- Model 2018 Lexus NX300h F-Sport P Navi
- Motor 2,494cc four-cylinder petrol
- Power (engine) 153bhp @ 5,700rpm
- Power (electric motor) 141bhp
- Power (max. combined) 195bhp
- Torque (max. combined) 152 lb ft
- Kerb weight 1,785kg
- Towing capacity 1,500kg (braked) / 750 (unbraked)
- Top speed 112mph
- 0-62mph 9.2sec
- Fuel consumption (NEDC lab test) 54.3mpg (combined)
- CO2 emissions 121g/km
- Road tax £155 for first year; £440 for years 2-6 (attracts £310 charge for cars over £40,000); £130 thereafter
- BIK tax (24mths, 20,000 miles) 25%; £1,989 (20%) or £3,979 (40%)
- Insurance group 32E
- Price F-Sport from £39,995 OTR
- Price with options £41,360 OTR
- Options fitted Azure Blue paint (£645); Protection Pack (£400); Trunk guard (£320)
- Test period April – October, 2018
- Starting mileage 583 miles
- June 1, 2018 Introduction to the Lexus NX & driving impressions
- June 14, 2018 Windscreen replacement, MPG update and transporting a dishwasher
June 1, 2018: Introduction to the Lexus NX
Well played, Lexus. It — and parent brand Toyota, of course — saw the benefits of petrol-electric hybrid cars and ploughed on with the technology when many car enthusiasts and writers were unrelenting in expressing the view that they are dull and unrewarding to drive.
And now look: diesel sales are plummeting, due to negative press over the nasty nitrogen oxide gases they can pump out, and conventional petrol cars are doomed, too. By 2040, no new cars sold in the UK will be allowed to be powered solely by petrol or diesel; they must all be at least hybrid. Lexus has permission to enter “Smug Mode”, as Red Dwarf’s mechanoid Kryten might say.
If you’re reading this because you’re under the impression that you need to switch to hybrid as soon as possible, though, think again. That 2040 date is a long way off — seven new cars away for some drivers, according to the boss of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
“Having one sat on your driveway indicates that you’re not at all interested in following the pack”
And punitive measures such as toxicity charges for diesel cars are likely to be localised, so they can still make most sense for anyway doing a lot of motorway driving. And don’t forget, petrol engines are often better than diesel for people who do a mix of town and country motoring.
It has to be said, though, hybrid may well be the way to go for anyone doing a lot of city and suburban driving, especially if a pure-electric car isn’t appropriate (say, if you don’t have off-street parking and a place to install a domestic charging point).
Having driven the Lexus NX 300h for more than a month now, I can tell you I’m averaging over 37mpg, which isn’t bad for a heavy, mid-size SUV — that’s about the same as an equivalent diesel could manage, as we showed in our triple test a couple of weeks back.
So what is the Lexus NX? In a nutshell, it’s the baby sister of the RX crossover SUV, being 26cm shorter and 5cm narrower. It was launched in 2014 along with a rather silly marketing campaign involving will.i.am that saw the musician champion the brand’s “provocative design and technology”.
It was certainly a striking design at the time — all creases and sharp edges — and it’s testament to Lexus’s vision that it has aged well, and that rival car makers have followed its design example in the intervening years.
The NX still looks contemporary but it isn’t nearly as jarring to look at as it once was. In fact, the design has really grown on me, and in the metal the NX looks super — especially in F-Sport with this optional Azure Blue paint, which sparkles gloriously in the sun.
Having a Lexus NX sat on your driveway indicates that you’re not at all interested in following the pack; that you want something different from, and more exclusive than, the Nissan Kumquats and Ford Frugals clogging up the roads outside schools. I’ll go into more details on the exterior and interior design in a later update.
Lexus’s crossover was originally only sold as a hybrid but, since 2015 it’s been available with a 2-litre turbocharged petrol engine, too. The majority of the cars are still the “300h” hybrids as tested here, though, which combine a 2.5-litre petrol engine with one or two electric motors and a high voltage battery to produce a maximum of 195bhp.
Between now and October, I’ll be using it for my daily commute (23 miles each way, from the edge of London into the city centre) and weekend excursions with the family, and reporting back on my findings.
