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Lexus offers PHEV hybrid versatility for the first time with its NX450h+

Posted in

Mark Gallivan

Model: 2022 Lexus NX450H F Sport all-wheel drive auto

five door

Price: from €62,120 (in Ireland) 70,900 as tested

Engine: 2.5 litre, four-cylinder petrol, 309hp, 270Nm torque

Performance: 0-100km in 6.3 seconds, 200mph top speed

Fuel consumption: 256 mpg pie in the sky claimed (expect low 50s mpg)

CO2: 25g/km

Verdict: Lexus offers PHEV hybrid versatility for the first time with its NX450h+. Promises up to 97km fully-electric driving. Expensive for mid-size SUV it’s an unsuspected delight to drive and live with. Improved cabin touchscreen tech seals the deal.

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Silently wonderful

By now you are probably familiar with the Lexus NX. You certainly will have seen them around as the first generation NX was a hit for Lexus being its bestseller after the RX. Now as the second generation is on sale the inclusion of plug-in hybrid charging keeps the NX relevant in the luxury mid-sized SUV market. Lexus claims hybrid set up adds nearly 25 per cent power and 20 per cent less emissions. For families keen to use electric power for short daily trips the possibility of driving up to 100 kms in full electric power is a boon. Unlike a fully-electric car the 2.5 litre in-line four petrol engine that’s shared in the Toyota RAV4 uses an electric motor-generator which replenished the 18.1 kWh lithium-ion battery when the petrol engine was being used. Lexus says it’s possible to charge up in two and a half hours at a public charging station.

It is powered by two electric motors – one in the front and a second in the rear wheels. The NX may look like a bigger SUV in the photos, yet it’s more compact than you’d think sharing the same platform as the Toyota RAV4. Four different driving modes are available – Auto EV/HEV, EV and Self-Charge mode. The Self-Charge mode was useful by recharging the battery when driving to and from work and did a decent job of adding juice back into the battery. Standard on our test vehicle was 18-inch alloy wheels a much improved 9.8-inch touchscreen, LED headlights, wireless phone charging station and a rear tailgate with electric open/close.

The new NX was awarded a top 5 stars rating in the Euro NCAP which applied to this NX 450h+ and NX 350h. In the test announced in March of this year the NX scored 83 per cent for adult occupant protection, 87 per cent for child and 83 per cent for vulnerable road users. The car’s safety assistance systems incorporating Pre-Collision System, Lane Trace Assist, with speed assist and driver awareness monitoring is described as good – scoring a decent 91 per cent.

Battery charging is from a 3.3 kW onboard charger but Lexus offers an optional upgrade to a 6.6 kW charger halving the charging time to approximately 2.5 hours. Rival brands will offer you a BMW X3 xDrive 30e and Volvo XC60 Recharge. How does the second generation NX face against these popular SUVs?

The NX may look similar to the first generation model but its designer Tsuneo Kanasugi added collective updates that unless put side by side with each other are less obvious to the trained eye. It has grown by about an inch in length and is half an inch taller. New for 2022 includes a spindle grille arranging the line vertically. The cabin gets a new 7-inch HD MID head up display, there’s the aforementioned new touchscreen, new voice assistant, 14 options for mood lighting themes along with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Steering Assist, and Intelligent High Beam. The rear of the car incorporates a new Lexus badge script across the rear tailgate and a horizontal full-length light bar that spans the car from tail light to tail light. The remaining highlights of the updates extend to improved trim and a smattering of cabin additions like aluminium pedals.

All of these are features and updates that when viewed coldly, conceals the full story of the new NX. I spent a full week living with the new NX and have to admit it felt it was a test car I could readily have kept or myself. Virtually nothing irritated or frustrated when I had it – that alone is rare occurrence and it’s a marker I use for all new cars I test. Somehow or other Lexus is an unfairly overlooked premium luxury brand when pitched against the obvious rivals from Germany and Sweden. It deserves to be considered right alongside any rival in this category and price. This is chiefly down to how blissfully comfortable it is to drive and being a mid-size SUV it bypassed the unwieldy size of a large luxury SUX like a BMW X5. Then there is the quality. Lexus has built a strong reputation for solid construction and for how well the cabin soothes the driver. The NX’s cabin itself is improved and accessing the touchscreen with an infuriating keypad in the old car is now a thing of the past – for 2022 the NX’s touchscreen access is on par with the best. I tested the Lexus on a few big trips and was impressed by the isolation from road noise.

I’m still not a fan of mid-sized SUVs as their ubiquity frustrates when the equivalently priced estate car is dynamically superior as a family load-lugger. Which begs the question – does the whole world need to sit a few feet higher when travelling to and from the shops? But oddly for me the Lexus NX450h+ is a welcome surprise and even as Lexus was dragging its heels offering hybrid technology and new NX performed very well and ticked far more boxes than I thought it might do when it went back. If you want a premium mid-size SUV go test drive the new NX. It’s a surprisingly good new generation model from the house of Lexus.