Weekend Wheels: The 2023 Lexus RX 350h is in a class of its own

The crossover SUV is predicted to continue its popularity in the luxury market.

Weekend Wheels: The 2023 Lexus RX 350h is in a class of its own

The Lexus RX has been all over the roads for a while now. The styling differences between generations can start to blend into one another. There's nothing wrong, so it's not worth fixing.

To my surprise, the 2023 Lexus RX350h is unique. It's the first new luxury SUV with a conventional hybrid system in its segment. All competitors offer either plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles. Lexus sells the 500h F Sport Performance trim as the top hybrid model.

This car is perfect for those who are not yet ready to play with plugs.

You can tell if your RX is the latest one on the lot by a few different things. The grille is one of the most obvious changes. It has been redesigned so that it blends into the rest at the top of the front fascia. The car is also lower, lighter and has smoother accent lines along the side for aerodynamics.

If you are one of the many Lexus owners who own an RX or once owned one, then you will know how quiet and unobtrusive it is. This has been its main selling point since 1998. It's quiet and there's little connection to the road.

The RX's new fifth-generation engine is an inline 4-cylinder. The hybrid 350h model has permanent magnet motors. Combine that with a continuously-variable transmission to get 246 horsepower, and 233 pounds-feet torque.

Official EPA ratings are 34 MPG in the city, and 37 on the highway. The combined rating is 36. In a week's mixed driving I averaged 38.6 MPG. This was mostly done in normal driving mode.

The engine noise in lower gears annoyed me a bit. It seemed that the engine was having a hard time just getting up to speed so it could leave my neighborhood. At higher speeds it is quieter.

The interior of the car is comfortable. Seats are designed to be economical, and materials in the cabin are of a high quality. The driver is isolated from road noise and the car absorbs most bumps without involving you.

It's not the interface itself that bothers me, but rather its layout. The layout of some controls and the number of menus I had to navigate through frustrated me throughout my time with RX. Although I like the physical volume control, I'd have liked to see more analog controls on the center stack.

Lexus Safety System+3.0 is a suite of safety technology that's among the best in the world. The car comes with adaptive cruise, blind spot monitoring, and lane departure prevention as standard. It's a good feature, but it feels awkward to use.

The RX350h starts at $51,150. There's no direct competitor. Starting at $58,495, the 2023 Volvo XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid might be a great option for cross shopping. Lincoln Corsair 2023 offers a plug in hybrid starting at $53,885.

The 2023 Lexus RX350h is a good option for those who are looking to save some money at the gas pump but don't want to make the switch yet.