The refreshed NX is still a good thing. I’m not sure about the hybrid version though.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
The 2018 Lexus NX has been slightly refreshed, and this is the hybrid model. The gas model is no longer called the 200t – both models are now called NX 300, with the hybrid keeping its “h” designation at that end.
The bold new front end is immediately noticeable. It is very prominent, and looks almost bulbous with the complete lack of a lower air dam. You’ll find a huge difference between it and the optional F-Sport spindle grilles now. The headlights, tail lamps and fog lights are LEDs and there are new 18-inch rims to fill out the wheel wells.
Other than that, the NX retains most of its now-familiar taut and stretched, creased, aggressive lines.
The cabin is nicely finished with top-notch materials including plenty of stitched soft-touch panels. I’m not sold on the faux carbon fiber trim – even if it was real, it would be pointless. The styling is a bit busy, and some of the ergonomics are a mess in the NX.
The centre console has the drive mode selector, which is surrounded by more buttons. Then there’s the knobs and buttons for the sound system, which are stuck on the vertical part of the centre stack – behind the gear selector. And finally, there’s the “chin” of the centre stack, that is a very busy area full of small buttons related to climate control and comfort. The seat heater and cooler buttons in particular are tiny. It’s just not a clean styling exercise.
There’s a beautiful, sharp 10.3″ Lexus Display Audio system screen jutting out of the dash. It handles sound (the 10-speaker system is a good one), phone and navigation. Lexus is still not on the Apple CarPlay/Android Auto bandwagon, and continues to opt for their Enform platform which allows you to access stuff like traffic, weather, sports, Yelp and more through a data link on your phone. Thanks but no thanks. Why they haven’t given this up yet, and haven’t conformed to an obviously well-done and generally accepted set of platforms yet is beyond me. Another issue is Lexus’ horrible Remote Touch interface that uses a track-pad type of input device. Its spastic responsiveness that reacts inconsistently and then jumps all over the place on the screen is not good, and I’ve never been a fan. Sounds like a lot of negatives, but I’d rather be honest about these things – that said, none of these issues are deal-breakers.
The heated steering wheel has a power-adjustable steering column, and the heated and cooled leather seats are excellent, offering plenty of comfort and support. A dual-zone automatic climate control system takes care of cabin comfort, and the standard-size sunroof overhead lets some light in. All things considered (in particular the price), the NX 300h doesn’t come as well-equipped with driver assistance technology as you might think – you get a pre-collision system, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist and a back-up camera. No parking sensors, no blind-spot monitoring…
The rear bench is comfortable, with enough head and leg room for me at 5’10”. They recline, which is a nice touch. The middle seat would work for an adult, although it’s a bit narrow. There are two sets of LATCH anchors for child seats and rear passengers get a 120V household plug and adjustable air vents.
There’s a carpeted bin under the armrest lid, where you’ll find a sliding organizer tray and a wealth of charging/input ports – 2 USBs, a 12V and an auxiliary plug.
I didn’t want to get sexist and head straight into being presumptuous here, but my wife confirmed what I was thinking. There’s a strange little carpeted storage bin behind the wrist rest for the touch pad. Lift up the lid on it, and it has a sharp little mirror on the back. I couldn’t think of anything other than make-up storage and application, and my wife said it would be perfect for that. If anyone knows of another reason this might be there, let me know.
Pop the power liftgate and you’ll find a reasonably spacious (475L) trunk with a hard parcel shelf. You can, of course, fold the rear seats for 1520L of cargo space.
Under the Hood
Lexus’ hybrid drivetrain combined a 2.5L 4-cylinder with an electric motor (for a net system horsepower rating of 194), a CVT transmission and all-wheel drive. The NX 300h is rated at 7.2/7.9 L/100 km for the city/highway cycles.
I tried to drive relatively economically, and averaged 8.2 L/100 km, which is very nice for a decent-sized, all-wheel drive crossover.
As with most hybrids, there’s enough to do anything within the confines of normal, everyday driving. It’s not a snappy performer, but has no issues getting up to speed. There are several drive modes – Eco, Normal and Sport, as well as full EV. EV is useless, as the battery is too small to let it run exclusively on electric power for more than a block or two – and that’s only if you’re lightly feathering the throttle and irritating the crap out of the people behind you. But put it into Sport and put the hammer down and you’ll be surprised at how quickly it gets to highway speeds. Of course that’s not the point in a hybrid.
The transmission has a Sport mode, and a manual shifting mode – which can also be achieved using the paddle shifters. Everything the NX does is smooth, smooth, smooth. The vehicle is quite quiet most of the time, unless you’re heavy on the gas – the CVT sends the gas engine’s revs soaring and it’s surprisingly noisy at those times.
The ride is decidedly different from a traditional Lexus ride. Yogi Bear is smarter than the average bear, and the NX 300h is tauter than the average Lexus. It’s a bit firmer, and there’s a bit more of a heaving lurch over dips and expansion joints, because the suspension is compensating for the increased weight of the hybrid drivetrain. It’s still a lovely and comfortable ride. Handling is so-so. While there are no issues, it certainly dives into corners a bit, and feels very heavy when you toss it around.
The regenerative braking is mushy and grabby, as with nearly all hybrids – it just takes a few minutes to get used to. Visibility out of the vehicle is pretty good, but the angular rear pillar areas are huge. Combined with the lack of blind-spot monitoring, which should be standard equipment in a $57,000 vehicle, the right side rear pillar definitely impedes successful shoulder checking.
You can even tow a bit with the hybrid NX – up to 680kg (1500lb).
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was pretty good. She’s not sold on the exterior styling, but liked the smoothness of the overall driving experience. She agreed with me on the Remote Touch trackpad interface in that it’s a disaster.
I liked a lot of things about the NX 300h. But truth be told, I wouldn’t buy it with my own money. If this were the kind of vehicle I was after, I’d be looking at the NX 300. You can get in to it the decently equipped base model for around $44,000 – that’s $13,000 less than this one.
It would take you a very, very long time to make up $13,000 in fuel savings. And that’s the only reason to choose the “h” model over the regular gas one. The NX is a great crossover, and there’s a good reason why the vast majority of them aren’t hybrids. I just don’t think they’re worth the premium. If you’re in the market for this type of crossover, there’s plenty of good stuff to find in the Lexus NX, but don’t bother with the hybrid unless you need to prove your green-ness to the world.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Lexus Canada.
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Pricing: 2018 Lexus NX 300h
Base price (Premium/base trim): $55,300
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $57,445