The positive form reversal at Lexus continues with a new luxury compact SUV called the NX. An advance guard model is here now called the NX300h which, as the name suggests, is a hybrid petrol/electric with a powertrain courtesy of the Lexus ES300h.
That means a 2.5-litre petrol, four cylinder that functions using the delayed compression Atkinson cycle for efficiency gains along with an electric boost motor/s depending on whether it's a front wheel drive or all wheel drive. The all wheel drive has electric rear wheel drive only - and two electric drive motors.
It's about RAV4 size but NX shares little with its more mainstream corporate sibling. NX is a luxury vehicle with commensurate equipment and styling to rock your socks off.
Explore the 2014 Lexus NX range
Four 300h hybrid models are available here: Luxury in front and all wheel drive and F-Sport and Sports Luxury in all wheel drive. A 2.0-litre turbo petrol four cylinder follows soon.
Pricing is sharp with the Luxury fronty kicking off at $55 grand - a few grand more than the top of the whizzer RAV4. There's a $7500 option pack available on the F-Sport priced from $66 grand with prices topping out at $75 grand for the Sports Luxury with the works as standard.
The start-off Luxury models scores goodies like satnav, reversing camera, new Lexus touch controller system, power tailgate, drive mode select with three modes (four on higher spec' models), LED headlights (high and low beam on higher models), cruise, 18-inch alloys, rain sensing wipers, smart start, 10 speaker audio, Enform multi media connectivity, six speed stepped CVT auto transmission, tyre pressure monitoring, full size spare, power wheel adjustment, electric parking brake and 60:40 rear seats.
The F-Sport which we drove has a lot more than this but really stands out with its mesh grille and other sporty kit inside and out. Of particular note is the 360 degree panoramic reverse camera, adaptive variable suspension and wireless phone charger.
This is likely to be the most coveted model because of the way it looks and what you get but the options package brings much more. Some driver assist features are on the base model with more fitted the further up the scale you go.
The F-Sport we drove gets exemplary fuel economy rated at 5.6-litres/100km using regular unleaded. It achieves 147kW of power and we don't know how much torque because of the different ratings for the petrol and electric systems. Plenty... is what we are prepared to say.
Gives performance equivalent to say a 3.5-litre petrol V6 with the economy of a light car
It scores a paddle shift system too that makes sporty driving more accessible as do the four modes offering Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport - in ascending order of sporty calibration through the steering, transmission, suspension and powertrain.
It's a heavy beast due to the complex drive system but gives performance equivalent to say a 3.5-litre petrol V6 with the economy of a light car. Best of both worlds.
In terms of drive feel, the F-Sport is quite impressive as long as you have selected the right calibrations. We drove it in urban commute, freeway, country back roads and winding mountain road environments at which the vehicle proved totally competent and even quite engaging - not really expected from a compact, high riding SUV. The CVT behaves like a six speed auto most of the time, a slurring rev box some of the time.