First Drive: 2015 Lexus NX300h
As the Audi Q3, Acura RDX, and Mercedes-Benz GLA start to trump the small-luxo-ute market to mid-level manager, Lexus had to join in on this multi-billion dollar niche and launched their new baby crossover, the NX. Hitting the market hard, Lexus is offering up their new fond-ute in two forms, a turbo-four or a Hybrid. Since we’ve already fallen head-over-heels for the NX turbo noted as the NX200t, we figured it’s time to find out what 10-percent of the Lexus consumers are in for when looking at the NX300h Hybrid.
Where the competitive rivals fall short, the NX makes up in powertrain options – offering a hybrid version over its available 235-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo gives the NX an upper hand when cross-shopping other luxury crossovers. Hitting our scales over 4000lbs, the NX300h weights slightly more than the turbo happy 200t which came in around 3900lbs. In the process of gaining weight, it loses 41 horsepower to its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine working side-by-side to an electric motor making for only 194 combined horsepower. Getting to speed quickly isn’t quite this Lexus’ strong suit as it take over 8.5 seconds from its continuous variable transmission (CVT), but does offer a manual shifting mode for when you’re feeling frisky and a Sport mode that will change its hybrid gauges into an alluring revolutions instrument.
You can opt to have your NX300h with all-wheel drive that uses a complicated and technical set up using another electric motor. Since we don’t require any assistance to get through the Starbucks drive-thru, our sampled NX300h was front-wheel drive. While it may not accelerate quickly, it does handle decently with the help of the added weight from the batteries – which are tightly nestled near the rear. The chassis here feels a bit tighter and handles more aggressively and flatter than the 200t. The suspension system copes well taking on brute maneuvers and provides a decent, comfortable ride quality during the day-to-day abuse. As suspected the steering here lacks road feel, but provides a receptive, linear response to the drivers input.
Hybrid technology has come a long from what we’re used to. Seeing it here in the NX just shows how much you don’t even realize you’re driving a hybrid. The transition between electric to gas is barely noticeable. When you need immediate power, it delivers as requested. And the end results equals fewer stops at the pump as we saw 34 mpg combined, 1 mpg over the rated EPA; however, we only achieved 320 miles of range on premium fuel.
Before you start judging from a far, it’s worth checking the NX out in person. This is one car that pictures don’t really do it any justice. Its shape is odd and the angles are bit overdone, but I think that’s why we like it. It’s dared to be different, it stands out in a crowd of boring executive crossovers. If you’re the type that likes strange and mysterious things, the NX is perfect. That five-bar spindle grille is anomalous, but it ties the peculiar front end together. The optioned 18-inch wheels fill up the wells nicely and adds a strident expression against our Atomic Silver paint. And just look at those taillights – wicked! One option we didn’t have here, but would be worth the investment are those striking triple beam headlights – they add a completely different dimension that’s just simply awesome!
Having gone option happy on everything else, we were cocooned in typical luscious Lexus comfort – the body wrapping power adjustable leather seats were outstanding, the use of wood and silver trim was nicely done, and the soft touch materials on every surface gives it that proper premium feel. The interior design matches the exterior with its funky curvature and unusual layout, but it’s a design that works for such a confined space.
As part of that aforementioned options list, the $4505 Luxury Package was one of the most expensive offering us up Ventilated Front Seats, those sexy 18-inch alloy wheels, handsome Black Shadow Wood Interior trim, a Heated Steering Wheel, Rain Sensing Wipers, Sun Roof, and Multi-Way power Adjustable Driver seat with Memory Feature. On top of adding in $2140 for the Navigation Package which looks virtuous in this abnormal dash, provides a high-quality display – the new touch pad takes some time to get used and is a bit overly sensitive but it works much better over the mouse pad interface.
Even for a confined space, the NX has plenty of room for its passengers. The front seats provides a cocooned setting while rear passengers embrace plenty of head and leg room. Our tester featured Power adjustable, 60/40 folding rear seats – which was nifty, but cost an extra $400. And the $220 Qi-Compatible Wireless Charger is a neat feature… if you have the right phone case.
Offering a hybrid version in a class where there is no other fuel saving option is a daring venture. Starting at $39,720, the NX300h makes a compelling argument; however, seeing as our tester cost $49,393 – is an extra few mpg’s really worth the extra 10-grand?
|Price (As Tested):|
|2015 Lexus NX300h:||$39,720|
|Electrochromic Auto-Dimming Inside Mirror and Homelink:||$125|
|Qi-Compatible Wireless Charge:||$220|
|60/40 Power Folding Rear Seats:||$400|
|Intuitive Parking Assist:||$500|
|Electrochromic Auto-Dimming Outside Mirrors with Blind-Spot Monitoring:||$660|
I got a kick out of how the panel of automotive designers at the PAPA function on Tuesday kept circling back to their collective hatred of Lexus’ styling. It’s hardcore design but at least Lexus is doing something different, as opposed to “Vanilla-ism” as Ron Will called it.
It was entertaining. I almost felt like I needed to stand up for Lexus. Maybe its because of our generation, but I admire what Lexus is doing. They’re breaking out of their mainstream shell and producing cars that everybody is too scared to produce.