Lexus finally unleashed a PHEV on us, but has it got the NX factor?
Lexus’ stunning new plug-in hybrid SUV hits all the right notes
Lexus NX PHEV
When someone told me that the new Lexus NX was the company’s first plug-in hybrid, I was shocked for a couple of reasons.
Not only was the company one of the trailblazers of self-charging hybrid technology in the mid-Noughties, but all of its rivals in various markets have PHEV options in their powertrains.
So does it mean Lexus is behind the curve? Well, actually, no.
Like Mercedes-Benz, who were the slowest premium brand out of the blocks to roll out EVs, Lexus have allowed others to try and fail before they finally took the plunge.
But in this 450h PHEV they have secured a major coup for anyone in the market for a high-end SUV with a climate-saving and money-saving powertrain option, without the added burden and anxiety that comes with diving head-first into an EV.
Firstly, it’s a slick-looking car – far more sporty and angular than other SUVs, it is instantly recognisable. Which may seem like a given, but when you consider the amount of cars that all blend into one another these days, it is a real bonus to have one that stands out so much.
At the front, the enormous grille dominates your attention. The switch from horizontal to vertical lines here seems like a small move, but it actually transforms the look and gives the car a bold, daring feel.
Inside, the front row is among the best you’ll find in any large SUV.
The seats are stunning looking and comfortable to sit in and have a wide range of adjustments.
Every PHEV comes with electric adjustments for the seat and steering wheel as standard, but there are some manual controls in the 350h version.
The dashboard, like it should, has been designed to wrap around the driver and puts everything in your eye line.
It works well, with the raised centre console bringing many of the major controls to hand height – for example, you don’t need to use the touchscreen to adjust the interior temperature because Lexus has fitted some good old-fashioned dials.
This vehicle pairs the same 2.5-litre petrol engine as the 350h combustion-only version, with a more powerful electric motor for a combined power output of 305bhp.
That’s a remarkably punchy combination and means it is quicker than a Land Rover Discovery Sport P300e and nearly as quick as an Audi Q5 50 TFSIe.
When it is in EV mode on the motorway it is smooth, quiet and fast – and Lexus claims to have 60km at your disposal on each full charge.
Of course, like any battery-operated driving experience, that number can vary greatly based on your driving method, but as my test week continued, I regularly achieved 52-55km.
The one time that number dropped was when I was on a motorway journey from start to finish.
The NX corners brilliantly for a heavy PHEV and the overall driving experience was far more fun than I expected.
There is also a 360-degree camera and LED headlights with self-dipping technology as standard, which would normally be an optional extra.
The infotainment system is intuitive, high-end and user-friendly and sits on a 14-inch touchscreen that responds quickly to pokes.
All models come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, so you can run apps from your mobile on the screen.
You probably wouldn’t expect to struggle to fit into this car as it is, technically, a large SUV, so you will not be shocked to hear that it is abundant in space.
The optional sunroof does lower the height of the ceiling slightly, so just be aware of that if you’re thinking of ordering.
Storage space is good, with decent-sized door bins, a large space under the centre armrest and a couple of cupholders between the front seats.
Three adults in the back may find it a bit tight, but the same could be said for most of its rivals too.
What you can’t say about all of Lexus’ rivals is that the rear seats recline for a more laid-back seating position. My kids adored this! And happy kids equal a happy daddy.
The rear seats split in a 60/40 rather than the far more flexible 40/20/40 split but to make up for it, Lexus gives you a powered tailgate as standard on all trim levels.
The boot is a perfectly fine yet unremarkable 520 litres (diminished slightly when your 11- and 8-year-old have the rear seats reclined, obviously) which is more than enough for most people’s needs.
Another huge plus on this car is the price. Despite the badge on the front, despite the premium finish inside and throughout and despite the company’s reputation, this is a really good value car. Don’t scoff, but you can buy one for €61k.
Now I know that this isn’t ‘reasonably priced’ to a lot of us, but when you consider what you are getting here it is a shockingly good asking price.
Upgrade to the F Sport trim line and you will be asked for €70k of your hard-earned cash. A lot of money, but still less than I expected.
It is a safe and comfortable drive and at times it can be super fun too, but that usually comes at higher speeds.
It ticks a lot of boxes and will surely lead to more PHEVs coming from the Japanese giant.
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