Review and photos by Russell Purcell
When Lexus introduced the NX last year the company was looking to establish a strong foothold in the highly competitive luxury compact utility vehicle segment. With its aggressive styling and advanced aerodynamics the NX was also intended to introduce the Japanese company’s new design language to the market; hinting at the styling direction Lexus would be taking with its SUV and CUV offerings in the immediate future.
Two Lexus NX Models: 300h vs 200t
There are currently two NX models available. The NX 200t is powered by a 2.0-litre, turbo-charged, Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine with direct injection for enhanced fuel efficiency. This innovative engine produces 235-horsepower and 258-foot-pounds of torque and is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. The NX 200t is intended for those buyers looking for both performance and luxury. For those buyers looking for a satisfying driving experience, luxurious appointments, and to reduce their carbon footprint, Lexus offers the NX300h- which is a gasoline-electric hybrid model which offers a higher level of fuel-efficiency and low emissions.
We recently had the opportunity to spend a week behind the wheel of the NX300h and are happy to report that this model delivers capable handling, impeccable fit-and-finish, and exceptional fuel efficiency. Our only real complaint would be that there is that there is limited legroom available in the rear seating area for taller adults, especially if the two front seats are set at the rearmost position of their rails.
NX 300h Power and Performance
Engine: 2.5L with Lexus Hybrid Drive
Under the carefully sculpted hood of the 300h you will find a 16-valve, DOHC, 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine fitted with direct injection for enhanced fuel efficiency. This fuel sipper is partnered with the third generation of Lexus Hybrid Drive – a high-capacity NiMH battery and a pair of ultra-efficient electric motors – and produces 194-horsepower and 154-foot-pounds of torque. It is mated to an electronically controlled continuously variable gearbox which can be manually shifted by using the side shift gate on the centre console. This CVT transmission seems to work very efficiently, and is far less intrusive with regards to noise and hesitation than the similar systems used in many of its competitors.
Lexus Hybrid Drive system
The Lexus Hybrid Drive system will operate the vehicle in all-electric mode at lower speeds (up to 40 km/h), but as soon as you step hard on the accelerator the gasoline engine kicks in instantaneously to insure that power is always on tap when needed. The design team at Lexus has carefully engineered this engine so that it has a relatively broad torque band to help it deliver smooth power at varying engine speeds while maximizing fuel efficiency. As a result, the NX300h accelerates with authority and the driver will never feel wanting for power.
Drive Mode Select
The NX 300h comes standard with Drive Mode Select, a computerized system which allows the driver to customize the car’s handling dynamics and performance parameters using a console mounted dial. This innovative system allows the driver to choose to operate the car in one of three individual modes – ECO, Normal and Sport.
Adaptive Variable Suspension
An advanced Adaptive Variable Suspension system has been developed to bless the car with improved steering response as well as significantly reduce the effects of body roll and lean, and front and rear stabilizer bars help sharpen overall handling. This well sorted suspension setup keeps the car tracking straight and true while preserving the level of ride comfort one expects from a Lexus product.
During our seven day test period the NX 300h felt well balanced and composed at all times. The vehicle has a relatively wide stance (for its diminutive size) and a carefully engineered suspension system which helps it handle more like an automobile than a sport utility. The NX does an excellent job of communicating its wishes through the steering wheel and the seat, and the nimble people mover tracks straight and true without much body roll. The over-sized disc brakes were quick to react to pedal pressure and at no time did they exhibit any sign of fade.
With the surefootedness of a proven Dynamic Torque Control-enhanced E-Four All-wheel-drive system that is further backed up by advanced stability and traction control systems, the NX 300h is a great foul weather companion to have available to assist with your daily transportation duties.
Styling and Features
The Lexus NX 300h features bold styling that enhances its overall curb appeal and helps set it apart from its many cookie-cutter rivals, but it is a little more subdued than the 200t model, which features a more sport inspired front end treatment, side skirts, larger wheels, and a more aggressive rear valance. However, the slippery new shape is immediately recognizable as a Lexus product due to the prominence of the company’s signature spindle grille. The design team apparently penned the NX’s shape so that it resembles a diamond, and with all the clever character lines, creases and folds that populate the vehicle’s very aerodynamic body the resemblance to the precious gemstone comes through.
Inside the Cabin
The product planning team at Lexus is well known for creating a look and feel that conveys a sense of luxury in their vehicles. Last year the NX 300h was only available in a single trim, but in an effort to gain some sales ground for 2016 the Japanese automaker has added a well-appointed Executive model which is loaded with all the latest comfort, convenience, and safety features expected in a premium model. These include automatic high beam headlights and rain-sensing wipers, advanced LED lighting front and rear, a heads-up display, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, backup camera, voice activated navigation, adaptive cruise control, and a full complement of proximity sensors. Inside you will find quality leather seating, fine wood trim, a premium class 10-speaker audio system, power adjustable rear seats, and a host of active safety features.
Our only real complaint would be that there is that there is limited legroom available in the rear seating area for taller adults, especially if the two front seats are set at the rearmost position of their rails.
The passenger environment of the NX is very refined, spacious enough for average adults, and most of the switchgear and controls have been placed and positioned to be easy to see and reach when seated in the driver’s position.
Technology and Comfort
Technophiles will be happy, as Lexus has made the clever Remote Touch Interface command unit standard on all NX models. This clever device allows fingertip control of many accessory functions as well as gives the user the ability to quickly navigate through the maps and menus of the high-definition multi-function display that sits atop the dash. There is also a Qi wireless charging tray available that allows select branded smart-phones the ability to maintain the charge by simply placing them in a centre console mounted tray.
The second row seating area features a 60/40-split design to help add some versatility when it comes to carrying cargo. The rear cargo area can be accessed at the touch of a button on the key fob and the automatic feature will also close the upswing hatch in the same manner. With the rear seats folded the NX300h will swallow up to 1,520 litres of cargo and gear, which is just slightly less than the capacity offered in the non-hybrid model.
The compact luxury sport utility arena is a crowded one, but the NX is well positioned to carve out a larger share of this popular segment for Lexus. This is particularly true in the case of the 300h, as Lexus is still the industry leader when it comes to hybrid technology and very few of its corporate rivals have offerings in this arena.
2016 Lexus NX 300h Technical Specifications:
Base price (MSRP): $53,350
Price as tested: $62,171.25 (Includes: Executive Package – $6.650; Federal A/C tax – $100; Tire levy -$20; AMVIC fee – $6.25; Freight and PDI – $ 2,045.
Type of vehicle: All-wheel-drive, five-passenger, luxury compact SUV
Engine: 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine with Lexus Hybrid Drive
Transmission: Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission
Horsepower: 194 (145)
Torque: 152 (206) @ 4,400-4,900 RPM
Brakes (Fr/Rr): Ventilated disc / disc.
Cargo capacity: 1,520L
Fuel efficiency (L/100km): City – 7.1 (40 mpg); Hwy- 7.7 (37 mpg)