2018 LEXUS NX 300h

A HYBRID ALTERNATIVE 

Gas mileage continues to be a high priority for new car buyers, even for a lot of folks buying luxury models. Lexus has been aware of this for a while, and offers hybrid versions of a number of its cars, including the NX compact crossover.

The NX Hybrid was formerly called the NX 200h, now it’s the 300h. Changes this year start with cosmetic items, like a revised grille and new headlights. However, more significant are the now standard safety systems, like pre-collision warning/mitigation and lane departure alert.

Recently, I reviewed the gas-only version of this crossover, the NX300, and the hybrid is similar to it in almost every way, except for the drive train. Both models make a strong impression with their styling. The look is intimidating. The huge spindle-shaped grille gets right in your face. Sharply contoured headlights add a sinister quality as well.

Inside, the NX greets you with handsome leather-like trim and contrasting stitching on the dash seats and armrests. A large display (10.2 inches) highlights a compact center control panel. An optional touch pad activates a curser to select audio and other features. This device might appeal to techies, but it can be distracting to operate when you are on the road. Thankfully, radio tuning can also be accomplished with conventional knobs.

The NX offers seating for five. The sport buckets up front on my test car delivered excellent support, but may be too confining for some people. The seats in the rear provided decent headroom and enough foot space to wiggle your toes. The backseats can be power operated to fold out of the way by pressing buttons on the dash, or in the cargo area. The cargo area itself is rather skimpy at just 17 cubic feet.

The NX comes equipped with standard features like keyless entry and start, automatic air conditioning, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning, but no Apple Carplay or Android Auto. Notable options, such as heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are available too. That last option may be the one you’ll value the most, especially if you frequent crowded parking lots.

Lexus powers the NX 300h with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine teamed with three electric motors to generate 194 horsepower. A continuously variable (automatic) transmission transfers power to all four wheels. The battery pack for the hybrid system resides under the rear seat. The NX 300h is not as powerful as the gas-only version of the NX with 235 hp., but gas mileage is better by 6 miles per gallon, at 31 mpg.

Drivers can select from three drive modes to suit they’re driving style. In addition to the “Normal” default mode, they can select an “Eco” setting, which relaxes throttle response to improve gas mileage. On the other hand, if they choose “Sport”, the throttle responds quicker and the steering tightens up a notch for a zestier driving experience.

The NX Hybrid is surprisingly fun to drive in the Sport mode. Acceleration and steering are sharper. The handling is sure-footed, albeit with some body lean in corners. The ride is somewhat bouncy on secondary roads, but smooth and quiet on the freeways.

 Unlike the gas powered NX 300, the 300h does not have a lot of hybrid competition in the luxury compact crossover class, so it should do well. The base price is $39,330. My test car, with almost all available options, had a suggested retail price of $49,770.

 

SNAPSHOT REVIEW

Bold Styling

Advanced Safety Options

Good Gas Mileage

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