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Lexus NX


Range Rover Evoque

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

Range Rover Evoque

The original Range Rover Evoque was a victory. It was the right car, in the right place, at the right time.

It was a small SUV dropped in an unprepared premium segment, it went on to become a design icon and subsequently Land Rover’s fastest-selling SUV.

As the years rolled on though, competitors caught up, and Land Rover launched its stunning Velar in the segment above. The unthinkable had happened. The Evoque looked dated.

At long last, Land Rover has launched the second-generation version. Can it replicate even a fraction of the success of the first? We drove it at its Australian launch to find out if it has what it takes.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.1L/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.


Range Rover Evoque7.8/10

The second-generation Range Rover Evoque is a lot of things. It’s stunning to look at, better to drive, more practical, and more luxurious than ever before.

While it’s also hugely expensive and has lost some of the charm that came with its once-small visage, it achieves something far more important for the Evoque name, and that’s keeping it relevant in an increasingly congested luxury space.

Do you think the second-generation Evoque has reclaimed its ‘design icon’ throne? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Also check out Andrew Chesterton's thoughts from the Evoque's international launch.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

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).


Range Rover Evoque9/10

Put simply – the Evoque has returned to put competitors back where they belong. It is truly stunning for an SUV. To my eyes, at least, it has dethroned the Volvo XC40 as the most attractive small SUV on the market.

Sure, it’s more Victoria Beckham than Bear Grylls, but the Range Rover brand has crept beyond upmarket from its hose-out interior roots – and the Evoque owns it.

Land Rover has managed to morph the seamless, slick lines of the Velar onto the Evoque's petite and chunky frame. Design touches like LED headlights (now standard), contrast bodypanels and flush doorhandles add to this car’s stunning visage as you get closer.

Still, it’s undeniably an Evoque and has held onto design pillars like the ‘high beltline’ that rides from the headlamps to the tail-lights and descending roofline.

Inside, the Evoque has also continued to push upmarket with leather-trimmed surfaces from the base S up. It still has the signature chunky door inserts with recessed handles and window/mirror controls and has lovely seats no matter the grade with a premium-feel raised centre console stack.

It’s also in the centre where the Evoque has gained the elegant ‘Touch Pro Duo’ set-up from its larger sibling the Velar, totally de-cluttering the space.

Smart design touches are abound with well-textured and hidden storage areas throughout.

It all looks incredible, but there are a few downsides worth noting. The Evoque now has the huge steering wheel from the rest of the Range Rover range, making the helm feel more cumbersome than it was in its predecessor, and the abundance of gloss surfaces results in a potentially glare-heavy and difficult to keep clean cabin.

Don’t like the cars in the pictures? No problems, Land Rover offers no less than 17 different interior trim packages with five different textured highlights and numerous headlinings and wheel trims for pretty much any taste.

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.


Range Rover Evoque8/10

The Evoque is on a heavily updated platform with its very bones having been altered to future-proof it for hybrid drivetrains.

This has resulted in a 20mm increase to its wheelbase, which is reflected directly into its now-gigantic cabin.

Aside from the invasively large steering wheel, the driver is greeted with an airy and spacious cabin with plenty of room for elbows across the thick centre console and chiseled out door cards.

Almost every surface greets you with a soft material, although the window line is quite high, making resting your arm there impractical.

There are storage spaces everywhere. Bottle holders in the doors, cupholders in the centre console, a massive top-box with a split opening and power sources within, a decently-sized glove box and a huge trench hidden underneath the second-screen.

The designers have had the foresight to put lovely textures on the base of storage surfaces to prevent items like phones, wallets and even pens from finding their way onto the floor.

Rear passengers are greeted with no shortage of legroom, dual rear air-vents, pockets on the back of the front seats and trenches in the doors.

Seat trim and comfort are easily as good as the front seats, and despite the declining roofline, headroom is plentiful for someone my size (I’m 182cm tall).

An odd annoyance I noted was the lack of handles above the doors. Almost every car has these. Not sure why this one doesn’t.

