Punchy yet exceptionally green | The NX series marks Lexus’ first entrance to the compact luxury SUV segment
With the compact luxury-utility segment looking more and more saturated each year, Lexus has decided to see if they can wrestle away some of that market share from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes with their latest entry. The Lexus NX, offering both the NX200t and the 300h, is capable of sitting on opposite ends of the consumer spectrum. The turbocharged NX200t offers a sportier drive, while the NX300h appeases those with a propensity for greener things. While the somewhat sporty compact SUV formula has already been done (repeatedly), Lexus does offer something fresh with the NX300h as it is the first real hybrid vehicle in its class. With that in mind, I was eager to pick up the keys to the 2015 Lexus NX300h and see if Lexus had a winner on their hands.
Lexus’ dare-to-be motto is certainly evident with the NX series, as the outside design is certainly polarizing. Personally, I’m having a hard time deciding on whether or not I like it from all angles. The Matador Red Mica paint certainly does add points to the styling, as do the LED jewel headlights and daytime-running-lights. However, the plastic wheel arches don’t do it for me, and I find they take away from the funky look of the NX. They also remind me too much of the RAV4 (with which the NX shares its platform). Overall, the Lexus doesn’t look bad at all, but it’s only from certain angles that the lines look a bit strange or cartoony. Whether you like the looks or not, one thing is for sure, the car turned heads wherever it went throughout the week, and prompted many questions from passerby that were definitely interested.
Inside, Lexus’ dedication to meticulously ensuring perfection in details is prevalent here. The cabin is remarkably quiet both when getting up to speed as well as when cruising. Additionally, the NX is chalk full of modern technology. For instance, the NX300h offers a hidden wireless charging platform inside the center stack for compatible smartphones. Given the compact nature of the SUV, the interior is a lot cozier than its aforementioned platform-mate, the Toyota RAV4. However, it’s not all bad news for those in the backseat as there is still a decent amount of legroom. The only sacrifice is with regards to headroom, which may be impeded for those taller individuals due to the sloped roofline of the crossover.
Lexus has also included their new Remote Touch Interface here, that utilizes a touchpad and haptic feedback to dial in most of the secondary controls with regards to both infotainment as well as climate. Things like entering in an address or scrolling through the map are all incredibly easy to do with the system, and they make you feel extremely techy at the same time. Although, I sincerely wish Lexus would take a leaf out of the Volkswagen Group’s handbook and actually throw in some aluminum trim inside the NX instead of the painted plastic, which detracts from the otherwise brilliant finish of the cabin and interior. If Volkswagen can do it for a Golf TSI, then Lexus can surely do the same for their (as-tested) $58,850 NX300h.
As I said earlier, this particular model never sought to appease those who want to carve corners or require a ton of fun in their daily commute. What it lacks in spunk the NX300h makes up for in both comfort and fuel savings. With 0-100 km/h times reported in the 8-second range, the luxurious hybrid won’t be laying down any wicked track times, but with the combined city/highway readings of 8.6L/100KM that I attained over my week with the car, I’m not complaining in the slightest.
Unlike the NX200t, which boasts Lexus’ first turbocharged engine ever, the powertrain inside this NX300h isn’t new. In fact, it’s something we’re all too familiar with as it is the same one found in the serene ES300h as well as the Camry Hybrid. The motor is a 2.5L four-cylinder assisted by an electric motor, which pump out combined a total of 194 horsepower. Lexus offers three drive modes too, Eco, Normal, and Sport. My recommendation is to keep the NX in Normal or Sport, as the Eco mode is a little bit too aggressive in their pedal feel dampening. Speaking of dampening, the suspension in this car has been tuned to absorb all the bumps in even the harshest of roads in Toronto. This is something Lexus takes pride in, as I can’t think of a single car or SUV they’ve produced that doesn’t have a superb ride.
The NX series marks Lexus’ first entrance to the compact luxury SUV segment, a class where some competitors are already onto second-generation models of their offerings. The NX has a lot of ground to cover in order to win over market share, but the company’s two-product game plan could just do just that. A sporty-ish NX200t is just the ticket for those looking for a more engaging driving experience, and this green NX300h offers not only the first hybrid option in the class but also the comfort, reliability, and exceptionally smooth driving experience that the company has been renowned for. Together, the first iteration of the NX could allow the company to cover any lost ground rapidly, and is a great effort in this regard.
2015 Lexus NX300h Gallery