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2015 Lexus NX 300h Review By Steve Purdy

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2015 Lexus NX 300h

SEE ALSO: 2015 Lexus NX 300h Product Details(PDF)


Review By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

One of the fastest growing segments in both the U.S. and worldwide markets is that of small crossovers, particularly those in the luxury class. Lexus is not about to be left out of the mix so a bit over a year ago they introduced an all-new contender, the NX line. We spent a couple of days in Nashville having a close look and a first drive of the three versions we saw in dealer showrooms later that year. Now we have one in our driveway for a full review. Our test car is the NX 300h, the hybrid version.

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The 5-passenger NX line consists of three models – 200t (turbo), this 300h (hybrid) and F-Sport. In a nutshell we can say the compact luxury crossover NX is a smaller, sportier version of the RX that has led the mid-size luxury crossover segment since its introduction in 1999. Each NX can be had as front-wheel or all-wheel drive, and prices begin at $34,865 for the front-wheel drive 200t. Our NX 300h with all-wheel drive shows a starting price of $41,310 but with a long list of options we’re looking at $52,000 on the sticker’s bottom line.

Let me offer a brief disclaimer: I’m on my second RX and am fond of that versatile CUV. I recently traded in my 11-year-old RX 300 for a snappy 9-year-old RX 330. I’ll not let my fondness for those two cars taint my review of this new one. I promise.

In overall shape, stance and profile we see a definite Lexus family resemblance featuring an ever more exaggerated spindle grill with squinty headlight bezels and deeply sculpted cheek cutouts. This exterior design language grows more dramatic, angular, crisp and brash with every redesign and every new model from Lexus – perhaps a compensation for overly white-bread designs on earlier products. One of the option packages we have on our test car includes stylish 18-inch wheels that add an athletic ambiance. Distinct, deep character lines along the flanks make a bold statement about sport and fashion, as do details like artfully designed door handles. The NX’s rear is curved forward for a rear view that will grab your attention as well with large, arrow-shaped wrap-around taillights. LED lighting punctuates the visual ambiance front and rear.

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The design philosophy continues inside as well. Unusual shapes, striking lines and fine materials characterize the dash, center stack and the rest of the interior. Lots of stitching on a variety of surfaces and design elements that have purely aesthetic purpose confirm Lexus’ dedication to going beyond practicality to what some refer to as design intensity. Inside this one we find an optional, nearly-black shiny wood trim along with a small analog clock to punctuate the dash along with subtle metallic surfaces, high-quality plastics and leather.

Instruments are mostly simple and easily to read. Controls include plenty of knobs and buttons without (thank you Lexus designers) touch screen controls. Instead the 7-inch screen is controlled with a small-ish touch pad on the console that works much like your computer’s touchpad with pinch-to-zoom and other functions. The sensitivity of the touchpad is adjustable and haptic feedback helps us know exactly where our cursor is poised. This controller is not easy to get used to and adjusted to its greatest sensitivity it is downright challenging. Sadly, like many cars, the USB port and 12V power outlet are hidden in the console where it is tough to get at.

This 90% new platform is derived from the Toyota RAV 4 so is one full increment in size smaller than the RX. We can see and feel that reduced size particularly in the cargo area and the rear seat, though it feels plenty roomy for all but the biggest passengers. The cockpit up front has plenty of seat adjustment to accommodate most drivers and passengers.

Under the hood of our NX 300h is a 2.5-liter, normally aspirated, four-cylinder engine and auxiliary electric power achieving total output of 194 horsepower. The front-wheel drive version gets two electric motors and the all-wheel drive gets a third. The creatively managed CVT (continuously variable transmission) feels mostly like a conventional transmission until we need to accelerate briskly. The NX hybrid manages a tepid 0 to 60 mph time of around 9 seconds, though it feels a bit faster than that. The electric motors provide more thrust on hard acceleration and they power the car at low speeds making for much improved mileage overall. EPA numbers show 33 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway and 32 combined.

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We expected to find considerably less cargo area in the hybrid as is the case with most because of the space needed for the battery packs. In this case the slope of the rear also limits space as well so it will win no accolades for cargo capacity We understand the Lexus engineers split the battery pack and tucked them more efficiently under the floor ahead of the rear axle to mitigate encroachment on cargo space.

Lots of little tidbits of innovation surprised us, like the unusual sunglass storage in a partially covered bin on the console, a zipping stowage sleeve for the rear cargo cover, an optional wireless device charger and a hidden key hole behind the driver’s door handle.

Lexus’ new car warranty covers the NX for 4 years or 50,000 miles, 6 years or 70,000 miles on the powertrain and 8 years or 100,000 miles on the batteries and hybrid components.

The NX is a world product for Lexus as they anticipate selling it in 80 markets.

Our test this week included a road trip to Chicago so most of our miles were spent on the freeway. We managed 28.5 mpg, just less than the EPA estimates. I’ll admit, at the risk of self-incrimination, that I generally keep up with, and sometimes lead, traffic flow at unrepentant extra-legal speeds. I don’t doubt the officially estimated mileages are reasonably accurate.

Other than being a tad under-powered the NX’s road manners are impeccable. Ride quality, interior quietness, handling and steering feedback leave us nothing to complain about. We spent many hours behind the wheel comfortably cruising along our open Interstates and dicing with the fast traffic on crowded Chicago freeways. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with it.

So, the bottom line is that the NX 300h is a great choice in a small and efficient full-luxury crossover. If you need substantial cargo capacity, or if most of your driving is on the highway this is not your best choice. If you’re a city dweller, you like a luxurious, stylish and handy transport, this might be your car.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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