Don’t be deceived by the Evoque’s squashed rear window. I found on my test drive its surprisingly easy to see out of it, and then, there’s the boot.

The boot is truly gigantic, the Evoque’s new platform has made it 20cm wider than it was before, but it’s the volume that’s staggering. At 591 litres with the rear seats up it easily pulls punches with SUVs a size up.

There’s also an elastic belt and netted area for securing small objects. There are a few small catches to this voluminous space, and that’s that the rear seats don’t fold fully flat, making for a smaller total space and there’s only a space-saver spare wheel on offer under the boot floor.

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.


Range Rover Evoque8/10

Now this is a tough one, because to its credit, Land Rover has made many of the essential items standard. That having been said, as I’m writing this I’m looking at an options list that’s 15 pages long.

There’s also the fact that once you consider the three trim levels, six(!) engines and two body options you’re left with a monumental 26 possible permutations of this car – and that’s before you start delving into those options.

To break it down, the Evoque has three familiar grades. The S, SE and HSE. From there you pick an engine.

The entry-level S, starting at $62,670 (before on-road costs) can only be had with the base four engines (P200, P250 petrol, D150, D180 diesel) and comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, a 10-inch multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support as well as built-in sat nav, leather interior with 10-way electrically adjustable front seats, manually adjustable climate control, a six-speaker stereo, auto-dimming rear view mirror, a reversing camera as well as front and rear parking sensors.

Stepping up to the mid-spec SE from $68,610 gives you the choice of all six (P200, P250, P300 petrol, D150, D180, D240 diesel) engines.

It has all the equipment of the S but with the addition of the ‘Touch Pro Duo’ second multi-function touchscreen controlling all the vehicle functions, ‘premium’ LED headlights with auto-high beam control, 20-inch alloy wheels, 14-way electrically adjustable front seats and a digital dashboard.

The top-spec HSE costs from $90,230, and can be had with only the top two engines (the P300 petrol and D240 diesel). It includes everything from the SE, as well as a more sophisticated “active driveline” all-wheel drive system, capable of sending all of the engine’s torque to any one wheel, powered tailgate, differently-styled 20-inch alloy wheels, upgraded 'Windsor extended leather'  interior trim, 'Atlas bezel' steering wheel (a metal liner), the ‘ClearSight’ interior rear view mirror, 10-speaker premium audio system, and keyless entry.

From there you pick whether you want the sporty R-Dynamic body-kit at a cost of $1680 on any grade and then start ticking boxes on the expansive options list.

Items notably excluded from the standard features list on any grade like an electronically adjustable steering column and DAB+ digital radio are present, but are pricey options. As are bespoke interior trims and 16-way electronically adjustable heated and cooled premium leather seats.

Almost any feature can be had on any grade as an option. If you really want you can have a base S with premium leather seats and huge wheels. There’s something to be said for how customisable the range is, but with so many options it makes ordering a car overwhelming.

The now-expected active safety items are now standard from the S up, but an option any grade should have ticked is the ‘Driver Assist Pack’ (costing between $2840 on the S to $490 on the HSE) which includes the rest of the suite at a reasonable cost.

For a limited time, Land Rover is offering a ‘First Edition’ with either of the mid-spec engines, the D180 and P250 at $91,550 and $91,300 respectively.

They have the lion’s share of options boxes ticked for you and essentially include items like the R-Dynamic and black contrast packs for free. Although at the top-end of the price scale, when you consider the inclusions, they aren’t bad value.

It has to be said that although the Evoque range can be specified to any buyer’s imagination, Land Rover has managed to make an already expensive small SUV even more expensive, placing it in another price league altogether when tallied up against the Audi Q2 (from $41,950), BMW X2 (from $46,900) and Mercedes-Benz GLA (from $44,700).

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. 


Range Rover Evoque7/10

As previously mentioned, the Evoque has almost too many engine options. There are three petrols and three diesels, ranging from so-so to perhaps overpowered in the case of the P300.

