Tonight’s gonna be a good night...
Lexus finally came to the mid-size SUV market in 2014, when it launched the NX with ex Black Eyed Peas member Will.i.am as the face of it’s new model. Lexus may have been a little slow to join the party in this sector but with the demand for mid-size SUVs showing little or no sign of abetting, models such as the Nissan Qashqai are really taking advantage of the sectors popularity.
The Qashqai market however, is not where the NX is aimed. It actually goes head to head with the BMW X5, Audi Q5 & Range Rover Evoque & with a distinct angular look more reminiscent of Volvos XC60 offers potential customers something a little different for their money.
The NX is only offered with petrol-hybrid engines, eschewing the diesel of it’s rivals & while this may seem short sited, like sister company Toyota, the NX is powered by Toyota/Lexus’s Hybrid Drive system, which is both brilliantly simple as well as being incredibly reliable. On paper, the Lexus NX delivers remarkable efficiency , with entry-level models emitting 116g/km with a claimed 56.5 mpg on the combined cycle. My test model, the 4WD 300h F Sport comes with CO2 emissions of only 121g/km which means a BIK of just 15%, making it an attractive proposition for company car drivers.
As I’ve mentioned, the NX is available with 2WD & 4WD, with both offering the same power output which is 194bhp. Only 153bhp of that is accounted for by the 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, with the remainder supplied by an electric motor. For the 4WD system, there’s another electric motor which drives only the rear wheels. This can make as much as 66 bhp, but its output is capped when combined with the other motor & the engine so that no matter whether you’re in a 2WD or 4WD NX, the 194 bhp output remains the same & so does the 0-62 mph of 9.1 seconds.
Five trim levels are offered across the range; S, SE, Luxury, F Sport and Premier. Even the entry-level S comes with adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, Sat Nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, alloy wheels & LED dipped beam headlamps. The exterior of the NX is bold, owing I’m sure some thanks to the angular looks of the Lexus RCF. It’s certainly different to the softer shaped Audi & Range Rover, which appear to be more feminine to the eye than the NX or BMW X5.There’s also the ubiquitous Lexus ‘Braun razor foil’ at the front.
Inside the NX, angular theme continues with the centre console reflecting the cars exterior look. Quality in here is excellent with Lexus’s usual high attention to detail shining through. There’s even a portable vanity mirror on the centre tunnel’s storage bin lid. More controversial is a new touch pad control for the 6.2-inch infotainment screen. At first I struggled to use it, but thankfully, after a few tries I mastered the art of selecting the function required whilst keeping my eyes on the road. Getting technical, my F Sport model also came with a neat wireless smartphone charger housed in the lidded armrest located between the driver & front seat passenger.
Having driven several Lexus hybrids before, I found the NX just as relaxing to pilot as any I have tried previously. At low speed the engine is eerily quiet making driving around town in traffic a real pleasure, whilst & on the motorway, there’s very little wind and road noise. When you do get out in the NX & have the opportunity to accelerate , the CVT system does send the revs soaring, creating a roar from the four-cylinder engine, which I quite liked, but may not be to everyones taste. My fellow passengers didn’t seemed perturbed by this though, because the cabin is well sound proofed especially if you’re listening to music.
The driving position is excellent & the black & red leather seats look great as well as being really comfortable. There is the option to use flappy paddles in the F Sport but I stuck to the auto box. You also have a choice of three driving modes. Lexus Drive Mode Select provides integrated control of multiple systems to raise the level of driving pleasure and performance. Operated using a dial control on the centre console, it gives drivers the choice of Normal, ECO and Sport driving modes. A button next to the dial lets the driver select an additional EV all-electric mode. In each mode the throttle action is adjusted according to whether economy or performance is prioritised. When Adaptive Variable Suspension is specified as an option on the NX 300h F Sport, an additional Sport+ mode is added to the Drive Mode Select system. Testing the F Sport I drove almost exclusively in ECO mode, which proved to be all I needed to drive around day to day. Disappointing though was my average fuel consumption which steadfastly refused to go above 30 MPG, so I imagine driving in normal or sport mode could actually be worse.
Even with 4WD, the Lexus has limited off-road ability, as the NX’s transmission can’t be engaged permanently because the front wheels are mated to an electric motor & the petrol engine, while the rear axle only gets an electric motor. There’s also no hill descent control or an ability to manually configure the traction control for different surfaces, which may put some hard-roaders off.
Rear passengers are well catered for & despite the sloping roof line three adults will fit comfortably into the back because there’s both a decent amount of legroom& a flat floor, meaning passengers sitting in the middle of the rear bench will be as comfortable as those in the outer two seats.
With the addition of the hybrid batteries, boot capacity is a little underwhelming at 475-litres, although this can be extended to 1,520-litres when the split-fold rear seat is lowered. On the plus side, the boot opening is wide and there’s a totally flat load area, while my F- Sport test model came with a powered tailgate. I made several supermarket trips in my NX & it will swallow up all your weekly food shop the equivalent of 4 medium sized suitcase will fit in nicely with a bit of room to spare.
In conclusion, the Lexus NX is an excellent addition to the luxury sector of mid-range SUV’s. Perhaps the Range Rover Evoque is the most noticeable car in this sector, simply because neither the Audi Q5 nor BMW X5 stand out, both looking bland in comparison ? If that’s the case then the NX should do well because if nothing else it’s great to look at & it does stand out in a crowd. The petrol hybrid engine may not appeal to all , but once you drive a car with this system it’s so easy & enjoyable particularly in traffic or around town, it would be a bit of a drag to go back to something else. Although I really enjoyed the luxury of the F Sport model, I would probably choose the 2WD S version which is £7,500 cheaper. Being a Lexus means that this entry level model is as well equipped as the top of the range competition & will also improve your BIK, an important consideration for many small company car drivers at present.
A Boom Boom Pow 3.5/5
NX price list.
NX 300h S 2WD E-CVT £29,495.00
NX 300h SE 4WD E-CVT £31,495.00
NX 300h Luxury 4WD E-CVT £34,495.00
NX 300h F SPORT 4WD E-CVT 30 £36,995.00
NX 300h Premier 4WD E-CVT £42,995.00
NX 200t F SPORT 4WD Automatic £38,095.00