Lexus Australia has confirmed what we all expected, namely that it will get its first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) in early 2022.
Moreover, its first PHEV will be based on its most popular and tactically important car, the brand new NX medium-sized SUV.
The NX450h+ will also sit atop the brand new NX range, above the already-confirmed NX250, NX350, and NX350h – the latter being a more conventional series hybrid, technology with which Lexus is synonymous.
It comes hot on the heels of Lexus Australia’s first fully electric car, the smaller UX300e.
The NX450+ is closely related to the Toyota RAV4 Prime, which remains off the radar for Australian launch since Toyota claims it would be too expensive. Cost is less of an issue for its luxury brand.
The NX450h+ pairs a 2.5-litre petrol engine and two electric motors, the more powerful of the two driving the front wheels and the smaller one the rears on-demand. The motors are powered from an 18.1kWh capacity lithium-ion battery.
Lexus is claiming very impressive performance and efficiency figures, including 227kW of total system power (more than 300 horsepower), a zero to 100km/h dash in a Golf GTI-matching 6.3 seconds, and fuel consumption on a favourable cycle as low as 1.3L/100km – so long as you have useable battery charge.
The real eyebrow-raiser is the claimed 87km of pure electric driving range offered by the battery and motors, before the combustion engine-generator kicks in. However this is on the lenient NEDC cycle so you won’t have any realistic chance of matching this.
Still, they’re the sort of numbers that will put the European brands on notice.
Lexus says its NX PHEV has various driving setups including an EV Priority mode (making it a BEV until the battery is depleted), and Auto mode whereby the system taps into petrol as seldom as the battery status allows, and at the most efficient times.
Like other PHEVs, even when the NX battery’s useable charge is zero, the car will still run like a normal hybrid car by way of brake-energy recuperation and using the engine to keep the batteries topped up enough to assist at low speeds.
“In HV mode, the powertrain emulates the balanced performance of the renowned hybrid-electric Lexus systems, maintaining a level of battery charge by starting and stopping the petrol engine as required,” Lexus says.
You can also charge up the batteries with the engine, but this is really best used if you’re caught short when heading to a region in which there are rules around emitting CO2 from the tailpipe – not a factor in Australia.
Lexus adds that drivers will be able to choose from “performance-oriented drive modes” that control the powertrain, transmission, suspension and vehicle stability control to best suit particular roads and a driver’s preferred style.
The rear axle motor in the NX450h+ means ‘E-Four’ all-wheel-drive including variable torque distribution. Sensors measuring G forces, yaw rate, speed, and steering angle can split the front-to-rear torque distribution in ratios between 100:0 and 20:80.
Standard Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) incorporates a firmer Sport S+ damping mode, for aggressive driving.
“The NX 450h+ represents both a performance high watermark and a low emissions benchmark for the highly anticipated all-new NX line-up, reaffirming the Lexus commitment to luxury vehicles that are fun to drive and efficient,” said Lexus Australia chief executive Scott Thompson.
“When the first Lexus PHEV arrives in Australia early next year, it will complement the UX 300e BEV and our renowned hybrid-electric Lexus range to provide customers with a portfolio of advanced choices most suitable to their lifestyle.”
As well as the premium rivals mentioned already, a glut of mainstream PHEV SUVs including the second-gen Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, the Ford Escape PHEV, and the Peugeot 3008 PHEV are all either newly arrived or coming shortly, growing the existing and limited range of offerings in market.
Lexus adds that “details including specification and pricing will be revealed closer to the arrival of the Lexus NX 450h+ in Australia early next year.