The Road Beat: 2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance – All Show, No Sport | South Lake Tahoe

The newly updated top-shelf RX crossover is all about luxury, with little interest in sport and performance to its name.

Let’s talk about color first. It’s called Copper Crest, and to my surprise and amazement, this rose gold shade can easily be considered a smash hit. Things got off to a rocky start when my best friend had a negative reaction to the paint, but then something happened that I’d never experienced before with a car: I had several people, many strangers, approach me and ask me about the color because of how I used it. They liked it very much. The initial unsolicited response came from an elderly lady, which confirmed the suspicions, but then others, men and women of different ages, came to comment on this shade of pink copper in a positive way. I’ve never tested a car whose color received so much praise, let alone feedback of any kind. Copper top? My appreciation for the paint increased when it turned overnight into a strong copper worthy of the name. This final judgment became even clearer when I saw another new RX in boring silver, which looked terrible by comparison. I mean, really, silver? This is the best your imagination can do? Well done, Lexus. Copper Crest is a winner.

Well, at least the color is good, because the rest of this Lexus is a mixture of untapped potential and meaningless, insulting technology overload. There may be some sharp body lines and an F Sport badge adorning the fenders, not to mention performance in the official name, but this luxury barge ignores those two aspects in typical Lexus fashion of lying in a game of pretend. As for style points alone, she’s killing it there, especially in that color mentioned. But the well-being aspect is also compromised by having too many solutions to problems that don’t exist, and in doing so, creates new and unique challenges that become increasingly uncomfortable.

There’s speed to be had, thanks to a turbocharged 2.4-liter inline-four supported by a pair of electric motors (they help mask mostly all turbo lag and provide a transparent, smooth powertrain experience), boosting power to a total of 366 system horsepower. As a result, when you slam your right foot down, 0-60 mph takes 5.5 seconds. But what’s most surprising is how smooth this new four-cylinder combination is, and with a subtle rumble and growl when provoked. These two aspects led me to believe there was a V6 engine lurking under the hood until personal inspection. When it comes to noise, vibration, and stiffness, this is one of the four best tools in the industry right now. With electric assist, this hybrid averaged 27 mpg over a week combined, which isn’t great by the standards of Toyota’s other hybrid lineup, but impressive for a large, heavy luxury car with good pedal pressure.

However, this is where Performance and F Sport retire. Aside from the impressive powertrain, there’s not even a hint of sportiness to be found. Now, this doesn’t detract from the RX’s easy-going nature when cruising along the highway, thanks to nicely weighted steering that never veers off its intended path, nor a comfortable ride that soaks up bumps – that’s the hallmark of a good luxury cruiser RX. Enter a series of turns with enthusiasm, however, and you’re greeted only by such worldly ennui and lack of interest in sporty driving that it becomes laughable and arrogant for Lexus to bestow the name and badge on this brassy creation. Is the handling bad? No, not at all, because it still has good power and grip to make unsuspecting passengers (like your in-laws, for example) hold on for dear life if you know what you’re doing, but the problem is that this Lexus just doesn’t have the appetite to engage in that and it’s not fun. to do that. Push the stuff and you’ll only be greeted by a white surrender flag and a low understeer, followed by the most hideous tire screech you’ve ever heard. I’m serious, on a long cloverleaf incline, the left front tire was roaring and begging for help so profusely that I thought the sound was being piped into the cabin via the stereo.

At least the cabin was built on a high platform – wait, what is that? On the dashboard, a large piece of trim popped into place. Lexus typically has among the highest build quality of any manufacturer, but a frequently appearing piece of trim isn’t a welcome sign. The rest of the cabin is as you’d expect, with premium leather and suede throughout and a solid feel that’s been built to NASA tolerances without the rattles. Well, except for that damn piece.

On the road, the interior delivers a wonderfully quiet and comfortable ride, with noise levels so low you can whisper from the front to second-row passengers and a cushioned ride quality that shrugs off bumps with ease. The seats are great too, with support where needed and can be tailored to fit your body shape exactly as you wish. Do you want luxury? Yes, it’s nice here, and it better be for $70,000.

However, Lexus decided to implement some systems and changes carried over from the smaller NX crossover, while adding solutions to problems that frankly did not exist before. The infotainment system has been updated and is much easier to use than before, but the lack of a physical home button can be annoying at times, with a digital button not appearing when needed. The RX’s on/off button is also out of place, mounted high up for all to see, and since when has that been something you want to draw attention to at eye level?

Where things get really bad is with the steering wheel controls, which are unmarked, and pressing any of them instead brings up an illustration on the head-up display. If this is supposed to mitigate distractions, it only increases them because the attention required to read the HUD and see the buttons hovering above it makes things much worse than the traditional buttons reflected on the instrument cluster. There’s also a button to go to a new page of additional buttons on the HUD! What’s worse is that in some scenarios, like low sunsets, you can barely see the head-up display, and if you wear polarized sunglasses like me, just good luck — you need them. I’ve never had a problem tapping on the steering wheel buttons for information like range or cruise control, but here we are now with touch-sensitive buttons that appear clumsily on the windshield. None of the controls work until the system recognizes your finger hovering over them, meaning that a quick tap to increase your speed on the cruise control often means tapping it twice to have any effect. Perhaps with more time, it could be easily mastered, but the learning curve is so difficult that it is actually dangerous.

The door handles look like conventional objects from the outside, but in reality they do not move, and have sensors on the inside to open them electronically. If they’re trying to make door handles cooler, why are there still door handles to begin with? Neither the style nor style of a Tesla or Aston Martin is the right answer either for practical use, but it’s strange to ask, why bother when it doesn’t enhance the experience at all. Like many other new cars, this Lexus will notify the driver if there’s something left in the back seat – a simple precautionary reminder. Except here, it’s not a friendly chime, but an annoying, loud sequence of six sounds as you lock the car and drive away, making others stare at you because they also think your car is owned or broken. Real kicking? Literally, only once out of six or so times does this alarm go off, did I actually leave anything in the car. Yes, this annoying and useless reminder system was actually a miserable failure.

Is the Lexus RX 500h a good car? naturally! But does it live up to the performance and F Sport name? never. The bright side is that straight-line speed is adequate, at least for a Lexus (the base BMW X5 is just as quick), but there’s no fun to be had here besides the attractive paint on this example. Build quality isn’t very solid thanks to that annoying bit (which I annoyingly forgot to get a proper photo of), but the rest of the luxury is definitely typical Lexus, which comes down to comfortable transportation.

Either way, 70k is a lot of money for a Lexus now, but to be fair, you’d have to spend at least 80k for a comparably equipped BMW X5, which I think is the superior car for its improved driving dynamics. And a more user-friendly interior design. If space isn’t as important, the stunning Genesis GV70 beats the Lexus in terms of luxury materials, interior and style, and its four-cylinder engine is almost equally quick and gets enough mileage. If you just want luxury and a quiet, smooth ride with room for four, have no desire to get excited about your driving, and are sure you can live with the electronics, the RX would be a good choice, and you know you’ll definitely want this color, too.

2023 RX 500h F Sport Performance All-Wheel Drive
Price as tested: $70,830
Pros: Stylish for some; Luxurious and comfortable cabin, good mileage
Cons: Not sporty; Bad steering wheel controls

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Author Mitchell Weitzman is an El Dorado County native who has been a car and racing enthusiast since he could walk. Having graduated from UC Santa Barbara, he loves being able to combine his passions for writing, photography, and the world of cars. His personal dream car is a 997 Porsche 911 GT3.

(Tags for translation) Lake Tahoe

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