Fuel efficiency in a utilitarian package
Editor’s Note: A refreshed NX will be debuting later this month at the New York International Auto Show.
Lexus gave us the fob to a 2017 NX300h to cruise around in for a week. It came painted in Obsidian black, classy when it’s clean, a pain in the ass to keep that way; sorry for the photos, I swear I ran it through the wash not 15 minutes before this. The NX starts at $36,260 when powered by a 2.0L turbo. This hybrid version starts at $40,695, but our as-tested price reached $47,053 with the navigation package (with remote touch interface and 10-speaker premium sound system, $1,615), moonroof ($1,100), adaptive cruise control with pre-collision system ($900), heated and ventilated front seats ($640), illuminated door sills ($459), power rear lift gate ($400), comfort package ($345), wireless charger ($220), body side moldings ($199), mudguards ($155), and auto-dimming rearview mirror ($125).
By now, everyone is familiar with Lexus’ busy and angular design. The NX is one of the best models to wear the design, fitting the proportions of the compact crossover nicely. Be aware that the sporty angle of the rear glass does impede cargo room, making it difficult to haul taller items. LED headlights, turn signals, tail lights, and even door-handle welcome lights that help light the area next to the car are standard; high beams are regular halogen lights. Body-colored side mirrors with integrated turn signals, 17-inch wheels, and chrome accents on the fascias round out the exterior highlights.
Inside, the Lexus feels well-appointed with premium materials, aluminum accents, and power everything. The are particularly comfortable with 10-way adjustment and two memory settings. Similarly, the steering wheel is power-adjustable and is incorporated into the memory setting. Analog gauges (black face so they are blank when the car is off) sit behind the steering wheel with a 4.2-inch driver display tucked between them. Audio functions are handled by a 7-inch display screen with remote touch pad. We’ve complained about this setup before and we still don’t like it, but it does feel like some fine-tuning has been done to make it more accurate. Rear passenger room is plenty good for two adults, three for short trips.
The NX is first and foremost powered by a 2.5L inline four-cylinder engine producing 154 hp and 152 lb-ft of torque. Combined with the electric motors, total system horsepower jumps to 194. It is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that routes power to the front wheels. The NX300h is equipped with all-wheel drive, but the power to the rear wheels is supplied by an electric motor, not a traditional driveshaft setup. Lexus rates 0-60 at 9.1 seconds, but it feels faster behind the seat, especially in Sport mode (Eco and Normal are the other two modes). Power delivery is good, the switch between electric and engine power could be smoother, but we were impressed by how often the NX was running in EV mode. The EPA rates the crossover at 33 city/30 highway/31 combined. We achieved 31.8 mpg in a good mix of driving conditions.
Obviously, a hybrid crossover isn’t going to place a lot of emphasis on handling. That said, the over 4,100-pound NX feels composed in daily driving with the suspension soaking up all but the biggest potholes. Body roll is surprisingly tame, but the heft of the vehicle is definitely noticeable.
The NX300h is one of our favorite Lexus vehicles. All the utility plus over 30 mpg combined; there’s nothing wrong with that. Fewer a la carte options and more packages would be a plus. Finding an NX optioned exactly as you want could be a daunting task. Looking for a little more room, the Mazda CX-9 is a good option for a few thousand less.