Lexus NX 350h
By Bill McCarthy
WHEN it comes to an imposing road presence, Lexus takes some beating, with its slick looking range of models. Perhaps none more so the than its NX range of SUVs, which have been best sellers for the firm.
Now revamped with two models, the plug-in 450h and the full hybrid 350h driven here, it is even more desirable, with innovations like the new ambient lighting, with 64 colours and the clever interior door handles.
The NX is the first Lexus with an e-latch electronic door release system, which replaces the internal door handle with a push-button switch positioned next to the arm rest in the door panel; it is designed to prevent you from opening the door into the path of a passing car or cyclist.
The vehicle itself does not look hugely different from the predecessor. It is a bit bigger and the firm says more than 95 per cent of the parts are newly developed, covering areas like performance, with new steering, braking and suspension system, improved ride, handling, safety, comfort, connectivity, and more.
The full hybrid set up combines a 2.5 litre petrol engine supplemented with an electric motor and e-CVT transmission to deliver a combined 241bhp, which in turn gives plenty of pace, but still delivers excellent fuel economy. It has gained a 24 per cent increase in power and 22 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the previous system says Lexus.
Claimed mpg is a shade under 50mpg, a figure which seemed pretty much spot on during a week of mixed motoring.
Acceleration is brisk, the car hits 60mph in 7.7 seconds which is pretty sharp acceleration, especially is this was a four-wheel drive model.
It is constructed using the firm’s Global Architecture – Compact (GA-C) platform, with lightweight, rigid structure. Combined with low centre of gravity and Lexus’s Adaptive Variable Suspension, it feels agile and stable when cornering.
It does look good and features stylish light clusters and muscular, sharp edged styling, but what really stands out is the huge, spindle-type grille with its mesh pattern and new L-shaped daytime running lights.
The rear end is pretty smart as well, where in common with more manufacturers, the logo is being replaced with the name being spelled out, this case on the boot. The whole package is finished off with smart 18-inch alloy wheels.
The interior has a real high-end feel with a mixture of leather and chrome and that quality extends throughout the cabin. The number of switches has been reduced from 78 to 45, grouped in defined zones according to their function.
The centrepiece is a 9.8 inch touchscreen that controls connectivity, a multimedia system with four-year connected services subscription, navigation, smartphone compatibility, and a 10-speaker sound system. Voice recognition is also available via the “Hey Lexus” assistant.
Lexus knows its stuff when it comes to hybrid technology after the initial success of the Prius, developed by parent firm Toyota all those years ago.
It is a smooth operation and in real-world city driving it can use electric power for a significant proportion of every journey. Depress the EV button when driving slowly and the electric motor runs the car from the hybrid battery to deliver zero emissions.
It is practical with plenty of stowage and features standard roof rails for extra cargo capacity, while the folding, tumbling seats offer cargo space from 545 litres, increasing to 1,436. There are also other cubby holes, large central bin and various other compartments.
All models are packed with equipment and with this model including reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors, heated, multi-function steering wheel, rear privacy glass, integrated heating in the front seats and steering wheel and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
Having just been awarded the Euro NCAP top rating, the comprehensive complement of safety kit includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, adaptive cruise control, hill start assist, lane departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist, and automatic high beam. In addition there is a full complement of airbags.
There are three equipment grades for the NX 350h F Sport and Takumi; the NX grade can also be enhanced with Premium Pack and Premium Plus Pack versions.
This is a premium car and as electric power continues to take over, it has plenty to offer.
Lexus NX350h with Premium pack
Mechanical: Combined 241 bhp, 2,487cc, four cylinder petrol engine and electric motor driving all wheels via e-CVT auto gearbox
Max speed: 124mph
0-62mph: 7.7 seconds
Combined mpg: 44-49 (WLTP)
Insurance group: 32E
CO2 emissions: 137g/km
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles