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MARKING ITS TERRITORY: 2022 LEXUS NX 350h HYBRID

When Lexus first introduced the NX in 2015, being built off the same platform as the Toyota RAV4; it had the essence that Lexus needed a compact premium crossover quick to compete against the popular demand of the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. Fast forward 7 years and we have an all-new NX, one that is far more fitting to the brand and what consumers may appreciate. Not long ago, here in the early part of 2022, I looked at the all-new Lexus NX 350 with its new 2.4-liter turbocharged engine, one of four available engine options. And while the turbocharged proved to be a spry little go-getter, I am here looking at its more fuel-efficient hybrid powertrain method noted the NX 350h.

Where many alternative brands are starting to expand their traditional gas power crossovers into EV only models, Lexus is keeping to sort of original roots by continuing to offer a traditional hybrid system. Unlike a plug-in hybrid system, the traditional setup here uses a much smaller battery pack and electric motor to work alongside the gas-powered engine to help save fuel where the engine deems it wasteful; as such cases when slowing to a stop and driving under 25-mph. Opting for the NX 350h hybrid doesn’t carry a huge cost impact like it used to in the past as it starts nearly $500 cheaper than the NX 350 Turbo at $43,105 and $3500 more than the cheapest, front-wheel drive, NX 250 – and lets be honest, that’s like buying a 320i with the single exhaust tip… if you know, you know.

Notably, the NX 350h comes standard with all-wheel drive that adds an additional 45-horsepower through the source of 3-electric motors, two up front and one in the back; add in the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and the NX packs a total combined 239-horsepower. With the loss of a couple pounds from its overall curb weight from the previous generation and a boost of horsepower, this new NX hybrid moves much more swiftly than before, taking about 7.5-seconds to 60-mph. Granted, its not nearly as quick as its turbocharged engine option or as spirited as the more powerful plug-in hybrid NX, but at least it has some smooth moves up its sleeve.

There are only two drawbacks to this hybrid powertrain, one of which is the way it sounds; using a continuous variable transmission, foot down on the accelerator and the NX lets you know you are pushing on the engine with its loud, unremitting drones. And then there are the transitions between electric and gas, the transition is not as smooth with the sounds of the engine coming on and transmitting unwarranted vibrations. The second is the braking. Hybrid systems are known for having a complicated system as it is also being used to regenerate energy to charge the batteries. In the NX, the braking system is bipolar to say the least, it starts off feeling normal when making a smooth, well-mannered stop; however, those last few moments when a little more added pressure needs to be applied, the whole system wants to, well, basically, stop right now. The result ends up being uncomfortable and more so awkward when you have to explain to your passengers, it’s not me, it’s the car. I don’t think they bought off on my excuse.

At least with avoiding full throttle acceleration, the NX sticks to its comfort zone providing a quality-controlled ride with a soft suspension and a quite cabin. Given that my example did not carry the optional F Sport package, on the road, the NX felt a little dull and unenthusiastic, but granted this was the Luxury model, where it’s about ease and comfort, not adrenaline.

As a hybrid system, one of its many objectives is to save fuel. With an EPA rating of 41-city, 37-highway and 39-combined; my experience was far from those figures. During our 200-mile highway run, I managed to extract 34.9-mpg’s and after putting just over 400-miles on the trip computer, my combined average struggled to see beyond 35-mpg’s. Now, as a disclaimer, my highway run did run into some harsh weather that involved slower traffic than usual and wasn’t able to maintain the preferred 75-mph speed average.

Inside, the cabin is immediately dominated by the massively sized 14-inch infotainment screen as part of the $7450 Luxury Package that replaces the stand 9.8-inch screen. Surrounded by technology, this Luxury Packaged filled the NX with all the primo comfort features like heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a 10-inch heads up display, and power adjustable steering. The interior setting is that divine Lexus quality that carries ultra-soft and comfortable leather seats and soft touch materials on every touchable surface.  

With this new infotainment system, there is a lot to learn and figure out, one of which there is no tune/search knob that makes the system less intuitive and frustrating to use should you go search for your favorite radio station. However, over the previous generations touch pad interface, this update is far more copious. Lexus has also updated and improved on their safety system, which the NX is one of the first to receive this new 3.0 Safety Sense system with a much-improved adaptive cruise control system with traffic stop and go, pre-collision system with forward cross traffic alert pedestrian detection and lane tracing assist.

In a world going EV, some people still want their cake and eat it too. Even though Lexus offers a 302-horsepower plug-in hybrid NX 450h+, the NX 350h offers a premium luxury crossover with traditional hybrid tendencies and decent fuel economy at a more sensible price.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Vehicle: 2022 Lexus NX 350h Luxury
Base Price: $48,500
As-Tested Price: $55,360
Engine: 2.5-liter Four-Cylinder Engine and Hybrid Electric
Horsepower: 239-Combined HP
Transmission: CVT
Drivetrain: All-Wheel Drive
MPG: 41 | 37 | 39 (City | Highway | Combined)
As-Tested MPG: 35.5-MPG Combined | 34.9-MPG Highway

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