Lexus is a past master at hybrid SUVs - the larger RX hybrid models have found a huge following not only in the US, but among affluent city dwellers in Europe too. The NX promises to offer the same appeal in a smaller, sexier package, costing from £29,495 - £5,000 less than the other NX, the 200t, with its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine.
When you team that with the NX 300h’s claimed 56.5mpg (20mpg better than the NX200t) and 116g/km (for the front-drive version), the hybrid NX looks to be the obvious choice for private and company buyers alike. There’s even a clever all-wheel drive system to consider. Lexus’ E-Four drivetrain uses an additional electric motor on the rear axle, which kicks in when slip is detected or hard acceleration is demanded. The rest of the time you’ve got a petrol-electric front-driver, deploying a system output of 195bhp.
In practice, though, the NX300h is less successful. Though the CVT transmission’s response have been notably sharpened under kickdown the result is still an uninspiring, unremitting drone from the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and it never feels like it’s packing almost 200bhp, nor do you get a satisfying instant electro-kick from the e-motor.
If you’ve tried a proper plug-in hybrid that allows full-bore EV acceleration without the range anxiety, tiptoeing around in the NX300h trying not to rouse the combustion engine feels like a retrograde step. The brakes too are far from the most progressive regenerative system we’ve tried, exhibiting the irritatingly variable pedal response evident in the Lexus CT200h andIS300h.
The shortcomings of the Lexus hybrid drivetrain are exacerbated in the NX by how fresh the rest of the package looks and feels. Outlandishly styled inside and out, and crammed with entertainment and safety tech, the addition of electric drive capability ironically dates this new SUV. It also hurts safe-but-staid handling, due to the extra weight of batteries required to supplement the whiny Atkinson-cycle engine. As such, the simpler NX200t is our pick of the NX range.
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