As I’ve already driven the car extensively, I have a lot to say, but will start off with the driving impressions before covering topics such as its appropriateness for families, accessories and options, running costs, bugbears and highlights, at a later date. Bookmark this page and come back for the updates.
Quite a lot of reviews of the NX are less than flattering about what it feels like to drive. As always, we’re not particularly interested in what the other reviewers have to say; here’s an honest, independent appraisal rather than one pitched at petrolheads.
To understand the feel of the car, it helps if you have a basic knowledge of its mechanics; I’ll try to keep it short and sweet so as not to bore you to death…
Here’s a basic introduction from Lexus to how a hybrid system works:
The NX is slightly more complex in that the electric motor and the petrol engine connected to the front wheels are joined (in all but the entry-level “S” trim) by a second electric motor connected to the rear wheels, making it a four-wheel drive car.
Lexus calls the system “E-Four” because it’s unlike a traditional 4WD, which connects the rear axle to the engine via a prop shaft (a mechanical connection). Instead, the electric motor at the rear only needs an electrical signal via a wire to start turning.
It’s a completely automatic system, so there’s no 4WD button in the cockpit; if you’re on a slippery surface, the car’s computer brain will decide to reduced power to the front wheels and instead divert it to the motor at the rear.
Lexus says E-Four’s advantage is that it is light and compact, and reduces fuel consumption and emissions over mechanical 4WD systems. Makes sense.
It would have been better to test the car over the winter, when there’s more chance to drive on snow and ice, but I have driven the car in the rain and the NX has remained reassuringly sure-footed at all times, even pushing through corners, and the introduction of power to the rear wheels is imperceptible.
The hybrid system does encourage you to drive as if there’s an egg under the accelerator pedals, though — feathering the throttle makes a big difference to your fuel economy, and avoids the nasty washing machine like whirr from the petrol engine when you do decide to floor it.
There are no gears in the NX — it uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which adjusts the speed transfer from the engine to the wheels via a pulley system, like this:
It means you don’t get that steady rise and sudden drop in revs as you accelerate and slip through the cogs, rather a smooth and, yes, continuous rise and fall.
In fact, as the engine is not only powering the wheels but also helping charge the battery, and you can drive on electric power alone at low speeds, the engine can seem to have a mind of its own, as it fires up and whirrs away without reflecting accurately what your right foot is doing.
And herein lies the problem for most car enthusiasts — they want a car to respond in a predictable manner, according to their inputs — they don’t want it to have a mind of its own.
But the Lexus/Toyota hybrid system works the way it does for a reason: fuel efficiency. If that is your chief concern, rather than a crisp, predictable engine note, you’ll get on fine with the Lexus NX.
What you’ll be more concerned about is that, when you do need to put your foot down, the car has a decent turn of pace. The 300h isn’t a sports car but it isn’t a slouch, either, with a 9.2sec time from 0-62mph.
You’ll still get the whining engine note, though. It’s lucky, then, that one of the benefits of buying a Lexus is noise insulation — sound deadening really is superb on the NX.
So that’s performance; what about ride and handling?
Well, this will vary greatly depending on whether you get a standard NX or one with the Lexus Adaptive Variable Suspension, which is included as an option on our NX 300h F-Sport test car and adjusts the damping at each wheel independently as you drive. For the uninitiated, dampers work to stop the springs — and thus the car — from boinging all over the place like a pogo after you hit a bump.
The Lexus AVS system is an active version that monitors the car’s roll, pitch and yaw rate, as well as vehicle speed and steering input, and tries to keep the car stable and comfortable at all speeds and in all conditions.
On the whole, it works very well to keep the car stable but with the drive mode set to Normal, it offers a slightly unpredictable ride, at times being too stiff, such as over potholes, and at other times being a little soft. Under heavy braking, the nose can dip quite dramatically and the rebound can make the car feel like a bit of a wobbly blancmange.
Although a little unpleasant at times, it’s by no means terrible and as you spend most of the time wafting around rather than driving hard, it’s perfectly acceptable. Importantly for commuters and school run trips, over road humps at low speed, the car feels comfortable and composed. You just feel that other car makers have managed to do a better job at getting their active suspension systems to feel right in all conditions, at all times.
Cornering is more consistent, with a decent weight to the steering and body roll kept in check.
