The Lexus NX is far and away the brand’s best seller, and it’s not hard to see why.
Not only does it compete in the popular mid-sized premium SUV segment, but there’s also a staggering amount of variety on offer – much more so than the old NX.
Want a base, naturally aspirated front-wheel driver? You’ve got it. All-wheel drive plug-in hybrid flagship? There’s one of those, too.
In between sit the all-wheel drive, turbocharged NX350 and the hybrid NX350h. The latter offers the most permutations of any member on the NX family, with three trim levels and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive.
The new NX, launched at the beginning of this year, shares its TNGA-K underpinnings with the Toyota RAV4 but looks completely different inside and out.
Lexus’ spindle grille doesn’t stand out as much as it used to, though we know some find this design motif impossible to ignore.
The rest of the styling is an evolution of the old NX, and overall it’s handsome in a somewhat nondescript way.
The range opens at $60,800 before on-road costs for the naturally-aspirated NX250, available exclusively in a single, unnamed trim level.
The hybrid NX350h is the next most affordable powertrain, and is offered in Luxury, F Sport and Sports Luxury trims with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models are also available with Enhancement Pack option bundles.
Our tester is the NX350h Sports Luxury front-wheel drive, which is priced identically to the F Sport FWD at $73,100 before on-road costs.
All-wheel drive adds an extra $4800 to the price tag, and if you want to splurge you can add a panoramic sunroof for an extra $3000 or the Enhancement Pack 2 for an extra $6000. Neither of these options are available on the front-wheel drive model.
All-paw versions are priced identically to the turbocharged NX350, while at the top of the NX range sits the NX450h+ plug-in hybrid, offered exclusively in F Sport guise here in Australia.
Our tester included optional Sonic Quartz premium paint, priced at $1750, bringing the drive-away price to $81,570 based on a Sydney post code.
The NX450h+ has plenty of plug-in hybrid rivals in this segment, but the hybrid NX350h has effectively no direct competition.
Similarly priced, non-hybrid competitors include:
- Audi Q5 45 TFSI quattro: $72,991
- BMW X3 sDrive20i: $76,600
- Genesis GV70 2.5T: $68,500 (RWD) or $70,900 (AWD)
- Mercedes-Benz GLC200: $78,114
- Volvo XC60 Plus B5: $72,990
Prices exclude on-road costs
The NX350h, even in top Sports Luxury trim, therefore undercuts the likes of the X3 and GLC by a significant margin, while the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Alfa Romeo Stelvio are more expensive still.
Tougher competition comes from the Q5, GV70 and XC60. The Volvo and Audi have less standard equipment but standard all-wheel drive for an almost identical price, while the GV70 is the value play with a lower price – if at the expense of items like adaptive LED headlights and a head-up display, which are instead bundled into a costly option package.
While Lexus has a vaunted reputation for quality, our tester wasn’t without its build quality foibles.
There was a persistent crinkling sound coming from somewhere on the right-hand side of the dashboard, which unlike some rattles and creaks was audible even when driving on smooth surfaces.
There’s also a bit of wide gap where the upper and lower halves of the dashboard meet, on the left-hand side of the centre stack, and the trim has a bit of give.
Otherwise, build and material quality in the NX350h is top-notch. The doors close with a solid thunk, stalks are nicely damped, leather-look trim is used on the sides of the centre console, soft-touch trim is applied on the top of the dash and doors, while the paddles and switchgear are tactile.
There’s a bit too much smudge-prone gloss black trim, while dark wood trim is used sparingly. We wouldn’t mind seeing more of the latter as it’s quite classy, especially with its subtle ambient backlighting.
Our tester had a black interior, which was rather boring considering the Sports Luxury also offers red, hazel and two-tone black and rich cream interiors. If you choose the black interior over any of those, I’m afraid we don’t have much in common.
Regardless of your chosen colourway, the seats are trimmed in supple leather upholstery. The seats in the Sports Luxury are genuinely comfortable.
Other than a headliner that could look a touch more premium, this is a nicely presented cabin.
The infotainment system is a highlight, measuring 14 inches and boasting crisp graphics.
The cloud-based navigation in particular is a delight to behold, though to maximise its screen real estate Lexus removes the seat heating and ventilation controls in map mode. These instead appear on every other screen and, unlike other Lexus products, there are no physical controls for these.
There are, however, physical dials for adjusting each temperature zone, and these are tactile knurled dials with little displays in the centre.
There’s a voice assistant – activated by saying “Hey Lexus” – which you can use for functions like adjusting the climate control. On one occasion we had issues with it not understanding simple commands, but generally it works well.
Music is pumped through all 17 speakers of the Mark Levinson sound system and, while the standard NX sound system is decent, this takes your music experience to the next level.
