To most people who are attracted to the understated luxury style of the 2013 Lexus RX, both the RX 350 and RX 450h hybrid models will provide performance that's responsive and refined and completely adheres to the image. On the other hand, don't expect a lot of excitement--or for the RX to be particularly bold or nimble--as performance clearly takes second stage to refinement and comfort.
While a few other details for the RX lineup have changed, the RX lineup's powertrain details carry over to 2013. In RX 350 models, the power comes from a 275-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission; front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive an option. This combination, even with the heavier AWD system, gives the RX 350 a strong, confident feel, and it steps away from stoplights quickly and passes smoothly, with almost seamless shift quality.
The RX carries itself over the road with the same sort of muted, comfort-oriented feel that you'll find in the brand's other conservative models like the ES and LS sedans; the down side of this is that there's really no feedback to speak of through the steering wheel.
Hybrid Lexus RX 450h models pair a 275-horsepower, 3.5-liter Atkinson-cycle V-6 with a version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive—one that, interestingly, electrically drives the rear wheels in all-wheel-drive form. Drive the hybrid gently and you'll glide from stops in electric-only mode, with the V-6 almost imperceptibly kicking on at 20 or 25 mph. Drive it a little more rapidly, to go with the flow of traffic, and the V-6 thrums on and off in the background, with the continuously variable transmission generally keeping the revs well below 2500 rpm unless you're close to full throttle.
In all, this is one of the most numb, isolated driving experiences in a hybrid--a good or a bad, depending on what you're seeking--although there are a few vibrations and some engine noise here and there. New for 2013 is a Sport Mode that gives you revised throttle mapping (with more aggressive tip-in) plus different transmission shift points that let the engine rev a bit higher. We haven't yet driven this version, but check back for updates.