TOKYO — The next-generation Lexus RX, the top-selling family hauler that crushes the midsize premium crossover segment, leads Lexus deeper into electrification with a complete redesign that brings the nameplate's first plug-in as well as a fire-breathing F Sport turbocharged hybrid.
The fifth-generation overhaul, unveiled in Japan and at Toyota Motor North America's headquarters in Plano, Texas, repackages the nameplate on a new platform with new drivetrains that Lexus says will make the RX as fun as it is practical to drive.
For starters, the new GA-K architecture delivers a lower centre of gravity for more nimble handling while providing a longer wheelbase and tread for more legroom and cargo space.
And when it lands in North America this year, the 2023 Lexus RX will debut with four new powertrains as well as a new direction for Lexus design, deemphasizing the spindle grille.
"Nothing exemplifies our commitment to the transformation we're making as a brand and Next Chapter for Lexus product more than the renewal of our best-selling vehicle — the RX," Andrew Gilleland, Lexus Division general manager, said in a release.
"We're breathing new life into the segment-leading RX with enhanced safety and technology, human-centered design and undeniable performance from a diverse mix of powertrains."
Toyota Motor Corp.'s premium marque is banking on this redesign of the venerable RX to help rekindle the brand's sales momentum amid tight inventories and supply chain turmoil.
Lexus sales in U.S. declined 13 percent to 64,365 vehicles in first quarter, placing the brand No. 3 in the luxury sales race behind estimated top-seller Tesla and runner-up BMW. But RX sales, accounting for 42 per cent of the Lexus total, dipped just 4.1 per cent to 26,795.
In Canada, though, Lexus sales increased by 5.7 per cent to 5,095 in the quarter. But, the brand trailed Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and BMW in total sales.
The RX dominated the premium midsize crossover market in the United States, with nearly 11 per cent of the segment, outpacing the BMX X5 and rival Mercedes-Benz GLE/M-Class by more than 10,000 vehicles each. In fact, Toyota has sold 3.5 million RX crossovers globally since introducing the nameplate in 1998.
The RX still led the Canadian market in its segment, but not by nearly as much. While first-quarter sales were up 27 per cent to 2,262, it led the Audi Q5 by just 80 units.
The redesign also plays a critical role in Lexus' electrification goals. Lexus wants to transform itself into an electric-only brand in Europe, the U.S. and China by 2030, when it expects to sell 1 million EVs a year. And by 2035, Lexus aims to be ready to sell only full-electric vehicles worldwide.