Looking sharp. No, not me. Our shiny new Lexus NX 300h… With its aggressive angles and sharp creases, it’s a piece of modern architecture that stands out against a skyline of generic SUVs.
Now, I’ll admit I wasn’t entirely sold on the design when Lexusrevealed the first pictures. But as with any sculpture, to fully appreciate it you really need to experience the form in three dimensions.
I’ve been living with the NX 300h for more than a month, and even now I still turn back for one last admiring glance when I park up and walk into my flat. Its interior is nearly as stunning, although not everyone in the Auto Express office agrees. Yes, guys, I know there are “a lot of surfaces going on”, but at least there is SOMETHING going on.
From a design point of view, the NX can go straight to the top of the art class. And it gets full marks for kit, too. Our Premier is the range-topper, and so it’s fully loaded – and not in a German way that means you have to spend ‘only’ £10,000 on options instead of £20,000. In contrast, the only option fitted to our Lexus is metallic paint.
There’s too much standard kit to mention here (I’ll go into more detail in the next report), but highlights include the 14-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, panoramic sunroof and cooled as well as heated seats. Speaking of which, Lexus does awesome seats. They’re right up there with Volvo’s!
So far, then, you’re probably thinking the NX 300h is brilliant. And it is…. as long as it’s not moving. Within a few minutes, let alone a month, it becomes obvious the Lexus is a one-trick pony – and a lame one at that.
Take the suspension. You imagine an SUV to smother bumps. But somehow, even on seemingly smooth roads, the Lexus fidgets around like a shopping trolley on cobbles. It’s as though it’s been designed for a bizarre Japanese sadomasochistic endurance game show, as it strangely manages to seek out and then amplify imperfections to telegraph every nook and cranny into your spine.
Then there’s the powertrain. The last car I ran was the superbBMW i3 range-extender. Swapping its cutting-edge hybrid tech for the Lexus’ ancient system would be like writing this article on a Commodore VIC-20 instead of my Apple MacBook. The batteries in the NX 300h, for instance, are made from nickel hydride – the same as those in the Tamiya radio-controlled car I had as a kid.
Meanwhile, when you prod the throttle you must wait while it, the petrol engine and the electric motor reach a consensus before the car accelerates. When it finally does, the unimpressive progress is underlined by a strained mooing from the engine. I daren’t drive past a farm because the owner will think his Friesians are calving…
All could be forgiven if the hybrid was saving money at the pumps. But our 34.9mpg average is less than the 35.3mpg we had out ofour VW Golf GTI. Experience with a CT 200h has taught me it should be just about possible to eke out the claimed 53.4mpg… but only if I drive slower than Miss Daisy. Quite frankly, life is too short.
All this is a shame, because I want to love the Lexus. Really I do. But so far it appears that beauty is only skin deep.
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