Western Suburbs Weekly - - Driveway - Derek Og­den

LEXUS con­tin­ues its con­ver­sion to hy­brid ve­hi­cles apace, with the NX300h cross­over re­cently reach­ing our shores.

Lexus ori­gins lay in the mid1980s with a de­sire to repli­cate all that was good about a lux­ury ve­hi­cle, with par­tic­u­lar ref­er­ence to its Euro­pean ri­vals.

Since then, it has be­come clear that lifestyles are be­ing shaped by younger, more af­flu­ent pro­fes­sion­als, some of whom are turn­ing away from tra­di­tional pres­tige in search of a more rad­i­cal driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

With the NX se­ries Lexus has sought in­spi­ra­tion from trend-set­ting fash­ion, watches and run­ning shoes. The re­sult is a ve­hi­cle with dis­tinc­tive looks cloth­ing el­e­ments of the latest in automotive tech­nol­ogy.

The NX is a cross­over ve­hi­cle, on the mar­ket in two and all-wheel drive form in three vari­ants – Lux­ury, F Sport and Sports Lux­ury – with the choice of two en­hance­ment packs.

Prices start at $60,801 for the Lux­ury 2WD and top out at $81,953 for the Sports Lux­ury. All prices in­clude on-road costs and pre­mium paint fin­ish. The first ser­vice at 12 months or 15,000km is free and own­ers are cos­seted by the Lexus Encore Pro­gram.

Our test ve­hi­cle was the NX300h F Sport with en­hance­ment pack 1, which in­cluded a moon­roof (half a sun­roof) and Mark Levin­son 14-speaker su­pe­rior sound sys­tem.

The pack added $4000 to the car's price of $66,000.

The face of the NX300h is that of a square-jawed comic su­per­hero, thanks to the deep-set Lexus sig­na­ture spin­dle ra­di­a­tor grille flanked by the latest in front-end LED pro­jec­tor light­ing with a lay­out in­clud­ing day­time run­ning lamps.

To say this com­bi­na­tion dom­i­nates the ve­hi­cle is to sell it short.

The re­main­ing shape is firmly out of the SUV/sports hatch box with a coupe-ish pro­file sup­ported by 18-inch F Sport al­loy wheels in a choice of three de­signs. The NX300h signs off with an LED Lshaped rear light­ing set-up.

In­stru­ments and con­trols are in dis­tinct po­si­tions, cut­ting out any con­fu­sion, and at­ten­tion to de­tail is ev­ery­where, from the F Sport leather seats to the me­tal­lic-look high­light­ing han­dles, gearshift and pad­dles. The power tailgate can be op­er­ated from the in­stru­ment panel or the key fob and the height of el­e­va­tion can be pre­de­ter­mined to al­low for low roof ar­eas.

Cen­tral to the hu­man/ma­chine in­ter­face is a touch­pad on the cen­tre con­sole through which much in­for­ma­tion can be ac­cessed via the dash­board-mounted 7-inch full-colour screen.

There’s also a drive mode se­lect sys­tem which in the F Sport model of­fers Eco, Nor­mal, Sport and Sport+, which change hy­brid op­er­a­tion, trans­mis­sion, steer­ing and sus­pen­sion to suit.

Eco mode has the ve­hi­cle op­er­at­ing with op­ti­mum fuel ef­fi­ciency; Nor­mal de­liv­ers bal­ance be­tween per­for­mance and econ­omy; Sport has all drive sys­tems adapt­ing to ac­cel­er­a­tion and han­dling de­mands; while Sport+ height­ens these even fur­ther. EV (elec­tric ve­hi­cle) mode is also avail­able.

The ve­hi­cle’s 147kW 2.5-litre hy­brid pow­er­train con­sists of an elec­tric mo­tor with re­duc­tion gear and gen­er­a­tor cou­pled to a pow­er­split de­vice that di­vides the en­gine's power into elec­tri­cal and me­chan­i­cal.

The hy­brid bat­tery, of­ten guilty of rob­bing a ve­hi­cle of in­te­rior space, has been split into two units po­si­tioned un­der the rear seats.

Ducts in­crease cool­ing and re­duce noise.

The all-wheel drive NX300h also in­cludes a mag­net mo­tor on the rear axle al­low­ing for AWD op­er­a­tion. Sporty man­ual-like shift­ing of the six-step con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion is pos­si­ble through the cen­tre con­sole lever or steer­ing wheel-mounted pad­dles.

Safety be­gins with a body that is de­signed to ab­sorb crash forces and re­di­rect them away from the pas­sen­ger cabin where oc­cu­pants are fur­ther pro­tected by a suite of eight airbags.

As far as fuel econ­omy is con­cerned, Lexus rates the NX300h F Sport at 5.7litres/100km on the com­bined ur­ban/high­way cy­cle.

In Eco mode, where per­for­mance was an af­ter­thought, gen­er­ally we got 6.0litres/100km in stop-start city driv­ing.

The coupe con­nec­tion re­stricts the amount of cabin glass, so all­round vis­i­bil­ity is lim­ited. On the up­side re­vers­ing cam­eras pro­ject an all-round view when park­ing.

Edgy looks and zip with­out zap­ping the wal­let.

The NX 300h is lux­ury and so­phis­ti­ca­tion with­out the need of a sec­ond mort­gage.


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