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Driven: 2022 Lexus NX 350h. Image by Lexus.

Driven: 2022 Lexus NX 350h
The old Lexus NX enjoyed moderate success without being particularly brilliant, but the new model aims to right the wrongs of its predecessor.

   



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2022 Lexus NX 350h AWD

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The Lexus NX has always tried to be different. Origami styling, hybrid power and an odd F Sport model set it apart from the competition, but not always in a good way. Now, though, there's a new model that promises to set the record straight and provide a truly compelling alternative to other mid-size luxury SUVs. We tested the 'self-charging' NX 350h model to find out whether the Lexus can really mix it with rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2021 Lexus NX 350h AWD Takumi
Price: NX 350h from £41,210, AWD Takumi from £56,260
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol hybrid
Transmission: CVT automatic, all-wheel drive
Power: 243hp
Torque: 239Nm
Emissions: 145g/km
Economy/Range: 44.1-47.9mpg
0-62mph: 7.7 seconds
Top speed: 124mph
Boot space: 545 litres

Styling

Lexus' styling has long been striking, but we think the new NX is one of the better looking efforts. It carries on where its predecessor left off, with the big front grille and sharp creases, but it's more cohesive and somehow more attractive, even though it's essentially just a modernised look. Perhaps it isn't as attractive as a Mercedes-Benz GLC, but it's every inch the premium SUV and it won't look out of place in any company.

Interior

Lexus' products are renowned for their quality, and the NX moves the game on further still. The old car was well engineered, but some of the materials were less than exemplary, whereas the new model is more or less faultless. Every switch and button feels solid and robust, while the soft leather of this high-end trim level feels very luxurious. The push-to-open door handles are a little odd at first and passengers might get confused, but that just gives the car a bit of character.

But the highlight of this new NX is not the switchgear but the massive touchscreen infotainment system. The old NX's cabin was blighted by a complicated, low-resolution screen with a laptop-style trackpad on the centre console. But the new version has a crisp, clear touchscreen with logical menus and rapid responses. It's taken the NX from being among the least technologically impressive SUVs to one of the most impressive.

Practicality

Space in the NX is plentiful, and it doesn’t make much difference whether you choose the 350h hybrid or the 450h plug-in hybrid option. Both come with plenty of cabin space for four – you shouldn’t have trouble fitting in, even if you’re fairly tall – and a competitively sized boot. Both cars get 545 litres of load space, which is about what you get from a BMW X3 or Audi Q5. It’s more than you find in the back of a Porsche Macan or Volvo XC60, though.

Performance

The new NX is available with a choice of two powertrains: a ‘self-charging’ hybrid (called the 350h) and a plug-in hybrid (dubbed 450h). The 350h, which is available in front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive forms, uses a 2.5-litre petrol engine and an electric motor, which handles low-speed manoeuvres and drives the wheels when coasting or low-stress propulsion. The more time the electric motor spends running, the less fuel you use. In theory, the system is best around town, where the electric motor can operate more frequently and the petrol engine is at its least efficient, but the NX 350h is pretty parsimonious even on the motorway. Officially, it returns around 45mpg, and that isn’t bad at all for a premium petrol 4x4 – especially not one that does 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds.

But more impressive than the economy or the performance is the refinement, which is plentiful most of the time. When the engine is at low revolutions or the electric motor is powering the wheels, the NX is incredibly quiet, but that changes when the engine is under load. The revs rise rapidly and there’s an incongruous four-cylinder drone, which doesn’t feel all that premium. But with performance to spare, you won’t often need to push that hard, and the car will stay relatively hushed.

Ride & Handling

Lexus' cars aren't famed for their handling prowess, but that doesn't stop them being pleasant enough to romp around in. The new NX falls into that category, but it isn't outstanding in any area. The ride is quite mature and relatively rounded, but bumps still make their presence felt through the seats. It isn't uncomfortable or even unsettled, but it doesn't glide in the way a Mercedes-Benz GLC might. That wouldn't be an issue if the NX was as engaging as the Porsche Macan S, which rides similarly, but it isn't quite on that level. Admittedly, with lots of grip and reasonably controlled body roll, it's every bit as good to drive as the Volvo XC60 or the Land Rover Discovery Sport, but it can't quite match the Macan or the BMW X3.

Value

NX prices start at just over £40,000, which is less than you'll pay for a basic BMW X3 or an Audi Q5, even though you get the 2.5-litre hybrid system. Although the cheapest versions are front-wheel-drive, they still come with 18-inch alloy wheels, faux leather upholstery and the massive touchscreen, as well as a digital instrument cluster. Our high-end Takumi version, however, added a panoramic sunroof, larger 20-inch alloy wheels and a brilliant Mark Levinson sound system, as well as real leather upholstery.

Verdict

The new NX 350h is light years ahead of its predecessor, and while it still remains behind some key competitors in some areas, it has closed the gap considerably. More importantly, though, it has some character and likeability that was missing from the old car – a trait that ensures it’s one of our favourites. It's just hard to put our finger on why.



James Fossdyke - 4 Oct 2022



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2022 Lexus NX 350h. Image by Lexus.2022 Lexus NX 350h. Image by Lexus.2022 Lexus NX 350h. Image by Lexus.2022 Lexus NX 350h. Image by Lexus.2022 Lexus NX 350h. Image by Lexus.

2022 Lexus NX 350h. Image by Lexus.2022 Lexus NX 350h. Image by Lexus.2022 Lexus NX 350h. Image by Lexus.2022 Lexus NX 350h. Image by Lexus.







 

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