Stick it in Sport mode (which changes the digital power dial into a rev counter — very slick), and the powertrain becomes much more responsive and the whole thing stiffens up nicely. last week I pushed it a little bit along some country roads and was wowed at the difference in handling that it makes. I enjoyed it, even.
Of course, it drained the battery in no time and massively impacted fuel efficiency, but it was a lesson that driving a hybrid Lexus SUV doesn’t have to be the joyless, lacklustre experience that some other road testers have suggested.
Next time: why I have already had to make a visit to a Lexus dealer.
- Mileage today 2,281 miles
- Distance since start 1,698 miles
- Average consumption 37.2mpg (indicated)
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June 14, 2018: Windscreen replacement, MPG update and transporting a dishwasher
I’ve already had to make a trip to my friendly neighbourhood Lexus dealer. It wasn’t for any fault or dodgy part, though – the windscreen picked up a chip, which very soon turned into a fairly alarming crack. As windscreen form part of the structural integrity of the car, it needed replacing.
What I soon found out, though, was that you can’t simply call a replacement service and have a new bit of glass fitted. The NX, as with many new cars, has a camera mounted in front of the rear view mirror, which is used for its “Lexus Safety System+ with Pre-Collision System” and, presumably, its “Traffic Sign Recognition” system and other things besides.
It’s a sophisticated bit of kit which, Lexus told me, would need to be recalibrated once the pane had been replaced. Of course, you don’t want any old Tom, Dick or Harry doing this – if it is used for pre-collision auto emergency braking, and therefore your – and your family’s – safety, you’ll want the mechanics doing it to really know their stuff.
And so I handed over the keys to the folk at Lexus Twickenham and got a loaner for a few days while they sorted it all out for me. Lexus is renowned for its customer service and I have to say, they did a first class job of keeping me updated while the work was being carried out.
Also, the loaner happened to be another NX, but in entry-level SE trim. I was struck by how similar they are in spec, and wondered exactly why you’d want to pay more. I soon started to notice what I was missing, though: the F-Sport’s sports seats, for one, which are far more comfortable and supportive, and keyless entry, which is a blessing when you have your hands full. The automatic tailgate, though? I could probably live without that. I’ll look into the best spec for a Lexus NX at a later date.
Anyway, GU18 HLD has been patched up, calibrated and is now back in my hands, with all still working as it should.
Couple of quick additional notes before I sign off:
I am keeping all my fuel receipts and have calculated my average economy, just to make sure the car’s on-board computer isn’t telling me porky pies. The computer hovers between 37 and 38mpg now, but the fuel receipts are slightly less flattering – the best has been 38.4mpg and the worst, 31.1mpg, for an average of 35.2mpg over 2,241 miles.
As the commenter below points out, this isn’t going to impress many diesel drivers, and it’s not that close to the official 54.3mpg combined figure, either. But near 40mpg for a mid-size SUV that runs on petrol? I reckon that’s not bad, and as I point out in my reply, fuel economy isn’t the only factor to consider when looking at running costs – I’ll go into this at a later date.
My dishwasher packed up recently, and was beyond a cheap fix. I wanted a replacement straight away, so did a click-and-collect with a well-known electrical retailer, and went to pick up the new machine.
As I was walking out the door, though, my wife shouted to me, “Are you sure it’ll fit? They’re huge, you know.”
“Yes, yes, of course it’ll fit,” I said confidently, but then started to doubt myself almost immediately.
Fortunately, I wasn’t made to eat my words – the “full size” dishwasher, with carton dimensions of 859mm x 644mm x 661mm, fit – albeit snuggly – on its side, with the NX’s rear seats folded. Phew.
Being an SUV, you have to lift objects a little further from the ground to get them onto the lip than you would for a standard family hatchback or estate, but the NX has a nice flat load space when the seat are down, and the protective chrome strips help avoid scratched paintwork. The aperture is usefully wide at the top but the raked rear window does mean square objects like this need to be pushed quite far forward, but I didn’t need to adjust the driver or passenger seats to make room. There was even space to stow my kids’ child seats either side of the dishwasher, too.
- Mileage today 2,858 miles
- Distance since start 2,275 miles
- Average consumption 35.2mpg (indicated)
Want to ask a question? Contact me via Twitter: