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Motoring: Speed, comfort and class: Meet the 2018 Lexus NX300h

Credit: NAUMAN FAROOQ

The 2018 Lexus NX300h is a great vehicle for speed, comfort and design, but is a bit overpriced for the average car owner.


Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | January 22nd, 2018




Toyota, along with its luxury division Lexus, makes more hybrid vehicles than any other manufacturer. In fact, some of their hybrid offerings aren't even offered for sale in Canada.

However, today, we will look at one that is on sale in Canada — the 2018 Lexus NX300h - to see what it's all about.

The NX first went on sale as a 2015 model and is currently its entry level SUV offering, below the RX, GX, and LX models.

Entry level means different things to Lexus than most manufacturers, because regardless of the trim, the NX never looks basic and the list of standard equipment can rival some manufacturers fully equipped models.

The model I'm testing, the NX300h, has even more features as standard, over the regular NX300 model. So, what are the main differences between these two trims?

I won't get into all the differences, but the main one, is the powertrain. The NX300 is powered by a turbocharged, 2.0 litre, four-cylinder motor that produces 235 horsepower and 258 pounds per foot of torque. Power is fed to all-wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox.

When you add an “h” to the name, the powertrain is completely different. Under the hood of the NX300h is a 2.5 litres, four-cylinder motor that powers the front wheels — this engine, which is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic transmission, makes 141 horsepower.

But wait, there's more.

The rear wheels are powered by a 67 horsepower electric motor — hence the combined system output, as quoted by Lexus, is 194 horsepower and 152 pounds per foot of torque.

That means, there is quite a lot of difference in the performance of these two NX models, but since this test is about the hybrid model, I'll concentrate on telling you about how it felt.

Well, initial acceleration is a bit sluggish and when asked to really get a move on, the whirring noise from the engine and CVT transmission is not what you'd call, Lexus-like — as in, it's not as refined as you'd expect.

Once at highway speeds, the drivetrain is quite smooth and there is decent punch available to pass other traffic — however, it is best at just cruising, which thanks to its excellent Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), is easy to do.

Around town, if you drive it gently, not only can you cover some small distances on purely electric drive, but the combustion engine can also remain smooth — key is, to drive it gently, it likes that.

So, if you're the sort of person, who likes to race away from every traffic light, than this NX300h is not the SUV for you; if you like comfort however, than keep reading, you'll like what's coming up next.

Step inside the NX300h and the instant you get seated, you'll feel relaxed — this vehicle has one of the most comfortable chairs I have come across all year. There is decent room for occupants, front and back, and the luggage space is adequate for a compact-luxury class of vehicle.

The sound-deadening is excellent, as you'd expect from Lexus, but the thing that impressed everyone who got in it, was its excellent fit and finish. Lexus builds its vehicles extremely well and it shows in all of its models. Every switch has a high quality feel and even the design of the dashboard shows that Lexus paid a lot of attention in making the cabin as pleasant as possible. For added pleasantness, the NX300h comes standard with a 10-speaker stereo system — it really feels like a concert hall on wheels.

Some complaints though, include the touchpad style infotainment system controller, which is very awkward to use, especially while driving — I hope Lexus drops this idea, and moves on to a new system in the near future.

All of this is wrapped up in a stylish package that surely stands out from the conventional crowd.

However, the stat that is of most interest to anyone looking to buy a hybrid, is fuel efficiency.

So how did the NX300h do in my week long test? Well, after my test cycle (170 kilometres of highway driving, plus 130 kilometres of city driving), the number I arrived at was 8.4 litres per 100 kilometres. That is one-litre off from the figure Lexus provides (7.4 litres/100 kilometres combined), but differences in driving style, or the type of traffic involved, is enough to make the difference. Overall, the fuel economy is decent, but not outstanding.

The biggest surprise however, comes courtesy of the sticker price. The base 2018 Lexus NX300h is yours from $54,150. My tester had the “Executive” package on it, which brought the price up by another $6,650 — bringing the subtotal to $60,800 (plus freight, Pre Delivery Inspection (PDI), dealer fees, and HST). In short, it is fair to say, that an NX300h, like my tester, would set you back about $70,000 by the time it's on the road.

I liked this vehicle, it sure offers a lot of comfort and technology in a neat package; but it is a bit too expensive. If I was dropping that kind of cash on an SUV, I'd still consider a Lexus, but it'll be a nicely equipped RX350.
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