|The NX 300h’ sporty design certainly stands out in a crowd. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
That, of course, makes it top dog in the northernmost North American jurisdictions by default, with combined U.S./Canadian sales of 61,179 units compared to 60,048 Acura RDX deliveries. Where were Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi? The four-ringed brand was third with 57,863 Q5 sales (that being the old first-generation model that’s since been replaced), Mercedes’ new GLC fourth with 52,562 units, and BMW’s X3 fifth with a total of 49,613 buyers.
How the mighty Germans have fallen, not that Lexus is particularly weak and feeble. The Japanese luxury brand is a powerhouse in the crossover sport utility sector
|The NX looks as edgy from the rear as it does up front. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
It helps that it looks fabulous, or at least I happen to like it a lot. It’s a polarizing design that’s as often maligned as lauded, but the only thing that might be more offensive in this premium camp is bland sameness-obviously not an issue for the NX. Its design hasn’t changed one iota since arriving in December of 2014 as a 2015 model. Lexus didn’t wait long before getting this hybrid variant to market either, joining it up with the NX 200t for the model’s inaugural year and making it an important part of its one, two compact luxury SUV knockout punch ever since.
|Low beam LED headlights are standard, while this upgraded version features full LED headlamps. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Of note, GMC’s upcoming 2018 Terrain Denali (which will likely be priced high enough
|These 18-inch alloys are standard kit. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Behind the NX 300h’s bold spindle grille is the same ultra-clean powertrain as the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and Lexus’ ES 300h, comprised of a 150 horsepower gasoline-fueled
|Stunning LED taillights are unlike anything else in the compact luxury SUV segment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
When topped off it has the ability to drive solely on EV power for short distances at low speeds (bumper-to-bumper traffic, parking lots, etcetera), but most of the time it merely assists the ICE for improved performance and reduced fuel consumption. A specially designed continuously variable transmission (CVT) takes care of shifting duties, of sorts, the full result of Lexus Synergy Drive’s combined forces
|Open up and climb into a cabin’s that’s a cut above many competitors. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
More importantly the NX 300h is good for estimated fuel economy equaling 7.1 L/100km in the city, 7.7 on the highway, and 7.4 combined, which is far and away the best in its class (the F-Pace diesel achieves 8.1 combined city/highway).
Along with its EV mode, the NX 300h features three selectable drive modes including Eco, Standard, and Sport, these focused on maximizing efficiency or power rather than changing steering and suspension settings. To that end, if you’re looking for a performance SUV I’d recommend the NX 200t F Sport, as it delivers more zip off the
|You won’t get bored in the NX 300h’ interior. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I’d be tempted to upgrade its wheel and tire package to the $2,650 19-inch F Sport alloys in the accessories catalogue, mind you, as this hybrid variant is biased more toward comfort than any aggressive behaviour. It’s shod in 18-inch alloys circled by 225/60R18 all-seasons, which together with a nicely sorted MacPherson gas strut and double wishbone fully independent suspension, complete with stabilizer bars at both ends, combines for plenty of compliance that results in excellent ride quality. It manages corners well enough too, providing you don’t get silly, its Dynamic Torque Control-enhanced E-Four AWD amply adhesive to dry pavement or any number of slippery surfaces, but it’s not about to compete head-to-head on a twisting racetrack
|An analogue and digital gauge cluster is filled with features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
By nature of its hybrid powertrain the NX 300h is a niche model when compared to the more conventional NX 200t, so therefore Lexus’ Canadian division limits trims to just one and options packages to the singular digit as well. Standard trim, which starts at $54,350, is generously equipped with exterior features including the 18-inch rims and rubber just mentioned, plus LED low-beam headlights with washers, LED DRLs, LED clearance lamps, LED fog lights, LED taillights, aluminum roof rails, a rear rooftop spoiler, auto-dimming power-adjustable heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals and memory, proximity access, and more.
|Even the head-up display is wrapped in contrast-stitched padded leatherette.(Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Our fully decked out tester included the $6,650 Executive Package, which adds full LED headlamps with auto-leveling and auto high beams, rain-sensing wipers, dynamic
|This high-quality 7.0-inch infotainment display is packed with functionality. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The driver’s seat was comfortable in the usual Lexus way, although the powered lumbar
|The dial is for selecting driving modes, Sport mode really making a difference. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Speaking of missing parts, I was a bit surprised this top-tier 300h didn’t have a panoramic sunroof, a de rigueur component of premium and even loaded mainstream branded SUVs these days, while rear outboard passengers don’t get the benefit of heatable seats either. In fact, other than the Premium package the only options are four available exterior shades and one colour (new Blue Vortex Metallic) plus Black or no-cost Flaxen brown/beige NuLuxe pleather upholstery with the base model, the alternative seat coverings with the Premium package being
|This Remote Touch Interface touchpad is much easier to use than the old joystick controller. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
No matter the cabin motif you should be satisfied with interior quality, especially with the Executive upgrade. Most surfaces above and beside the hips are soft touch, much of it contrast stitched padded leatherette for an extra level of premium pampering. The lower door skins are hard shell plastic, which flies in the face of most of the European entrants, but Lexus goes the extra step of trimming each side of the centre stack and lower console in the same padded leatherette, which is a big step up from the status quo.
|The leather-clad seats are comfortable, but the powered lumbar is only two-way. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
|Rear seating roominess is generous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
All of this luxury goodness comes in a passenger compartment that’s identically sized to the conventionally powered NX 200t, which means you won’t lose any seating space when moving up to the hybrid. Cargo volume is impacted, however, albeit ever so slightly with a 25-litre (0.9 cubic-foot) reduction no matter if the 60/40-split rear seatbacks are upright or lowered, the measurements reading 475 litres (16.8 cubic foot) and 1,520
|The hybrid battery hardly encroaches on cargo volume. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
At the end of yet another test week with Lexus’ most efficient NX I’m left with mixed feelings. I would’ve enjoyed a more connected feel to the road, and with that greater performance, but I was thrilled with the significant reduction at the pump when it came time to fill up. The NX was oh-so wonderfully quiet, comfortable and refined too, making for seven mostly stress free days of motoring. It’s certainly not difficult to recommend the NX 300h or its more performance oriented NX 200t sibling. Choose wisely.
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