Test Model: NX450h+ F-Sport
Format: Medium-sized, Premium, Plug-in Electric Hybrid, (PHEV), SUV
Accommodation: 5-door, 5-seater
Trim Level: F-Sport
Euro NCAP rating: 5-Star
Engine: 2.5 litre, 4-cylinder petrol
Electric Motor: 40kW
Power: 309 bhp
Drive: All-wheel drive
Petrol tank capacity: 55litres
Annual Road Tax: €140
Boot Space: 545 litres – 1,436 litres with rear seats folded
Ground clearance: 195.5mm
Range starting Price €63,330
Test car price: €74,015
3-years Roadside Assistance
5-year Hybrid battery cover
Free annual hybrid health check
Others to look at: Volvo XC60 Recharge, Mercedes GLC 300 de, BMW X3 xDrive 30e, Audi Q5 TFSI e quattro.
Last Word First
A new member of the Lexus NX, (Nimble Crossover), family, the 450h+ joins the existing NX350, a straight-forward hybrid. For me and my driving demand, there is no question the PHEV is the better option when choosing electrically assisted motoring. With this NX450h, I got close to 70km around our capital on pure EV, thanks to its bias to go silent at every opportunity. There’s no doubting the benefits of home/office charging when considering a Plug-in Electric Hybrid, where keeping the means to be electrically propelled at every opportunity will positively limit the time spent in fuel stations, not forgetting the weight of said batteries when not providing propulsion.
Dynamically, the NX450h is very good road company. Interestingly, it is the first plug-in Hybrid from Lexus, and comes combines a good driving position and excellent visibility, allied to a combined power unit of 309bhp, provided enough trans-country enthusiasm to entertain. Its subtlety does require exercising a healthy dose of self-preservation to avoid a guest appearance on a Garda home movie – cruise control a guardian well worth engaging.
Build quality, ergonomics and safety are beyond criticism, with internal room allowing easy access and egress, remembering this is a mid-size vehicle. With its distinctive angular, external profile, the NX450h+ creates its own presence in any carpark, while those within glide in the serenity of its well-thought out interior.
Given our transition from pure combustion-engined propulsion and particularly where a full electric vehicle simply does not offer the flexibility of your work/leisure demand, the choice of a PHEV makes a lot of sense. I must admit to being a tad wary of the 2.5 petrol engine’s possible thirst, but the NX450h+ showed a fuel return of 5.8litres/100kms over my week, the key to economy again being your ability to charge at home/office and not totally rely on a public charging system.
There’s no getting away from the slashes and sweeps that take your eyes on a design journey different than anything in its segment. The large front ‘Spindle’ grill flares at the bottom giving the front end the appearance of sturdy security, the angle-cut of the attached wings and headlights, definitely telling all that this is not a shy car.
My test car stands on 20” alloys and not to be outdone, the rear panel and light treatment are equally expressive, with ‘Lexus’ spelled across the tailgate, continuing the confidence expressed at the fore.
Keyless entry via the proximity key and you sit into the well-proportioned and supportive leather, memory seat, the options to heat or cool your nether regions available from the climate menu on the 14” centre console screen, the electrically adjustable steering fawning to your touch and after minor mirror adjustments, you are ready for road.
One of the interesting features of the NX is the inner door handle, which is replaced by an electronic latch system, where you push the actuator to gain your release. A really nice touch is its linking to the cars blind-spot system, where cyclists, or pedestrian presence is noted by the car, resulting in it denying you escape until the recognised danger has passed – seriously beneficial in the urban crawl.
Ergonomics – where access to secondary and auxiliary controls fall logically and easily to eye and hand, is well thought out within the NX. Like the majority of modern vehicles, the pre-setting and selection of climate, phone and radio settings are best done when you are static, so as to avoid pawing at the centre console and distracting you from the real business of driving, albeit the steering buttons require a little bit of homework so as to master their functionality, using the HUD system.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard features, and on my F-Sport, a Head-Up Display, (HUD), which is a very handy addition in keeping the driver informed.
On the Road
With its bias on going electric, the NX makes for silent commuting, ably assisted by the acoustic glass, every short journey is serenity itself. While it carries an ‘F-Sport’ badge, its talents don’t really stretch into that particular genre, its true happy place one of smooth, civilised mile-munching. The addition of electric propulsion, 134kWh front motor and a 40kWh rear to the 2.5 litre, four-cylinder petrol, happens without a hiccup, adds to the reassurance of each wheel driving.
My travels brought me on city streets, urban meanders, open secondary roads, motorways and country roads where there was more grass up the middle than on the verges. All the way, the NX was unfazed and provided answers to all that was asked throughout.
Delivering its considerable power through a CVT transmission is an overall smooth affair, although on full throttle acceleration the engine revs will be ahead of the road speed – normal for this type of power transfer.
I charged up the 18.1kWh at home on two occasions and topped up once at a public charge point, the fuel gauge definitely showing a reluctance to nudge southwards, my average of 5.8l/100km very acceptable for travelling in such exclusive company.
Being the first Lexus to showcase Hybrid technology, it bides well for their future intentions. Used with a domestic/work charge point, the NX450h+ will be a better option than a full EV for many.