a surprising amount of space in the back seats and cargo area that can be expanded by power-folding the 60/40-split seat backs, which can be power folded from the front through the touchscreen. I did find that the front seat was near the end of its aft travel for a good driving position for myself at over 6 feet tall. Though, I didn’t have a problem sitting behind my front-adjusted seat.

2023 lexus rx 500h f sport performance front seats

The technology, just as I described in my earlier RX 350h Luxury review this year, is pretty straightforward, which is a good thing. The new 14-inch touchscreen has a very short learning curve with menu screens that are easy to access through the set of on-screen function icons. The only thing I wish the system would do is to allow for a split-screen setup to view more than one primary function with so much screen real estate. The color head-up display works well until it gets hot where it seemed to dim until it cooled off. While nice on paper and in concept, I don’t care much for the steering wheel button’s touch-sensitive feature to show in the head-up display which function you are about to press – it commonly reacts to your hand brushing the area when you’re simply turning the steering wheel to show you which button/function you’re about to press. The integration of wireless (or USB-connected) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto works well, and they are a joy to view on a large, high-resolution screen. The fixed climate temperature dials, on-screen climate controls, and quick access features all work well once you become accustomed to accessing them.

2023 lexus rx 500h f sport performance back seats


Just like any other new Lexus RX, the RX 500h F Sport Performance bundles up the vast offering of active safety features as part of the Lexus Safety System+ 3.0, which includes automatic high-beam LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning/mitigation, lane departure warning/mitigation, lane keeping system, rear cross-traffic warning, blind-spot warning, and a clever 360-degree camera system that can display overlayed imagery of what is underneath the vehicle. Some of the unique highlights of the active safety systems include a traffic jam assist system, a safe-exit system that can prevent a passenger from opening a door into traffic, and a proactive driving assist (PDA) system that uses the front radar to detect vehicles that you are approaching and add gentle braking, or regenerative braking in the case of the RX Hybrids, to help control the distance between you and the vehicle ahead or slightly reduce speed on approaching curves.

2023 lexus rx 500h f sport performance cargo


The Lexus RX has always been in a good place for pricing, considering the vast luxury SUV offerings that are out there and ones that directly compete in the coveted 5-passenger luxury crossover segment. The new 2023 Lexus RX starts at $48,550 but can quickly ramp up if you opt for the range-topping RX 500h F Sport Performance with my loaded-up test vehicle coming in at $71,080.


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