11 April 2023

The new Lexus RX is so refined, you (almost) don't care about all the beeping

| James Coleman
Join the conversation
2023 Lexus RX 350h

The 2023 Lexus RX 350h in Brindabella Business Park at the prettiest time of year. Photo: James Coleman.

Despite what Men in Black: International may have led you to believe, there is no such thing as a quiet getaway in a Lexus.

I’ve borrowed the all-new RX from Lexus of Canberra, and the remote key fob may as well be a doorbell. Unlock? Beep. Open the boot. Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. Open a door when not in Park? You guessed it.

It even protests when you’re looking sideways at oncoming traffic at a roundabout because a thin camera atop the steering wheel has noticed your eyes have deviated from the straight and narrow.

It beeps at other things too, but I can’t remember exactly what because they all blended into white noise before long. The messages that flicked up on the driver’s screen weren’t much help either – you need some sort of degree to decipher what they’re on about sometimes.

READ ALSO There’s about to be a lot more historic vehicles on Canberra’s roads

I don’t doubt Lexus’s new mid-size SUV is a very safe car. Take the door handles, for example – you don’t physically pull them out because Lexus favoured an “electrically-activated e-latch” system, so if a cyclist or vehicle is coming alongside, it can stop you opening the door onto them. Useful, particularly along perilous parallel-parking stretches.

But like an increasing number of modern cars, there is the presumption you are an idiot. Lexus seems to think you may not expect the boot to open after pushing the boot-open button and feels compelled to tell you via many beeps. You are probably not – for instance – Chris Hemsworth chasing baddies through the streets of London while wearing memory-erasing sunglasses.

Hang in there – that bit’s coming – but there’s one more lump to swallow.

The new RX range opens $15,000 more than the outgoing model, starting at $87,500 for my 350h Luxury model and the one attracting 90 per cent of the local buyers. The all-wheel-drive RX500h F Sport Performance sits at the top for $126,000, plus driveaway costs.

The enormous 14-inch infotainment screen helps you ignore the fact much of the tech is ripped from Toyota, but it is disappointing you’ll need an extra $5100 for the ‘Enhancement Pack’ to get now-commonplace items like a heads-up display, driver’s seat memory and wireless phone charging. There isn’t even a 360-degree camera. Kia gives you all this. Why not Lexus?

Don’t get me wrong, though – it’s clear the money has been spent – because to drive, the new RX is utterly sublime.

In itself, this is nothing new.

Go back 20 years, when the logos were gold (gold colour, not literally gold) and the interior was a sea of plush leather. You would enter a Lexus frayed by the cares and worries of the world and emerge at the end of your trip a new man. It was like a hug from your mum.

READ ALSO It’s official: Canberra’s sharpest shooter reckons VW’s new ‘Shooting Brake’ lives up to the name

The RX, as the brand’s oldest SUV nameplate, comes from deep within this period. Toyota executives first proposed the idea of wedding a luxury sedan to an SUV to create the ‘Sports Luxury Vehicle’ (SLV) over a pufferfish lunch in 1993.

The first RX arrived five years later, powered by a 3-litre V6 engine and dominated inside by a central LCD infotainment screen and a U-shaped slab of walnut trim. After all, the Japanese had done their homework and confirmed what we all know – a mere 7 per cent of SUV owners ever ventured off-road.

There have been four more generations since then, and while today’s RX has lost the analogue clock and gained a bit of a snout to go with the ‘spindle’ grille, the ethos is unchanged.

Underneath the floating roof and taut skin, you’ll find the same basic setup as a Camry Hybrid, but where the Toyota might be smooth enough to keep the stomach contents inside an overindulgent Uber passenger, this RX is next-level refined. You don’t so much drive between places as effortlessly waft, in the same way as I imagine a soul is transported to heaven. There is not a hint of jerkiness anywhere. And then there are the seats – the heated and ventilated seats.

It’s not a boat, though. Push the RX through corners with pace and even in base front-wheel-drive spec, all two tonnes of it hangs on in a way that would have Sir Isaac Newton heading back to the drawing board.

In fact, you’re left so unruffled by the end of your trip you don’t care it just beeped at you five times in a row because your door wasn’t shut properly.

2023 Lexus RX 350h

Underneath the trees in Curtin. Photo: James Coleman.

2023 Lexus RX 350h Luxury

  • $92,600 (as tested)
  • 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, 184 kW
  • Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), Front-wheel drive (FWD)
  • 5 litres per 100 km combined fuel usage
  • 0-100 km/h in 8.1 seconds
  • Yet to be safety tested by ANCAP.

Visit Lexus of Canberra for more information.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Im not a Luddite ( in fact i work in IT ) , but Im holding onto my 1998 turbo car precisely because i want to drive, not have all that electronics getting in my way. Its a manual and i enjoy the challenge of a manual shift and all thats involved. Not all of us are soccer mums.

I think cars are now basically designed to take stupid people from point a to b, where driving is go stop go stop with little care about whats actually happening . In a way, the smarter cars get, the stupider drivers get. Eventually i suspect they will use “climate change” as some lame excuse to ban human drivers.

“Im holding onto my 1998 turbo car precisely because i want to drive, not have all that electronics getting in my way.”
I’ll bet you think you are a good driver, don’t you, stevew77. It must be frustrating, constantly having to deal with these idiots on the road, who don’t have your skill and hamper you when you are ‘putting the 1998 turbo through it’s paces’.
Despite what you think, driving, at its essence, is about getting ‘from point a to b’. It’s not an opportunity for an adrenaline rush – if you want that head to Wakefield Park.
I for one, hope that I’m on the other side of town whenever you decide to “enjoy the challenge of a manual shift and all thats involved”.
Reading your post, I don’t believe we need a “lame excuse to ban human drivers” – a move to autonomous cars will take another variable out of the equation, the unpredicatability of humans.

Must be nice being gods gift to us mere mortals driving like stupid people.

JustSaying – “opportunity for an adrenaline rush – if you want that head to Wakefield Park” – you can get that from near misses of kangaroos on most roads in Canberra

LOL … before the drought broke, I would have totally agreed with you, especially at dusk on Mugga Lane – since then you have to get around a bit more, but I concede it’s still a possibility.

Yeah , good one….


I spend my life telling my 17 yo to slow down as she pilots our H6 Outback around just under mach 1……

I dont use the road as a race track, i just enjoy the skill of organic driving.

Its cool, i dont expect everyone to enjoy driving, but thats thier choice. The point i was making is that i dont need all the electronic crap ( some people do tho….they really do…im speaking to the numpties who sit in the right hand lane , predominately…..) getting in the way of the driving experience. I find a reversing camera useful, but dont need it….old school i guess.

Autonomous cars will move from optional to mandantory, unless you pay a fortune for insurance. I think people are missing the bigger picture. I shake my head when people drool over EVs, they just dont get it….EVs are way more powerful than most petrol cars, but dull as dirt.

I dont expect people to like what i like, but dont be down on people who like to enjoy performance driving.

Nope, but a lot drive incredibly badly….

Fyi, curiously it appears you’ve taken my comment about car makers designing cars for lowest common denominator intelligence as a sleight on all drivers, if you actually *think* about it, its not. But , hey….

It’s not refined if it sounds like a microwave going off


The driver is done…..

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.