ALL HAIL THE HYBRID
LEXUS BRINGS NEW TRENDS TO THE LUXURY MARKET
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.