All the engine options are 2.0-litre turbocharged units in different states of tune, and all are mated to a nine-speed torque converter transmission, with all-wheel drive.

Starting with the diesel the entry-level engine offered on most grades is the D150 which offers 110kW/380Nm, you can then step up to the mid-spec D180 which ups those figures to 132kW/430Nm and then to the top-spec D240 which offers 177kW/500Nm.

On the petrol side, things kick off with the P200 at 147kW/320Nm, then there’s the P250 with 183kW/365Nm and, finally, the top-spec P300 which has a rather silly 221kW/400Nm.

The top two engine options also offer a mild hybrid 48V electrical system which is capable of cutting the engine under 17km/h and feeding power back into auxiliary systems, although it is not capable of running the car under its own power. The brand says the system allows for a six per cent reduction in fuel consumption.

To make things more complicated, a three-cylinder mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants are expected to join the line-up some time in 2020.

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.


Range Rover Evoque8/10

The Evoque has reasonable official claimed/combined consumption figures across all its engine options. Diesel engines are more impressive consuming 5.1L/100km for the base D150, 6.8L/100km for the D180 and 6.3L/100km for the D240.

Petrols are not quite as good, with stated figures of 8.1L/100km for the P200 and P250 and 8.2L/100km for the P300.

Every new-generation Evoque has a 65-litre fuel tank.

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.


Range Rover Evoque8/10

This Evoque is better to drive in almost every way compared to its predecessor. It’s smoother, more confident in corners, more composed on rough terrain, and some combination of the new engines and re-calibration of the nine-speed auto has made most of the turbo-lag issues reported on its predecessor a thing of the past.

Unlike many SUVs, the Evoque doesn’t suffer from the feeling of impending understeer, and it’s surprisingly capable when trudging along unsealed roads and even off-road tracks.

Although there’s no mechanical control of a low-range gearbox, Land Rover’s computer-controlled Terrain Response 2 system might surprise you as to how capable it really is, especially on the top two engine variants with their enhanced torque vectoring abilities.

Diesel engines in particular are surprisingly quiet, and while it could be argued that the P300 petrol engine is overpowered for something this size, it was genuinely difficult to get the wheels to lose traction on tarmac.

One criticism I would level at this new Evoque is that in its quest to become the most practical small luxury machine on four wheels, it’s lost something along the way. It’s so big and heavy now it feels as though you’re just driving a cropped down Velar.

That’s all very luxurious, but I’ll miss the nimble, agile feeling that was a large part of what made the first Evoque so endearing.

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.


Range Rover Evoque8/10

Standard active safety from the base S up includes essential items like auto emergency braking (AEB), lane keep assist (LKAS), and traffic sign recognition.

Higher specs will grant you more, including blind-spot monitoring (BSM), rear cross traffic alert (RCTA), high-speed AEB with active cruise control and auto-parking.

Thankfully there’s the ‘Driver Assist Pack’ which bundles all the active safety items into one reasonably-priced place. It costs between $2840 on the S to just $490 on the HSE and is easily the best value item on the options list.

The Evoque scored a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating in time for its launch, which applies to all variants.

There are six airbags and the rear seats benefit from ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the outboard seats and top-tethers across all three positions.

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.


Range Rover Evoque6/10

Land Rover offers a three-year 100,000km warranty which is frustratingly short, though if you believe what BMW has to say on the matter, this won’t bother premium buyers.

Still, with Volkswagen now offering a five-year warranty, the pressure will hopefully mount on premium automakers to start offering a little more in this space.

Land Rover does offer 24 hour roadside assist for the length of the warranty.

The new Evoque has condition-dependent servicing, meaning the car’s on-board computer will notify you when it’s time to have it serviced. This will happen at least once every 12 months.

This car’s predecessor allowed you to add service packs of up to five years at the time of purchase, as well as an optional extended warranty. We’ll seek clarification and pricing on these and update this story when we have confirmation on both.