Lexus NX 300h
I have mixed emotions when it comes to 4x4s. On the one hand, I like the idea of owning one. That high-up driving position, the feeling of safety, the acres of space, the comfort of knowing I can go off-road if ever I need to (which I don’t really, but I’m a man so I should have the option, right?) and the feel-good factor that comes from driving one, which I have, many times. But then I think of the implications – to the planet, to what others may think of my selfish choice and the inner torment I’ll suffer every time I drop Jonny at school. And decide I can’t. Really, I just can’t.
So it’s with a degree of self-interest that I climb into the latest offering from Lexus, the NX. You see, whilst it’s a cross-over ‘SUV’ 4x4, it comes from the company that pioneered hybrid technology which means there’s a real chance this could be a game changer for anyone looking for a moderately sized 4x4 that makes you feel warm and fuzzy.
Outwardly, it certainly looks the part of a built for purpose, rampaging SUV crossover thanks to a toned down interpretation of Lexus’ radical LF-NX concept car of last year. It’s certainly an attention grabber and an attractive one at that – it’s well proportioned, sleek and dramatic.
Inside, it’s pure Lexus. Which means quality gadgets and comfort. Everything about the NX’s interior screams quality – the hand-stitching on the seats and steering wheel, the feel of the controls, the look of the instruments. Then there’s the plethora of toys, too many to list here but the touchpad sat nav and heads-up display stand out. The driving position is great, the seats cosseting and pliant and there’s plenty of space, front and back.
All of which tallies with my previous experience of the brand. This is the stuff that matters, day to day, week in week out, when you’re stuck in traffic or driving through rain coming sideways and it’s where Lexus put their money. A comfortable, relaxed and well equipped place to spend hours on the road.
And so it is with the drive. Its performance won’t set the world alight – there are quicker SUVs out there for sure – but it’s, oh so comfortable and refined. It soaks up poor road surfaces and is whisper quiet at speed. And it’s no slouch through the twisty stuff either. For a tall car it handles well, cornering flat, with poise and in a controlled and measured fashion that inspires confidence.
The 300h NX is powered by a petrol 2.5 working in unison with a pair of electric motors to produce a total of 194bhp. Counter-intuitively that’s despite the petrol engine producing 153bhp and the electric motors 141bhp – they just can’t do that at the same time. Either way, that’s a decent amount of shove that can be delivered at all road speeds. The result is 0-63mph in 9.1 seconds, which is a reasonable lick by most standards but not for a compact premium SUV these days, when many will do sub 8 seconds with ease. But that misses the point.
It seems to me that Lexus have deliberately taken the route of economy over performance. Within the Lexus range they have some immensely powerful and lightning quick hybrid powertrains which could easily have been used in the NX. But my guess is they’ve looked at where the opportunity is and decided the world does not need another fast, climate-damaging SUV, quite the opposite. And that’s where the NX stands alone. No other car in its class, even other hybrids, can touch it for CO2 emissions and fuel economy. It creams the competition by at least 20% with figures of 121g and 54.3mpg which gives a benefit in kind of 16%: saving a company car driver on 40% tax a whopping £1,000 a year compared to an equivalent X3.
So there you have it. If outright performance is not a priority but good looks, quality, comfort, handling and, above all, environmental impact and associated cash benefits are, at last there’s an SUV worth having. With that said, I’m off to hug a tree.
0-62mph: 9.2 secs
Top Speed: 112mph
Mpg: 54.3 (comb)
Price: from £29,495