2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Review - The Hot Hatch From Lexus

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

Fast Facts

2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance AWD

2.4-liter turbocharged four hybrid (366 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 406 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm)
Six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
Fuel Economy, MPG
27 city / 28 highway / 27 combined (EPA Rating)
Fuel Economy, L/100km
8.7 city / 8.4 highway / 8.6 combined. (NRCan Rating)
Base Price
$63,150 US / $83,833 CAN
As Tested
$68,355 US / $90,283 CAN
Prices include $1,150 destination charge in the United States and $2,305 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

There once was a time with variety on our roads. Small cars, large cars, tall cars, and trucks once shared the highway in relative harmony. People weren’t ostracized for hauling their families around in a compact car - even a hatchback. But in part due to some creative interpretation and exploitation of federal fuel economy regulations, the SUV and crossover revolution began.

Once lumbering behemoths, barely more civilized than the trucks upon which they were based, these quickly became the default mode of transport for millions. Perhaps the first luxury brand to jump on the crossover bandwagon was Lexus with the debut of the first RX about a quarter century ago. It had no sporting pretensions and barely more utility than a wagon version of the Camry underpinning it, but the crossover Lexus was a crossover hit.

Some drivers want more from their cars, however. Power and performance, style and comfort, or whatever - the basics just won’t do for some. Those compact family hatchbacks of the Eighties often had performance variants - mostly in Europe and the UK, but I know I lusted over them - called hot hatches. And since every modern SUV and crossover has a hatchback, can we call this 2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport a hot hatch?

Yeah, I’m reaching there. Nobody will ever mistake a powerful crossover for the original GTI, or even the dearly-departed Corolla FX16 GTS from Toyota. But we have precious few options for fun-to-drive vehicles that can also haul the family these days, so we gotta take our jollies where we can find them. And matting the throttle in this 366-horsepower hybrid does elicit a grin here and there. It’s not blazingly fast, but it gets moving with authority.

The rear-wheel steering, combined with the electric motor on the rear axle, gives this hefty hybrid hauler a surprising bit of verve when cornering. The ride is firm but well-controlled even considering the 21” alloy wheels and corresponding 235/50-21 tires. No harshness was noticed over Ohio’s notorious “road” surfaces. This is a thoroughly balanced vehicle to drive.

I’m not completely sold on the new interpretation of the corporate “spindle” grille. The top section is now solid and body-colored, giving the appearance of buck teeth over a wide-open jaw. Everything else is standard Lexus crossover fare, with a bunch of swoops, curves, gashes, and curls that at first look garish but soon blend into the scenery. I do appreciate a bit of daring with the paintwork, in what Lexus calls Copper Crest which sounds like it should be a particularly weird toothpaste. Whether it comes through in photos, it looks magnificent. If you’re shopping for an RX, spend the extra $595 for this lovely paint.

The interior of the RX is dominated by the optional 14” touchscreen, thankfully fitted with a volume knob and dual knobs for controlling temperature. The latest Lexus interface is mercifully simple and attractive, no longer afflicted with the console touchpad which still infects a few models to this day. The big bright screen is sadly the only color to be seen in the entire interior, though as I wander through the build-and-price tool I see there are a few options to brighten the decor should one choose.

Some touchpad engineer must still have their haptic tentacles deep within the purchasing department at Lexus, however, as touch-sensitive pads appear on the steering wheel. These thumb pads are only printed with arrows, as depending on the mode selected they can control different functions. It’s almost incomprehensible at times, as you can only see what is being controlled via the heads-up display - which is illegible when wearing certain polarized sunglasses. I’d rather not have to guess at which menu I’m twiddling as to whether I’m changing the audio volume or the distance between myself and the car in front while at speed.

Otherwise, the RX 500h is a comfortable place to commute or even road trip, front or rear. Plenty of leg and headroom make it a pleasant place to haul one’s loved ones. It’s plush, quiet, and serene.

The fuel economy is surprising, too. The combined EPA rating of 27 mpg seems spot-on based on my driving - while the less-powerful models in the lineup can certainly manage even better, this seems like a very acceptable figure considering the performance and size of this crossover.

No, it’s not a hot hatch. The Lexus RX 500h F Sport is plenty warm - like molten copper, perhaps? - but drives exactly as one would expect a Lexus RX should. I’m not sold on the steering wheel controls, but it’s otherwise yet another winner from the Lexus hit factory.

[Images © 2023 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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2 of 42 comments
  • Sckid213 Sckid213 on May 18, 2023

    The RX is an Old Person's Car

  • Luck Luck on May 19, 2023

    Oh yeah, I'm a proud owner of Rx 500h, and it is my 5th.

    Rx. And the 3rd f.sport. none.

    Never fails me, that is why they call me lucky lex!

  • Calrson Fan Jeff - Agree with what you said. I think currently an EV pick-up could work in a commercial/fleet application. As someone on this site stated, w/current tech. battery vehicles just do not scale well. EBFlex - No one wanted to hate the Cyber Truck more than me but I can't ignore all the new technology and innovative thinking that went into it. There is a lot I like about it. GM, Ford & Ram should incorporate some it's design cues into their ICE trucks.
  • Michael S6 Very confusing if the move is permanent or temporary.
  • Jrhurren Worked in Detroit 18 years, live 20 minutes away. Ren Cen is a gem, but a very terrible design inside. I’m surprised GM stuck it out as long as they did there.
  • Carson D I thought that this was going to be a comparison of BFGoodrich's different truck tires.
  • Tassos Jong-iL North Korea is saving pokemon cards and amibos to buy GM in 10 years, we hope.