The Lexus NX 300h is the Toyota-owned luxury brand’s SUV offering. But there’s a lot more to this beast than a striking design and a high price tag. Here’s everything you need to know about it, including how it drives.
Related: Jaguar E-Pace test drive
Not just any crossover SUV
Everyone makes a baby SUV these days. Since the Nissan Qashqai rolled onto the scene in 2006 and created a whole market that now dominates UK car sales, everyone has joined in the fun.
Luxury compact SUVs are less common. Of course you get the usual: Mercedes-Benz (GLA), BMW (X1), Audi (Q3) and Volvo (XC40). The Range Rover Evoque has been bossing it for a while now, too, and Jaguar has recently entered the arena with the E-Pace.
But then there’s the Lexus NX 300h, with a starting price that tops all of those. This gives you some idea of the Toyota-owned brand’s aspirations.
For your £34,895 (minimum) you get heated front seats as standard. Only the very bottom spec doesn’t have a leather interior. The level of fit and finish is simply sublime.
It’s a hybrid
That’s right, unlike many of the army of mini SUVs that have followed in the footsteps of the Nissan Qashqai, this one is a self-charging hybrid as standard (in the UK at least).
The Lexus NX isn’t the only hybrid crossover SUV on the market, but there aren’t as many as you might think. And the hybrid powerplant is usually just an option alongside traditional petrol-only and diesel engines.
Average combined-use fuel consumption is 54.3mpg with CO2 output of 121g/km. But despite that, it still generates 197PS, gets from 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds, and has a top speed of 180mph. Quick.
The interior exudes class
There’s no denying the premium quality of the cabin. Those heated leather front seats are plush enough to cosset even the most well-heeled backside, and are electronically eight-way adjustable. All the fittings and controls are top-quality, and it all has a tasteful air.
That said, I’m not a huge fan of infotainment screens that jut from the top of the dash, like an afterthought. The NX’s screen is far enough out of reach that it isn’t even a touchscreen – instead there’s a laptop-style trackpad in front of the armrest. On the plus side, this makes it possible to perform simple operations, such as changing music tracks, without taking your eyes from the road for more than a split second, if at all.
I spent over a week with the top-spec 300h Premier (from £44,395), specced up with a panoramic sunroof (£1000 extra). The Premier has a head-up display, a wireless charger inside the armrest, and an impressive 18-speaker Mark Levinson sound system.
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The boot is a decent depth front to back, but lacks the height found in some rivals.
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How it drives
In case you’re not really sure how a modern hybrid car works, there’s an electric motor that runs in tandem with a petrol engine. At very low speed the electric motor silently powers the car along – perfect if you regularly hit traffic – while the internal-combustion engine kicks into life when you get above a crawl. The battery for the electric motor gets recharged by the petrol engine, but also through braking, thanks to ‘regenerative brakes’. With a ‘plug-in hybrid’, you can also top up through a home mains socket, but the Lexus doesn’t offer that facility.
Enough of the science bit, though. Settling into the driver’s seat of the Lexus NX 300h Premier, you really do melt into the leather. Creeping away, initially running on electricity only, it’s smooth as butter. Getting up to speed, you hear the transition to petrol more than feel it. In the Standard drive mode, the NX is rather sedate – lethargic even – but there’s power there if you’re prepared to get over the lag.
If you’re at all interested in responsiveness, you’ll find yourself switching to Sport mode quite often, which gives some real throttle punch. It’s a shame, really, that there’s not a mode between Standard and Sport to give a more balanced drive.
Lexus styling tends to be polarising, but this one seemed to gain admiring glances wherever it went. There’s an aggressive front overhang with that distinctive grille, and muscular haunches contrasting with sharp, aggressive lines. The 18-inch alloys on the Premier are also a cut above.
The NX’s problems come when it’s time to turn. This is a very heavy car with soft, bump-absorbing suspension, which means there’s a lot of body roll and the sensation of lurching into a corner if you’re carrying any kind of speed. This is compounded by those sumptuous seats, which, while exceedingly comfy when the car’s nice and level, don’t offer enough side support to hold you firmly as you corner. You won’t get the lithe handling of a Jaguar F-Pace or Seat Ateca FR here.
For pootling around town in style and comfort, or cruising motorways without regularly changing lanes, the Lexus NX is a luxurious chariot. It’s just not an all-rounder.
Lexus NX 300h price
The 300h starts at £34,895 for the SE, and the top Premier model costs from £44,395. Between those are the Luxury and F Sport.