The Lexus NX was originally launched in 2014 & quickly became the brands most popular car. However, when the NX was updated Lexus didn’t offer a Plug-in Hybrid or full electric version & the all-new model goes some way to putting that right.
The NX is a five door SUV powered by either a 2.5 litre self charging petrol in FWD or AWD or, 2.5 litre plug-in hybrid petrol engine. Both feature a CVT gear box.
You can choose from the self charging NX 350 offered in NX 350, with staring price of £39,760, NX 350 Sport or NX 350 Takumi trim. Or the plug-in NX 450h AWD + in Premium, Premium + or Takumi trim. Entry level Premium costs £50,950 so it’s quite a big jump up cost wise from the cheapest self charging version.
As we were driving the fleet-friendly NX 450h+, our specs are based on the plug-in version only.
All plug-in hybrid NX’s feature wireless smartphone charging, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, LED headlights, keyless go & the ‘Lexus Safety System+’. The main interior change is that Lexus have got rid of the infotainment track pad which they used on the previous NX , replacing it with a smarter, simpler & cleaner touchscreen. Entry-level NX 450h+ features a 9.8″ central touchscreen, while F Sport & Takumi trims get the larger 14′ version & 10″ digital driver’s display. Wireless Apple CarPlay & wired Android Auto are also included & overall it’s a massive improvement over what came before.
The 450h+ shares its TNGA-K underpinnings with the latest Toyota RAV4. This hybrid system, comprises a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, with CVT transmission, tagged to an 18.1kWh battery & electric motor. Lexus says that 43 miles is possible on battery power alone. For fleets, their’s CO2 from as low as 20g/km which equates to just 7% BIK & big tax savings.
Lexus claims combined economy to be as high as 256.8 mpg. And, perhaps if you only ever drive your NX locally for 20 miles per day that is possible. However, take a longer trip & this will drop. For example, in our test week, by utilising the electric range until we reached the motorway & plugging the NX in to charge overnight, we drove the 450h + over 200 miles in a week & averaged 58.7 mpg, which is still impressive.
With 302bhp, top speed is 124mph & 0-62mph takes just 6.3 seconds, which isn’t bad at all.
The latest NX is 20mm longer & comes with a 30mm longer wheelbase. Outside, it’s less angular than the previous version, with slim LED headlights & the familiar Lexus spindle grille. At the rear, there’s now a full-width tail-light & overall the cars shape & lines feel simpler, cleaner & more pleasing on the eye.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the dash & cabin feel less cluttered. We’ve already mentioned the new touchscreen which is excellent. You still have separate climate controls sitting beneath the touchscreen, but in effect, there’s actually 50% fewer buttons than in it’s predecessor & mirroring the outside, it feels more modern & on-trend too.
The quality you expect from Lexus is still there though, with all surfaces brilliantly screwed together & all finished in a mix of high quality & soft touch plastics. Our Takumi test car also featured leather upholstery with heated front & rear seats & an extra with a sunroof.
Front seat passengers won’t be disappointed by the head & leg room on offer in the NX 450h+. You also get a decent-sized glovebox, twin USB’s, large door bins, twin cup holders a cubby under the armrest & space for your phone with wireless charging.
The extra 20mm length of the latest NX, makes quite a difference to rear legroom, although the centre rear passenger still has to contend with a transmission tunnel. Head room is good as well. Rear passengers also benefit from twin USB’s & a fold down armrest with two cup holders.
Both the self charging & plug-in NX’s offer 545 litres of boot space. Fold the seats down & you get 1,436 litres of load capacity. The boot finish & carpet used are exemplary & there’s the added bonus of space underneath the useful flat floor to hide the charging cable.
The NX 450h+ features three driving modes; Eco, Sport & Normal which are accessed via a knob in front of the gear lever. Twist for Eco or Sport, push for Normal. You can maximise your battery range by utilising the EV save mode button located next to the electric handbrake. This means that you can save your electric range for when it’s most economical, low speed urban driving.
Furthermore, the plug-in does also offer some other range saving aids. For example, you get the bonus of battery-assisted driving in the hybrid drive modes. When the battery is fully depleted, the NX reverts to being a normal hybrid. So you still get electric assistance at low speed which adds to the cars economy.
Unsurprisingly, if you take the NX onto the motorway, you’ll find little to complain about. The built in radar controlled cruise control is simple to work & the plethora of third-generation Lexus Safety Systems, such as Lane Keep Assist, Lane Trace Assist & Front Cross Traffic Alert, make it one of the safest cars you can own.
Cabin noise is minimal & all passenger’s will enjoy the cosseting, comfortable seats. Our only complaint is that when you push down hard on the accelerator pedal, the CVT gearbox whines as it spins into action & this can be heard in the cabin.
In town, we were able to make use of the cars pure electric range & managed four days of local driving before we needed to plug in. Talking of which, charging on our 7kWh Rolec Smart Charger, the NX’s 18.1kWh battery took between 2.5 & 3 hours to charge from empty. When our Octopus Go night time rate between 00.30 hrs & 04.30 hrs is just 7.5p a kWh, we could replenish the NX’s battery for just 20p & as we were seeing a pure electric range of 32 miles, that’s cheap motoring & another feather in the cap for Lexus’s first plug-in.
All NX models are extremely well built & equipped. The new infotainment system elevates the new NX to a point where it’s now far more competitive with similar systems on offer from the German premium car makers. With just 7% BIK, company car drivers will save plenty. The latest NX feels bigger inside & looks better as well.
The CVT gearbox doesn’t offer the driver any great performance & it’s loud when pushed hard. The plug-in is expensive so is better considered as a company car offering.
Whilst we don’t especially like the CVT gearbox, we had no complaints about how the 450h+ transitions from electric to petrol & back. It is frankly as smooth as you like & one of the best we’ve come across.Furthermore, this Lexus is much more refined & comfortable than it’s predecessor.
For company car drivers lucky enough to be in the 50k car bracket, the personal tax savings are brilliant & reason enough to select one. And, perhaps most importantly, it now feels like its earned a place at the top table with Volvo’s XC60 Recharge, BMW’s X3 xDrive30e & Mercedes-Benz’s GLC 300e plug-in’s.
Model Tested: Lexus NX 450h+ Takumi
OTR Price: £61,200
Engine: 2.5-litre 4 cylinder petrol-electric plug-in hybrid
Transmission: CVT automatic. 4WD
0-62mph: 6.3 seconds
Top speed: 124mph