Skip the Lexus NX and Buy the Cheaper Toyota Version?

The Lexus NX is a new luxury SUV for the brand. But it’s based on the four-year-old Toyota RAV4 platform. So, in a Lexus NX vs. RAV4 battle, is it worth it? There’s nothing wrong with the RAV4 platform, in fact the RAV4 is the world’s best-selling SUV right now. It makes sense that Lexus would want to take it up-market and produce a luxury version, but is all that newness, tech, and the giant shiny Lexus grille worth the upgrade money for a Lexus?

The RAV4 has remained the same, and that’s OK

Th Toyota RAV4 is Toyota's best selling SUV, so of course it asked Lexus to make a luxury version.
Toyota RAV4 | Toyota

The RAV4 was all-new in 2019 and hasn’t changed much since. We are expecting a new RAV4 soon, however, possibly in 2024, but not 2023. Despite its age, the RAV4 is also a sales leader for Toyota because of its utility and good looks. It holds a lot in its large-mouth hatch, it can be ordered in the positively quick PHEV Prime version, and the 2023 version has Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 which adds a ton of driver aids. You can control most non-driving options on the RAV4 by simply saying “Hey, Toyota.”

The new NX is a sales leader for Lexus and has become the brand’s most popular new SUV. Of course, the Lexus version brings a lot more luxury, in the form of leather seats and some optional tech packages. The main difference in tech is that the NX’s software, while still voice-controlled, can be ordered with a nice 14-inch touchscreen and you can set profiles for drivers on your phone or smart key.

The 2022 Lexus NX is all-new

four Lexus NX SUVs in various colors
2022 Lexus NX SUVs | Lexus

Lexus released the NX as a 2022 model and it’s an all-new SUV for Lexus. It’s Lexus’s first PHUV, it’s the first with the new Lexus Interface multimedia system and the first with the new Lexus badging on the back. It’s the second generation of the NX and comes with all-wheel drive, several new tech features, and the new sheet metal gives a much-needed upgrade outside, too. The NX was designed to take on the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3. But it’s a bigger SUV.  

The 2022 Lexus NX and the NX Plug-in Hybrid had both earned Top Safety Pick+ awards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Top Safety Pick is good, but the plus means these two SUVs scored “good” ratings in six categories or more to earn the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ status.

The RAV4 comes in gas, hybrid and Prime PHEV versions

A red 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid SUV can come close to Lexus luxury.
The 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime | Toyota

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The RAV4 can be ordered in LE, XLE, XLE Premium, XSE, Limited and TRD Off-Road versions, as well as the PHEV Prime. The RAV4 starts at about $27,000 in LE front-wheel-drive trim. In Toyota speak, the Prime is the top trim and it brings the heat. The Prime can travel 42 miles on a charge, which means it has the longest EV range of any plug-in hybrid SUV (the NX only goes 37 miles). And, that’s with all-wheel drive. Also, according to Car and Driver, it’s pretty darn quick to 60 miles per hour.

The NX comes in gas, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid versions for about $12,000 more. The plug-in hybrid version, the NX 450h+ has an EPA-estimated 36-mile range of EV power. But, when you add the power of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, it puts down less power than a RAV4 Prime, and is a bit slower to 60 miles per hour, according to Lexus. You can still order a gas-powered NX and it comes in two versions.

The new 2.4-liter turbocharged engine on the NX350 provides 275 horsepower, and the NX 250 gets better mileage, but with 203 horsepower, it’s the cheapest NX at about $39,000. You can order the NX 250 in front- or all-wheel drive.

They can both be ordered with all-wheel drive

2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition has AWD and off-road ability the NX doesn't.
2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition | Toyota

RELATED: The New 2023 RAV4 Woodland Edition Adds a 14th Trim Level to the RAV4

The Hybrid NX and the RAV4 hybrid and Prime use Toyota’s clever hybrid all-wheel drive system. Toyota simply sticks an electric motor in the back and uses it to power the rear wheels. The system in both SUVs cuts down on the added complexity of adding a transfer case and an extra driveshaft to the rear, but still provides more power.

The RAV4 can come close in luxury to the NX

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Interior
2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Interior | Toyota

While the RAV4 Prime starts at $40,300, the RAV4 Prime XSE is $43,625 and offers many of the cool features of the Lexus. The RAV4 Prime order sheet lists SofTex leatherette-trimmed seats. It gets projector-beam headlights, 19-inch wheels, premium seats, a panoramic roof, and more. The Toyota name may not make the valet jump to get your SUV, but it may be more sensible. If you’re considering the Lexus NX vs. the RAV4, there’s one big bonus: RAV4 doesn’t have that giant Lexus grille.

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