Lexus has updated its mid-size SUV for 2018
Pros: Striking looks, low speed refinement, comfort
Cons: Infotainment takes getting used to, boot space, firm ride
There are a lot of mid-sized premium SUVs to consider on the market right now, however relatively few of those are available with hybrid technology. Lexus has flown the hybrid flag for a long time now, so it’s unsurprising that its new NX compact SUV is exclusively available in hybrid guise. Blending distinctive styling with proven hybrid technology, the NX is a unique premium SUV proposition, but how does it fare against established players in the class like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Range Rover Evoque? We spent a week with it on Irish roads recently to find out.
What is it like?
The NX is one of the most distinguishable cars in its class and it has been facelifted for 2018 with new slimline LED lights, a restyled front grille and revised air intakes too. The NX is futuristic and sleek from the outside in contrast to most rugged SUVs, and it does without usual off-roading features like roof rails and raised bumpers. There are subtle hybrid badges on the side skirts and tail gate to differentiate the NX from its rivals, and the Sonic White colour scheme and copper-coloured 18-inch wheels on our test car lend it considerable presence out on the road.
The NX’s cabin is finished in high grade materials befitting of the Lexus marque. There is enough room to accommodate five adults in comfort on long journeys, and the front seats offer lots of adjustment and a commanding view of the road. A 10.3-inch infotainment screen sits neatly on top of the centre console and while it looks great with a slick mouse-style touch pad controller, it takes some getting used to.
General fit and finish throughout the cabin is excellent and surpasses expectations. The NX has a 475 litre boot which is smaller than many of its rivals due to the hybrid system’s batteries under the boot floor, however storage space in the cabin is good with numerous cup holders and sizeable door bins, with additional storage space and USB charge points under the driver's armrest.
The NX is available with a single hybrid powertrain in the NX300h, which combines a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a pair of electric motors and a CVT automatic transmission This powertrain is identical to that in the popular Lexus IS300h Saloon, and it is especially-suited to urban stop start driving.
The NX's drivetrain is smooth and silent around town, switching from petrol to electric power in seamless fashion. The system produces 192 horsepower, which is enough to cover the sprint from 0-100km/h in 9.3 seconds, though the CVT transmission loses refinement at higher speeds and at the top of the rev range. We achieved 6.5l/100km in fuel economy during our week-long test which included lots of motorway-based driving, and annual motor tax is rated at €270.
The NX rides firmly on the road which means it handles surprisingly well. Although it weighs over 1.9 tonnes, the NX steers admirably and better than many of its rivals. That said, the ride is firm on bumpy roads and it doesn’t absorb bumps as well as many of its plush rivals. The NX is available with front or all-wheel drive, though all-wheel-drive won't be needed unless you need to tow large loads or venture off road on a regular basis.
In Ireland, prices for the new Lexus NX start from €48,550 for the front-wheel-drive S-Design model. Base specification is strong, with LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, an 8-inch media display, a parking assist monitor, electronic climate control, front heated seats and a three spoke leather steering wheel included as standard.
The mid-range Dynamic model adds front and rear parking sensors, an upgraded 10-speaker Pioneer sound system, satellite navigation, a wider 10.3-inch display, front fog lights, Lexus’ Safety System + and 18-inch wheels. The range-topping Executive model leaves little to be desired with additional privacy glass, an electric tailgate, wireless smartphone charging, leather upholstery and upgraded wheels.
Carzone verdict: 3.5/5
The Lexus NX has been updated for 2018 and it remains a unique proposition in the mid-size SUV class, with its distinctive styling and a proven hybrid powertrain. In typical Lexus fashion, the NX is well built with enough room to accomodate five inside, and it excels at low speeds around town. Many of the NX’s rivals offer superior comfort and practicality however, and the hybrid system loses its refinement at higher speeds. Competition in the mid-sized SUV segment is incredibly high, but the NX proves mus t be applauded for standing out from the pack.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Lexus NX300h
Prices from: €48,550
Annual Road Tax: €270
Engine: 2494cc four-cylinder petrol and electric motors
Top Speed: 180km/h
0-100km/h: 9.3 seconds
Transmission: CVT Automatic
Body style: SUV
Boot Space: 475 litres