Underneath the climate controls are a pair of air vents, while underneath these is an open cubby that we struggle to find an appropriate use for – there’s no cover for it, it’s not rubberised, and it won’t fit a phone. Below this is the wireless charging pad, underneath which sits a storage cubby that actually is useful.
Soft white ambient lighting illuminates the charging pad, with Lexus eschewing Mercedes-Benz’s vibrant interior light show for something more subtle.
Other storage includes an acceptably sized glove compartment that’s still largely taken up by an extremely thick owner’s manual pouch, plus bottle holders in the doors that can fit 1L bottles, a centre console bin that’s relatively deep, a lined sunglass holder and a small lined cubby behind a cover to the right-hand side of the steering wheel.
The instrument cluster features an 8.0-inch digital screen flanked by analogue fuel level and engine temperature gauges. It mightn’t be the flashiest set-up in this class but it’s neat, legible, and works well.
The head-up display is detailed, and there are different layouts if you want more or less information displayed.
On each side of the steering wheel you’ll find touch-sensitive controls marked with arrows, and lightly touching any of these will show in the head-up display what these functions control. This does mean something as simple as skipping a song track requires an extra button push.
Stepping into the rear, there’s plenty of headroom and legroom though there’s a bit of a driveline hump cutting into centre-seat legroom. It’s not the most spacious second row in the segment, but it’s hospitable.
Rear-seat amenities include air vents, a fold-down armrest with cupholders, a 12V outlet, and two USB-C outlets, as well as bottle holders in the doors and map pockets on the seatbacks. The rear seats split and fold 60/40, while there are three top-tether and two ISOFIX anchor points for child seats.
The NX350h uses run-flats and therefore there’s no spare wheel. That’s freed up space for a series of compartments under the load bay floor, which are a handy place to secure valuables; the netted sections on either side of the boot floor also proved handy when grocery shopping.
Boot space measures 520L, expanding to 1141L with the rear seats dropped.
We appreciate the NX350h’s classy chimes and the extremely subtle audible overspeed alerts – take note on that last one, Hyundai – but, as we did with our NX250 tester, we noticed an unusual beeping occasionally when locking the vehicle.
Locking with the proximity pad on the door handle usually results in the classic Toyota/Lexus beep, but sometimes it would beep several times for no apparent reason.
The e-latch handles have a lovely feel to them, though we know they’re very much an acquired taste. I’m less of a fan of the gear selector, which can be a bit finicky to use.
The NX350h has a 2.5-litre four-cylinder hybrid powertrain with a total system power output of 179kW.
The petrol motor produces 140kW and 239Nm, while the electric motor produces 134kW and 270Nm, but there’s no combined torque figure quoted.
Over a loop consisting of inner-city, suburban and highway driving, we averaged a thrifty 4.9 litres per 100km – 0.1L/100km better than the official combined claim. Over the course of a week, this increased to 5.8 litres per 100km.
That’s more efficient than any rival not powered by a diesel engine. The NX350h does, however, require 95 RON premium unleaded fuel.
Braked towing capacity is 1500kg in all NX350h models, compared with 1000kg for all other NX powertrains. Unbraked towing capacity is 500kg.
With four powertrains on offer, the NX range has no shortage of variety.
The NX350h’s powertrain represents the best balance of any in the NX line-up in terms of performance, fuel efficiency and affordability, but the NX350h Sports Luxury isn’t the best-balanced member of the range.
That’s down to its ride. Sitting on 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in run-flat tyres with passive suspension, the Sports Luxury lacks the pliancy of the base Luxury and its 18s or the adjustability of the F Sport which, while also shod with 20-inch wheels, has the benefit of adaptive suspension.
That’s not to say the Sports Luxury rides like a buckboard, but the bigger wheels affect the secondary ride.
The primary ride is generally good – it’s somewhat softly sprung, but it generally stays quite planted even over more undulating road surfaces.
It’s when you encounter ruts and imperfections in the road where you’ll find the ride suffers, with some sharper impacts making their way into the cabin.
The steering has a nice weight to it but it’s lacking somewhat in feel, and switching between drive modes effectively does nothing to the steering.
On a winding road, the NX350h proves competent if unexciting. Body roll is well-controlled and turn-in is fairly sharp, but in terms of handling the Sports Luxury is more Luxury than Sports.
Dynamically, the NX350h’s strongest attribute is its powertrain. While a hybrid four-cylinder and an e-CVT sounds like a recipe for rev flare and engine drone, the NX350h proves nicely hushed.
For that matter, wind and tyre noise is also subdued, even at high speeds or on coarser-chip roads.
The transition between electric and petrol power is smooth. The NX350h can operate purely on electric power at low speeds before the petrol motor kicks in. The electric motor and petrol engine work together under harder acceleration, and the NX350h has a feel somewhat akin to that of a turbocharged engine.
