The car Lexus NX300h Premier
Rub by Mark Pearson, sub-editor
Needs to Prove that it can live up to its fuel economy claims
Run by What Car? since May 2015
They do it their own way at Lexus. Stride into one of their showrooms looking for something economical and environmentally friendly and where you’d expect to find a diesel-powered vehicle you’ll be offered a petrol-electric hybrid.
Intrigued by this, we’ve chosen the hybrid option for our new long-term NX, a compact SUV that slots in the Lexus range below the firm’s larger RX and competes in a class completely dominated by diesels.
We’re going to be running it for a year, in which time we’ll subject it to all of the everyday duties our cars have to perform. We’ll especially be keeping a watchful eye on our real-world economy, an area in which hybrids have traditionally done rather poorly. The official figures say it should be good for 54.3mpg on the combined cycle, which roughly matches its diesel-powered rivals. However, its CO2 output is just 121g/km, and that places it in a much lower tax band.
It looks the part, too: the chiselled styling is razor sharp, well proportioned and distinctive. Lexus calls it polarising, but most of the comments so far have been favourable. Ours is in Mercury Grey, a smart but dark hue, though I can’t help thinking it looks more striking still in lighter and bolder colours.
Behind that eye-catching spindle grille is a 2.5-litre petrol engine linked to two electric motors, the first powering the front axle, the second driving the rear as and when it senses it needs to. Most of the time the petrol and electric sides work in tandem, though it is possible to move under electric-only propulsion for short bursts around town. There’s also a compact eCVT transmission, a complex arrangement that draws power from its various sources and distributes it as it sees fit, rather like a differential.
We’ve opted for the range-topping Premier trim, which is lavishly equipped. On top of keyless entry, all-round parking sensors and automatic LED lights, our car also gets a powered tailgate, a Premium Navigation system with a 14-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system, a head-up display and a 360deg surround-view monitor. In fact we’ve only had to add two options: the paint at £645 and a full-length panoramic sunroof, which brightens up the interior, at £1000.
Inside it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position, thanks to those supportive and electrically adjustable front seats, leather-clad and heated and ventilated in our car, and a rather handsome electrically adjustable steering wheel that feels pleasant, if a little thick, in the hands. The interior generally benefits from high-grade textures and materials, with good ergonomics and an intuitive dashboard layout. Visibility is good, and space in the front and rear seems reasonable, as does the 475-litre boot capacity.
First impressions are favourable: around town it’s certainly more refined than its diesel-engined rivals. Passengers seem to like it too, praising the seats and the space and the quality of the cabin. Very few cars feel as well put together as this one.
However, with all that kit and the hybrid technology, the NX is a heavy car. Drive it on the open road and you’ll soon discover it’s not especially quick and nor is its ride always pleasant: it thumps rather too heavily into potholes and over bad bumps.
As well as that, all this opulence adds up to an on-the-road price of £42,995 for the Premier trim and £44,640 for our car with its options, which puts it up against some stiff competition, such as the BMW X5.
So it’s certainly going to be an interesting year. The Lexus will need to make a very convincing argument for itself, but it’s certainly made a good start.
Lexus NX300h Premier specification
Target price Click here for the latest Target Price
Price as tested £44,640
Options Mercury Grey paint £645; Panoramic sunroof £1000
Top speed 112mph
Mileage to date 1071