The new generation Lexus NX is no more unique than its predecessor. And that’s why it’s the best.
When the Lexus NX appeared on the market in 2014, it was still one of the few hybrid models. We appreciated the car for its quality experience, low utility and individual character. But it was criticized for its inscrutable operating concept, unexplained handling and its crude and slow training. Now it’s time for the second generation, which occupies just over five percent of all parts of its predecessor. But also an angular shape that can prevent the acceptance of a more conservative buyer. Although it should be said that the sharpest edges are open. The NX is now also more comfortable on its wheels because the track width has been increased by a few centimeters. However, the large spindle-shaped grille and very angry headlights remain and make the NX still not everyone’s friend.
Premium is what you get in the interior. In terms of design, finish and combination of materials, Lexus is definitely one of the leaders in its segment. The previous NX, beautifully built and compared to anything else, but that was accompanied by a completely illogical dashboard layout and, to make matters worse, also with one of the worst controllable and readable information systems we’ve ever come across . We’re happy to report that the new NX has taken a completely different path. The new infotainment system is ‘just’ a touchscreen with a modern map display, logical menus and an intuitive layout. All items related to climate control have a permanent place under the screen, so they are always accessible, with rotary knobs for temperature setting and volume knob. Much can also be controlled via the steering wheel and two square push buttons under the thumbs, with menus displayed on the head-up display. Modern smartphone connectivity including a control app is also included.
The NX is still not necessarily the biggest car in its class, but it is perfect for five people. The seats have a good backrest and seat fit, but they do not have several adjustment options to get a good sitting position. There is no extendable seat, for example, which is a disadvantage for a taller driver. The front seats are also very high, so you sit higher than in a car. Don’t expect any extra functionality beyond the folding rear seat. You’ll only appreciate the NX when you drive it. Then you see how very effectively the noise from the wind and tires is kept out of the car to achieve dead silence. If you just want full power and the combustion engine is running at high revs with the transmission continuously variable, the peace is disturbed. But that’s not necessary as often as it used to be.
The NX is now also available as a plug-in hybrid, with the powertrain from the RAV4. That means a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 185 hp, which is directed to the front axle by a 134 kW electric motor, with an additional 40 kW electric motor on the rear axle for a total of 309 hp. The big advantage for Lexus was that it already had the necessary technology in-house. It just needed to add an external rechargeable battery to turn it into a PHEV. The pack has a maximum rating of 18.1 kWh and is inserted into the floor of the car. On paper good for an electric range between 69 and 89 km. We couldn’t get to the mountain roads of Mallorca, but a distance of 60 km is definitely doable. And when the battery is empty, the familiar economic hybrid power that we know from the Toyota group remains. So you won’t often have to fill the 55 liter tank. Charging the battery can be, and that goes up to 6.6 kWh in a 32A charging point, so you lose about 5 hours in a 230V and 16A charging station on average. With more electric power, the main problems of the Lexus variable transmission are no longer applicable. Slow effects are overcome by readily available and very large electronics. The roar of the engine lasts only a short time under full load, because it is at the desired speed in a few seconds.
Of course this is not true for the NX 350h, which in terms of powertrain is basically an improvement over the previous 300h. So with a much smaller, non-rechargeable external battery and therefore less electrical power. On paper it doesn’t seem much different with 244 vs. 309 hp, but in practice the plug-in is a second or two earlier at 100 km/h and makes less noise. However, for anyone who is not in a hurry, a hybrid car is a good fit. It is very smooth, reasonably efficient and powerful enough to keep the car moving smoothly. Both can also tow 1500 kg. Currently, it appears that the price difference between the two variants is only 3900 euros. The Launch Edition 350h costs 69,990 euros, the Launch Edition 450h+ 73,890 euros. The NX is available from 59,990 euros, but more prices will be announced later.
In terms of driving, there is a clear difference between the variants, where the plug-in hybrid has the advantage despite its 220 kg extra weight. This mass is actually almost entirely on the bottom plate, so that the center of gravity is very low and the weight distribution over both axles is excellent. It would also have helped that we drove the 450h+ as an F-Sport with variable fluids. Still neither comfortable nor sporty, the NX now combines elements of both extremes. The short bumps are still a challenge, but the car’s refinement is great. The NX also turns neutral into a corner, without the challenge of accelerating at any time. Maybe just like the target group thinks. The 350 with dampers feels heavy on the nose and has more trouble smoothing bumps, especially in the rear. Maybe because the hybrid battery of this version is not on the floor, but under the back seat. Once again, Lexus places the NX in all respects in the middle of its segment, and the big advantage this time is the very low practicality and perhaps best of all the interior, which can now be controlled directly. The only thing that can upset him is that buyers in this price range are increasingly looking at a fully electric car, or a real draft horse. NX is a lot, but not that.
Once again you can stand out from the rest of Germany in style with the Lexus NX. From now on without having to experience some obnoxious stubbornness.