Lexus NX overview
The second-generation Lexus NX is here, and this time the Japanese firm's medium-sized luxury SUV comes with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, a first for the company. The new model is badged the NX 450h+ - the plus denoting its plug-in status - and it lines up alongside a standard hybrid, the NX 350h, in a two-model range.
As with the conventional hybrid, the plug-in model features a petrol engine and electric motor, but the battery is much larger, so the NX 450h+ has an official range of 76km on electricity alone. This set-up also gives the NX four-wheel drive, while a combined maximum power output of 309hp is quoted.
On the outside, the NX has been given an evolutionary look when compared with its predecessor, although it's more compact than it looks in pictures. It has a neat and modern appearance, with the firm's familiar angular nose, while at the rear it looks especially muscular, with a light bar that stretches across the boot lid to connect the taillights. Inside, the dashboard has been given an overhaul with a new infotainment system featuring an improved user interface.
While Lexus used to have the hybrid luxury SUV sector to itself, most rival makers now offer plug-in models as they switch away from diesel power. As a result, the NX has direct rivals in the shape of the Audi Q5 TFSI e, BMW X3 xDrive30e, Mercedes GLC 300 de and Volvo XC60 Recharge. Here we try the NX 450h+ F Sport, which is the flagship of the line-up.
The Lexus NX model range
Irish pricing for the Lexus NX starts at €58,130 for the NX 350h hybrid in Executive trim. This is pretty generously equipped, with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, keyless entry and starting, a 9.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, wireless phone charging, a powered tailgate and a suite of active safety features. This includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
This is the sole version of the NX 350h offered, while the same trim is available on the NX 450h+ for €61,100. For an extra €9,800 you can upgrade to F Sport variant tested here. This adds 20-inch alloy wheels and a subtly sportier body kit, while extra highlights include dynamic cornering LED headlights with adaptive main beam, a head-up display, a larger 14-inch touchscreen, 360-degree exterior camera views, more leather trim and ventilated front seats.
Both hybrid and plug-in versions of the NX get a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, while the 350h adds a single electric motor for front-wheel drive, and the 450h+ has four-wheel drive thanks to the addition of a second motor on the rear axle. Maximum power outputs are 244hp and 309hp, respectively.
The NX 350h has a smaller battery than the 450h+, but the NX's drivetrain is designed to favour electric drive over the petrol engine, and WLTP fuel consumption of 5.7 litres/100km is quoted. Meanwhile, if you're able to plug the NX 450h+ in regularly, then you could go a long time before needing to fill up with petrol.
Lexus Ireland has a range of finance options available on the NX with repayments starting from €459 a month, although visit the Lexus Ireland website to see the latest offers.
The Lexus NX interior
The first thing that strikes you about the interior of the Lexus NX is the perception of quality. This is a really classy and upmarket feeling SUV. The dashboard layout is all-new and looks modern, while the F Sport's cabin is dominated by its large 14-inch display. The instruments are inspired by the layout seen in the LFA supercar, too, although the customisation options are limited, while there's a clever interface between the head-up display and steering wheel buttons. Hold your finger lightly on a button and the function is shown on the head-up display, so you spend less time with your eyes away from the road.
Most SUVs of this size allow you to sit quite low if you want, but this isn't the case in the NX. The driving position offers an elevated view of your surroundings, and the seat height maintains great space under the seat for the feet of passengers in the back. The seats themselves are figure-hugging and have a really firm lower back region, although they are supportive and comfortable.
Lexus has really gone to town with the ambient lighting in the NX, and there's a ridiculous level of customisation. Four USB connections dotted around the cabin help with connectivity, too, while that large touchscreen can also be operated via voice control.
Cabin storage is decent, with the big centre console featuring a large armrest bin up front, and the wireless phone charging tray slides out of the way to reveal more hidden storage beneath.
In the back, legroom is reasonable for the class, and there are two sets of ISOFIX points on the outer rear seats. The seat backs split and fold flat, too, increasing the 545-litre cargo area to 1,436 litres. Usefully, Lexus provides some under-floor storage that's big enough to store the charging cables, leaving the cargo floor uncluttered.
The Lexus NX driving experience
A clear view of your surroundings combines with typically light controls from Lexus to make the NX easy to manoeuvre. The F Sport model also includes the option to show a panoramic view of your surroundings on the large display, making it even easier to position the NX when parking.
The car's hybrid system favours electric drive, so the NX is incredibly quiet the vast majority of the time. We managed 60km of electric range from the plug-in model's battery on a full charge, but even when the battery is drained, the NX is still an efficient machine. We saw 6.0 litres/100km during our time with the NX when the battery was run down, which is close to the 5.7 litres/100km quoted for the NX 350h. Very impressive.
While the F Sport name might lead you to think the NX is a sporty car to drive, that's not really the case. It's firm, although not so much as to be uncomfortable, and there are selectable drive modes - Normal, Individual, Eco, Sport S and Sport S+ - but there are no major differences between them. The car is certainly more responsive in sportier modes, but since it's not a slow car in the first place, these extra settings seem unnecessary.
Our verdict on the Lexus NX
The first plug-in hybrid from Lexus is a good one. The company has taken its expertise in hybrid tech and applied it to the NX 450h+ to great effect. As with rivals, it's powerful when you want it to be, but luxurious, quiet and refined when taking it easy. But unlike some rivals that quickly fall back to petrol power when the battery is flat, the NX continues to favour electric drive, so fuel efficiency remains a strong point.
Inside, the new touchscreen system is far better to use than the old set-up, while standard equipment is very generous, but then you do pay a premium for it. Our only real gripe is that F Sport models aren't actually that sporty, but in the overall scheme of things, this is a minor issue in an otherwise impressive package.