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Lexus NX300h 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Derek Ogden road tests and reviews the Lexus MX300h F Sport with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Lexus continues its conversion to hybrid vehicles apace, with the NX300h crossover recently reaching our shores. Lexus origins lay in the mid-1980s with a desire to replicate all that's good about a luxury vehicle, with particular reference to the Europeans such as Mercedes-Benz.

Since then, it has become clear that lifestyles are being shaped by younger more affluent professionals, some of who are turning away from traditional prestige in search of a more radical driving experience.

With the NX series Lexus says it has sought inspiration from trend-setting fashion, watches and running shoes. The result is a vehicle with distinctive looks clothing elements of the latest in automotive technology.

Lexus NX is a crossover vehicle, which interestingly is currently only available as a petrol-electric hybrid. Later this year a 175kW turbocharged four-cylinder sporty performer will be launched here.

The NX300 comes to market in two-wheel and all-wheel drive form in three variants – Luxury, F Sport and Sports Luxury – with the choice of two Enhancement Packs.

Prices start at $60,801 for the Luxury 2WD and top out at $81,953 for the Sports Luxury. All prices include on-road costs and premium paint finish. The first service at 12 months or 15,000 kilometres is free and owners are cosseted by the Lexus Encore Program.

Our test vehicle was the NX300h F Sport with Enhancement Pack 1 which included a moonroof (half a sunroof) and Mark Levinson 14-speaker superior sound system. The pack added $4000 to the car's price of $66,000.

Styling

The face of the NX300h is that of a square-jawed comic superhero, thanks to the deep-set Lexus signature spindle radiator grille flanked by the latest in front-end LED projector lighting with a layout including daytime running lamps. To say this combination dominates the vehicle is to sell it short.

The remaining shape is firmly out of the SUV / sports hatch box with a coupe-ish profile supported by 18-inch F Sport alloy wheels in a choice of three designs. The NX300h signs off with an LED L-shaped rear lighting set-up making it unmistakably a Lexus.

Lexus says the dashboard control area is designed to ensure things happen easily and safely. Instruments and controls are in distinct positions, cutting out any confusion as to where they can be observed or operated, the key to the latter being a touchpad conveniently positioned on the centre console.

Attention to detail is everywhere, from the F Sport leather seats to the metallic look highlighting handles, gearshift and paddles. A power tailgate can be operated from the instrument panel or the key fob and the height of elevation can be predetermined to allow for low roof areas.

Features

Lexus has never been short on innovation and the NX300h follows the script. Central to the vehicle's human/machine interface is a touchpad on the centre console through which much information can be accessed via the dashboard-mounted 7-inch full-colour screen. Pad operation is made easy by a conveniently positioned palm rest.

Lexus recognises driving styles vary from person to person and accommodate this with its Drive Mode Select system which in the F Sport model offers four modes – Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+ – which change hybrid operation, transmission, steering and suspension to suit.

Eco mode has the vehicle operating with optimum fuel efficiency; Normal delivers balance between performance and economy, Sport has all drive systems adapting to acceleration and handling demands, while Sport+ heightens these even further. EV (electric vehicle) mode is also available with the NX300h.

Advanced satellite navigation includes live traffic alerts, weather details and nearest service station, while easily accessible connectivity is a given. For example, a tray situated under the centre console lid cradles smartphones while they are charged wirelessly.

Engine / Transmission

The NX300h 147kW 2.5-litre hybrid powertrain consists of an electric motor with reduction gear and generator coupled to a power-split device that divides the engine's power into electrical and mechanical.

The hybrid battery, often guilty of robbing a vehicle of interior space, has been split into two units positioned under the rear seats. Ducts increase cooling and reduce noise.

The all-wheel drive NX300h also includes a magnet motor on the rear axle allowing for AWD operation. Sporty manual-like shifting of the six-step continuously variable transmission is possible through the centre console lever or steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Safety

Lexus NX300h safety begins with a body that is designed to absorb crash forces and redirect them away from the passenger cabin where occupants are further protected by a suite of eight airbags.

A blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert uses a sophisticated radar system to tell the driver of unseen vehicles in adjacent lanes if they haven't adjusted their mirrors correctly. An illuminated warning flashes on the appropriate exterior mirror.

Driving

An extended period with the Lexus NX300h F Sport enabled a broad picture of the vehicle to be painted from go to whoa. For example, the low-set coupe-style roof had me banging my head the first couple of times I got into the driver's seat.

Once there, it was generally accepted by me and the front seat passenger that these were two of the most comfortable seats we had encountered in any vehicle. Their power operation and positional memory only added to the feeling of well-being.

The Drive Mode Select system spent most of the time in Normal, adapting well to driving conditions and the river's mood. Eco was predictably less responsive to acceleration, Sport sharpened things all round, while Sport+ added some spice and really put the 'Sport' in Sports Utility Vehicle.

As far as fuel economy is concerned, Lexus rates the NX300h F Sport at 5.7L/100km on the combined urban/highway cycle.

The best the test vehicle computer was a little over 6.0L/100km. The best around town was 8.0L/100km.

In Eco mode, where performance was an afterthought, generally we got 6.0L/100km in stop-start city driving.

The coupe connection restricts the amount of cabin glass, so all-round visibility is limited. On the upside reversing cameras project an all-round view of the vehicle when parking.

Verdict

The NX300h is another example that Lexus has woken up to the fact that luxury car buyers are demanding the full package – edgy looks and zip without zapping the wallet.

Pricing guides

$39,488
Based on 59 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$32,588
Highest Price
$49,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
NX200T F Sport (awd) 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $38,490 – 41,880 2015 Lexus NX 2015 NX200T F Sport (awd) Pricing and Specs
NX300H F Sport Hybrid (awd) 2.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO $38,990 – 44,900 2015 Lexus NX 2015 NX300H F Sport Hybrid (awd) Pricing and Specs
NX200T Luxury (awd) 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $38,450 – 39,990 2015 Lexus NX 2015 NX200T Luxury (awd) Pricing and Specs
NX200T Luxury (fwd) 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $32,981 – 41,990 2015 Lexus NX 2015 NX200T Luxury (fwd) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8