Lexus NX 300h review
The Lexus NX 300h is a five-door SUV with extrovert styling. Sitting beneath the bigger RX 450h in the Lexus line-up, the NX 300h shares much with its bigger brother, including a 'self-charging' hybrid powertrain. Unlike the 4x4-only RX 450h, the NX 300h can be chosen with front or four-wheel drive – the latter featuring an electric motor to drive the back wheels, instead of a propshaft from the engine.
The NX 300h has many rivals, such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Range Rover Evoque if you’re prepared to look at traditional diesel power, but pickings are a bit thinner in SUV class if you want to be greener. The Hyundai Kona is an attractive electric SUV, but it hardly has the badge kudos of the Lexus, and the same could be said of both the MINI Countryman S E All4 and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrids. The Volvo XC60 Twin Engine is more upmarket though, and life will surely become tougher for the NX 300h when BMW and Audi introduce hybrid versions of the X3 and Q5 respectively.
Unlike most of its SUV rivals, the Lexus doesn’t need to be plugged in to a mains socket to charge its battery. The SUV’s main propulsion unit is a 2.5-litre petrol engine, which is assisted by an electric motor to maximise fuel efficiency. There’s a relatively small battery under the floor at the rear and this is topped up by the engine and regenerative braking – a system that harvests waste energy when the car slows down. The engine drives through a CVT gearbox, which is a type of automatic designed to keep the engine at optimum efficiency. While most NX 300h trim levels feature four-wheel drive, the entry-level NX 300h SE is front-wheel drive.
In use, the electric batteries can provide 100% of the drive and particularly in city stop-start situations, the Lexus will often drive for short periods at low speed in electric-only mode. However, the batteries only store sufficient energy for around a mile of driving, after which the engine cuts in to power the car and recharge the battery. This means the NX is good around town and in stop-start traffic, but plug-in hybrids have a significant edge with their larger batteries and much greater electric-only range.
There are half a dozen ways to order your Lexus NX 300h, starting with the SE entry-level model. It’s as well equipped as you’d expect a premium SUV to be: the kit list includes eight-way power-adjustable seats, premium navigation, DAB radio, LED headlamps and 18-inch alloy wheels. Next up is the NX 300h Luxury, which has privacy glass, smart entry and leather, while a pair of 300h Sport and F Sport models offer styling upgrades designed to make the NX look a little racier.
The NX 300h Premier is the range-topper, and it’s lavishly specced with a head-up display (HUD) that projects information onto the windscreen in front of the driver, a 14-speaker stereo, blind-spot monitoring and 360-degree cameras.
There’s no doubt the NX 300h is a sporty looker, especially if you order one of the Sport trim levels, but on the road it loses out in comparison to rivals, as it’s not very engaging to drive. It handles tidily enough, but the ride is less compliant than a BMW or Range Rover over the UK’s potholed roads and the steering feels a bit remote. The biggest drawback is the CVT gearbox, which makes the engine rev noisily before the car begins accelerating. It means the response feels sluggish, while the revving engine drones and doesn’t sound at all sporty.
But for drivers unconcerned about sporty credentials, the NX 300h offers a luxurious and spacious experience with a proper premium feel. It makes most sense around town, where it’s clean and relatively efficient compared to diesel rivals, although those more traditional SUVs will tend to be more economical over higher mileages.
For a more detailed look at the Lexus NX 300h, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.