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Lexus NX


Infiniti QX30

Summary

Lexus NX

It’s only taken nearly 15 years, but Lexus has become a fully accepted prestige brand in Australia – it outsells Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Mini, Porsche and Peugeot. And the NX mid-sized SUV is far and away the most popular Lexus model. 

I’ve tested the hybrid version of the NX – the 300h - in the F Sport grade. It’s unique because mid-sized petrol-electric prestige SUVs in Australia are rare on the ground. 

So, are the benefits of a hybrid just fuel-saving ones and, are there disadvantages to one? Also why would you buy an NX over a rival from BMW, Audi, Volvo or Benz which cost about the same price?

Read on to find out what I found out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeHybrid with Regular Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency5.7L/100km
Seating5 seats

Infiniti QX30

Tim Robson road tests and reviews the 2016 Infiniti QX30 at its Australian launch with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

There’s no doubt that the compact crossover segment is a vitally important place for any carmaker to be. Nissan’s luxury arm, Infiniti, is no different, and thanks to a decision from its Japanese masters, the diminutive premium brand will go from having no players on the field to having two marquee players in a matter of just a few months.

The architecturally identical front-wheel-drive Q30 launched only a month ago in three variants, and now it’s the turn of the all-wheel-drive QX30 to take to the pitch.

But is there enough of a difference between the two to actually consider them different cars? Is it adding a layer of complexity for the prospective Infiniti customer? As it turns out, the differences run more than skin deep.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.9L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Lexus NX7.4/10

The standard of the SUVs in the mid-sized premium segment is so high – high in terms of features and tech, high for practicality and comfort, but also high for the way they drive, and this is an area in which the Lexus NX300h F Sport falls short. At the same time, apart from the much pricier Volvo XC60 T8, it’s the only hybrid among its rivals and the fuel saving is not to be dismissed. Still this is a premium good-looking package at a great price.

Would you choose a Lexus NX300 over, say, a BMW X3, Mercedes Benz GLC or Volvo XC60? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Infiniti QX306.9/10

Even though it’s almost identical to the Q30, the QX30 manages to feel sufficiently different in suspension tune and cabin ambiance to be considered different.

It’s a disappointing oversight, though, by Infiniti to deny the base GT such basic safety fundamentals as a rear view camera (which Infiniti assures us is being worked on).

Would you consider the QX30 over similar rivals? Tell us what yout think in the comments below.

 

Design

Lexus NX

You’d be fibbing if you thought there wasn’t anything interesting about the design of the NX300h F Sport. Whether you think it’s good looking is another thing altogether, but I happen to reckon it is. I do like that Darth Vader grille, those LED headlights, the side profile and even the back with its egg-splat style tail-lights (very Toyota though).

The F Sport grade brings that expensive cheese-grater-made-of-Onyx-look to the grille, angry looking bumpers, LED indicators that light up in the direction you’re turning, and 18-inch alloys with a smokey-looking finish.

The only outward indication this is a hybrid is the badging.

The NX300h F Sport’s insides go beyond interesting into the realm of intriguing, with that enormous centre console that will make any front seat hankypanky impossible, to the dash puckered with switches and buttons, then there’s that layered trim: a combo of leather and a fish-scale looking material, there’s the F Sport steering wheel, F Sport pedals and scuff plates and F Sport seats.

There are things that confuse me like the tiny padded pull out mirror near the centre console, things that seem out of place like an analogue clock in a high-tech cabin, and things that annoy me like the seat position memory buttons that hide under the armrest in the door and can’t been seen or reached properly unless the door is open.

The NX300h F-Sport’s dimensions show it to be 4640mm long, 1645mm tall and 1845mm wide (not including the mirrors).


Infiniti QX307/10

The QX30 is one of the first projects to result from a technology partnership formed between the parent company of Mercedes-Benz and the Nissan-Renault Alliance.

In a sign of how worldly the car industry is becoming, the QX30 is built in Nissan’s Sunderland plant in the UK, using the German Mercedes-Benz A-Class platform and powertrains, all under Sino-French ownership via the Nissan-Renault Alliance.

On the outside, the design that first aired on the Q30 is pretty unique. It’s not a subtle car, with deep crease lines along its sides that, according to Infiniti, is an industry first in terms of manufacturing complexity.

When it comes to differences between the two vehicles, it’s minimal at best. There is a 35mm increase in height (30mm from taller springs and 5mm from roof rails), an extra 10mm in width, and extra trims affixed to the front and rear bumpers. Aside from the all-wheel-drive underpinnings, that is pretty much it for the exterior.