An EV light will illuminate in the instrument cluster when the petrol engine isn’t being used, while regenerative braking tops up the battery when you brake or let your foot off the accelerator.
Sport mode does improve responsiveness but it’s hardly necessary, while activating it can also welcome the occasional unwanted wheelspin.
The lane-keep assist works well without feeling overly intrusive, while the Lane Tracing Assist – active only when the adaptive cruise control is – takes charge admirably.
While the system will rightfully admonish you for taking your hands off the wheel, it proved more than capable of keeping the car centred in its lane even on curved sections of highways with essentially no driver input.
NX350h Luxury highlights:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- 9.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- 8.0-inch driver display
- Satellite navigation
- Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- DAB+ digital radio
- 10-speaker sound system
- Power tailgate
- Dual-zone climate control
- Lexus Climate Concierge
- Heated front seats
- 8-way power front seats with two-way driver’s lumbar support
- Keyless entry and start
- Electro-chromatic rear-view mirror
- LED headlights with auto-levelling
- Automatic high-beam
- Selectable drive modes
- Lexus Connected Services
An optional Enhancement Pack adds a single-pane sunroof, hands-free power tailgate, and wireless phone charging.
NX350h Sports Luxury, F Sport add:
- 20-inch alloy wheels
- 14.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- “High-grade” 8.0-inch driver’s display
- Colour head-up display
- Surround-view cameras
- Ventilated front seats
- Wireless phone charging
- Power driver’s seat with memory
- Tri-beam LED headlights with adaptive high-beam
NX Sport Luxury specific features:
- Digital rear-view mirror
- 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system
- Sumi black walnut trim
NX F Sport specific features:
- Adaptive suspension
- F Sport performance dampers
- F Sport seats
- F Sport pedals, scuff plates, steering wheel and shifter
- F Sport grille and bumpers
- Selectable drive modes including Sport S+ and Custom
- Hadori aluminium trim
Opting for all-wheel drive versions opens up a pair of option packages.
Enhancement Pack 1 adds:
- Panoramic sunroof
Enhancement Pack 2 adds:
- Panoramic sunroof
- Heated steering wheel
- Semi-autonomous parking assist
- Heated rear seats (Sports Luxury)
- 60/40 power-folding rear seats (Sports Luxury)
- Digital rear-view mirror (F Sport)
- 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system (F Sport)
The new Lexus NX was recently awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating with a 2022 date stamp, based on tests conducted by Euro NCAP earlier this year.
It received scores of 91 per cent for adult occupant protection, 89 per cent for child occupant protection, 83 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 92 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Pedestrian detection (day/night)
- Cyclist detection (day)
- Junction assist
- Lane departure warning
- Lane keep assist
- Lane Tracing Assist (centring)
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic assist
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Emergency Steering Assist
- Safe exit assist
- Traffic sign recognition
- Reversing camera
- Front and rear parking sensors
- 10 airbags
- incl. driver’s knee and front-centre inflators
NX F Sport, Sports Luxury add:
- Surround-view camera system
All Lexus models are covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Lexus offers capped-price servicing for the first three years of ownership, with each service priced at $495.
The car can be collected from the owner’s home or place of work, with a complimentary loan vehicle delivered door-to-door. As an owner, you also get access to the Lexus Encore ownership program, which gives owners access to Caltex fuel discounts, invitations to luxury dinners and events, as well as luxury hotel partnership benefits.
While the NX’s three-year service offer pales against the available five-year service plans of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, the individual price of each service is comparable. All of these vehicles fall well short of the Genesis GV70, however, with its five years of free scheduled servicing.
If you want sub-6L/100km fuel economy in a mid-sized premium SUV without getting a diesel or pricier plug-in hybrid, the NX350h is your only option.
Fortunately, it’s a very good one.
The hybrid powertrain impresses with its flexible, punchy performance, its refinement and, naturally, its low fuel consumption. It’s likely to be the volume seller of the NX range, and with good reason.
It’s a pity the Sports Luxury rides on 20-inch alloy wheels, as these damage ride quality that’s genuinely good on the Luxury’s 18-inch wheels. It’s for this reason we’d be inclined to steer you towards the F Sport with its adaptive suspension.
Opting for all-wheel drive opens up additional option packages, allowing you to, for example, add the Mark Levinson sound system to the F Sport, or features like a panoramic sunroof or semi-autonomous parking assist to the F Sport or Sports Luxury.
Don’t get carried away and the NX350h represents good value for money in its segment. It mightn’t be as engaging to drive as a BMW X3 or offer as impressive an after-sales package as a Genesis GV70, but it has a comfortable cabin, slick infotainment and Lexus’ reputation for quality and reliability.
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