Lexus NX hybrid combines luxury and mpg
Take the luxury pedigree of Lexus in a small SUV package, and you have a winner in most applications. Add on a fuel-sipping hybrid powertrain, and you create a city commuter unlike most hybrids. The combination of comfort, technology, style and mileage in the 2015 Lexus NX 300h is very appealing.
Under the hood is a 2.5L 4-cylinder mated to a hybrid system to create a combined output of 194 horsepower. Power is delivered by an electronically controlled CVT transmission and a dynamic torque-controlled all-wheel-drive system. Keep in mind there is usually some expectation of performance with most Lexus products, but this one leaves performance for the turbo model. This hybrid is made for city commutes.
Exterior styling is polarizing. Some friends found the sharp lines and wide front grill attractive, while others were totally turned off. Personally, I feel it looks good compared to some of the other small SUVs on the market. I think the sharp lines and thin lights provide a unique look and the gap between the daytime running lights and headlights adds to the dimension of the front. Around back, the wrap-around tail lamps also extend from the body and are LED back-lit.
Interior styling is well laid out and on par with expectations for Lexus. The center console and stack is designed to be closer to your reach; it creates the driving position of a car, not an SUV. Controls and the gear selector are positioned closer to your thigh and knee so you don’t have to reach down for them. It’s very similar to the Lexus RC Coupe I drove back in the fall. Rear seating is intimate, but not uncomfortable, for adults. My kids’ car seats fit well, but they didn’t have a ton of leg room. The rear trunk space was used multiple times to move boxes and office supplies, but was very limited. To load two hockey bags, I had to lower one of the rear seat backs.
On the road, the Lexus is very comfortable and fun-to-drive around town. Acceleration is very sluggish thanks to the hybrid system, and you have to adjust your expectation considerably. Once you are moving, power is adequate to switch lanes or overtake. Hybrids always challenge me to achieve as much mileage as possible, so I never worry about acceleration or overall power until later in my evaluation. If you need a burst of speed, the system will engage the gas engine and you will have enough to climb a steep hill or zoom down an onramp.
Highway commutes are average. The hybrid does not like high speed commutes and it is not where you will see the biggest return on mileage. I suggest always using cruise control when driving on the highway; it will keep the systems engaged correctly and you won’t have to always apply power. Hybrid systems use friction and kinetic energy to charge the batteries and don’t really allow the car to “coast.”
Overall, I found the NX 300h to be a very luxurious SUV for city and suburban driving. Lexus claims an average of 32 mpg and I was able to manage 34 with mostly city driving. MSRP Is $41,310, but adding Qi-wireless charging, the comfort package and navigation package bumped the bottom line to $48,453 as tested.