The same black plastic overfenders that are fitted to the Q30 are present on the QX30, with 18-inch rims on both the base model GT and the other variant, the Premium.

The dimensions of the QX30 are also an exact match for those on the Mercedes-Benz GLA, with the long front overhang acting as the main visual connection between the two cars.

Practicality

Lexus NX

Well, it’s snug inside the NX300h F-Sport. That beefy centre console means room is tight in the footwell for the driver, especially with the foot-operated park brake. Meanwhile in the back seat my legs touch the seat-back when I sit behind my driving position (I am tall at 191cm, though), but headroom even with the optional sunroof (or moonroof, as Lexus calls it) is good.

Two cupholders up front, two in the back and bottle holders in all the doors, storage space inside is excellent – particularly the centre console storage bin which is deep and wide, has two USB ports and the Qi charging pad. There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and that media controller is challenging to use.

Boot space is 475 litres, which is small compared to the 550L luggage capacities of the GLC, X3 and Q5.


Infiniti QX306/10

The QX30 is obviously very similar to the Q30 in many respects, but the interior is slightly different, with larger, less cosseting seats up front and slightly higher seats in the rear.

The cabin is also lighter in overall appearance, thanks to a paler colour palette.

There are plenty of neat inclusions, including a pair of USB ports, plenty of door storage, a space for six bottles and a sizable glove box.

A pair of cupholders resides up front, along with a pair in the fold-down armrest in the rear.

There is no particularly logical location for the storage of smartphones, though, and the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is down to Infiniti opting for its own phone connectivity suite.

A decent 430 litres of luggage space behind the rear seats is contrasted by a cramped rear area for all but the smallest of passengers, while sharply shaped rear door apertures making getting in and out a bit of an ask.

There are two ISOFIX baby seat points and a 12-volt socket in the rear, as well.

Price and features

Lexus NX

Guess what? You’ve saved a few thousand already by not buying this car this time last year. That’s because NX300h F Sport was previously only offered in all-wheel drive, but the added two-wheel drive version gives you a lower entry point into the F Sport grade, at $63,300.

So, while the all-wheel drive version still exists - and costs $67,800 - this front-wheeler gets all the same features for less moolah.

That said, buying the hybrid version comes at a $2500 premium over the regular F Sport two-wheel drive (which has a 2.0-litre turbo engine - more on that below). 

Coming standard is a 10.3-inch display with sat nav and 360-degree camera, 10-speaker stereo with digital radio and CD player. There’s also a wireless phone charger, 10-way power adjustable seats (heated and cooled), paddle shifters, power tailgate and proximity unlocking.

The mouse pad-style controller for the screen is so hard to use I avoided it whenever possible, it’s something Lexus must change… please.

But please don't change the little valet kit which is stored in the boot - see the images.

Our test car was fitted with the Enhancement Pack 2 which costs $6000 and adds a moonroof, 14-speaker Mark Levinson audio, and head-up display. The premium paint (Sonic Quartz) costs $1500.

As for how the features and price compares with its rivals, well there aren’t any other hybrid mid-sized luxury SUV competitors to list, only combustion-engine ones such as the $70,900 Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d, the BMW X3 xDrive 20d for $68,900, an Audi Q5 2.0TDI for $65,900 or the Volvo XC60 D4 Momentum for $59,990. Notice how I chose diesels - there are petrol equivalents of those, too. But if you've got 50 per cent more budget, you could look at the pricey Volvo XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid.

At the time of writing Lexus was offering a driveaway price of $64,673 on the NX300h 2WD.


Infiniti QX307/10

The QX30 will be offered in two variants; the base model GT at $48,900 plus on-road costs, while the Premium will cost $56,900.

Both come equipped with the same engine; a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that’s sourced from Mercedes-Benz and also used on the Q30 and Merc GLA.

Eighteen-inch rims are standard on both cars, while an electronic handbrake, 10-speaker Bose audio, 7.0-inch multimedia screen and a full set of LED lamps all round are fitted across both variants as well.

Unfortunately, the QX30 GT misses out on a reversing camera all together, a fate it shares with the Q30 GT. 

Infiniti Cars Australia told us that this was an oversight at the time the cars were being specced for Australia, particularly in light of the other technologies that the car would receive, like automatic emergency braking.

The company says it’s working hard to bring a reversing camera to the GT.

The top-spec Premium gets leather trim, a powered driver’s seat, and additional safety equipment like a 360-degree camera and radar cruise with brake assist.

The only optional extra on each car is metallic paint.

Engine & trans

Lexus NX

The NX300h F-Sport is a petrol-electric hybrid, but not the plug-in kind – there’s no charging port, just batteries which are recharging through regenerative braking.

The engine is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol which makes 114kW and 147Nm. The electric motor is a 105kW/270Nm unit.

Let’s not forget we are reviewing the front-wheel drive version of the NX300h F-Sport. There’s an AWD version, too.

The transmission is an automatic - a continuously variable transmission (CVT),  and I’m not a fan of them - but the Toyota/Lexus versions seem to be the better ones. 


Infiniti QX307/10

Just the one engine is used across both cars; the 155kW/350Nm single-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine from the Q30 and A-Class.

It’s backed by a seven-speed transmission and wired into an all-wheel-drive system that is biased towards a front-drive configuration.

Sourced from Mercedes-Benz, up to 50 per cent of drive can be sent to the rear wheels, according to Infiniti.

Fuel consumption

Lexus NX

Lexus will tell you the NX300h F Sport will only use 5.6L/100km after a combination of urban and open roads, but my mileage according to the trip computer was 8.7L/100km which considering most of that was city driving is very impressive. Also pleasing is that despite this being a prestige car it’ll run on 91 RON, an X3, Q5 or GLC will turn it’s nose up at that stuff. Snobs.

This is the biggest drawcard for buying the hybrid. The fuel saving isn’t huge in the way a plug-in hybrid can be, but you’ll save money if you drive conservatively.


Infiniti QX307/10

Infiniti claims a combined fuel economy figure of 8.9L/100km for the 1576kg QX30 across both the variants; this is 0.5L thirstier than the Q30 version.

Our brief test yielded a dash figure of 11.2L/100km over 150km.

Driving

Lexus NX

Lexus has made improvements to the suspension set up of the NX300h, but it seems the changes haven’t gone far enough, and the ride comfort and handling is lacking compared to other mid-sized premium SUVs.

A CVT transmission is awesomely fuel-efficient but even with six steps ‘built’ into it, it doesn’t forcefully engage drive to the wheels the way a torque converter transmission, manual gearbox or dual-clutch auto does. The result is disappointing acceleration and an engine which sounds like its revving too hard.

Heavier-than-it-should-be steering, a steering wheel which I find flat and uncomfortable to hold, poor visibility through the rear window and a not the best pedal feel under my feet topped off a unimpressive driving experience.

There are some saving graces though – the well-insulated cabin is tranquil, the brake response is excellent, and there’s something special about travelling in bumper to bumper traffic just on silent electricity alone.


Infiniti QX307/10

Again, it would be easy to think that the QX30 would feel almost identical to its lower-riding sibling – but that would be incorrect. We criticised the Q30 for being a bit too buttoned down and unresponsive, but the QX30 feels more lively and involving, thanks to its unique spring and damper set-up.

Even though it’s 30mm higher than the Q, the QX doesn’t feel it at all, with a benign, pleasant ride with good body roll control and competent steering.

Our front-seat passenger complained of feeling a little ‘hemmed in’, which is a valid point. The sides of the car are very high, and the roofline is quite low, exacerbated by the steeply raked windscreen.

The 2.0-litre four-potter is smooth and punchy, and the gearbox well suited to it, but it’s lacking in aural character. Luckily the QX30 does a terrific job of suppressing noise before it gets into the cabin, then…

Safety

Lexus NX

The October 2017 update of the NX300h also saw an upgrade in its safety equipment and that meant it achieved the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. The F Sport grade never used to have AEB, but the update added it across the range, plus it was improved to include pedestrian detection. 

All grades now come with blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and the F Sport has been given adaptive high beams with 11 independent LEDs.

For child seats you’ll find three top tethers across the rear row (two in the outboard seat-backs and one mounted on the roof), along with two ISOFIX points.

You’ll find a space saver spare under the boot floor.


Infiniti QX306/10

The QX30 gets seven airbags, auto emergency braking, forward collision warning and a pop-up bonnet as standard across the line.

The base GT does, however, miss out on a reversing camera.

The Premium model also offers a 360-degree camera, blind spot warning, radar cruise control and brake assist, traffic sign detection, reverse motion detection and lane departure warning.

Ownership

Lexus NX

The NX300h F Sport is covered by Lexus’ four-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km. There’s no capped-price servicing program but Lexus says you can expect to pay nothing for the first service, $720.85 for the second, $592.37 for the third and $718 for the fourth.


Infiniti QX308/10

The Q30 is offered with a four-year, 100,000km warranty, and servicing is suggested every 12 months or 25,000km.

Infiniti offers a fixed three-year service schedule, with the GT and the Premium both costing an average of $541 over the three services provided.