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First drive: Lexus NX 300h. Image by Lexus.

First drive: Lexus NX 300h
Lexus joins the compact premium SUV market with the new NX. Can it tempt you away from the Land Rover dealership?

   



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Lexus NX 300h

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Its looks will likely divide opinion but the new Lexus NX makes a serious case for not going for the default premium SUV option. Well priced and with low running costs it could upset the apple cart. Just a few niggles hold it back.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Lexus NX 300h Premier AWD
Pricing: 42,995 (NX pricing starts from 29,495)
Propulsion: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and two electric motors
Transmission: four-wheel drive, CVT automatic transmission
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 117g/km (Band C, 30 per year)
Combined economy: 55.4mpg
Top speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Power: 197hp at 5,700rpm
Torque: 210Nm at 4,200- to 4,400rpm

What's this?

Lexus has finally decided to join the burgeoning premium compact sector, home to the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and the darling of the market, the Range Rover Evoque. Its entrant, the NX, is unique for not offering a diesel option. The 300h model pairs a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with two electric motors to deliver diesel-like official economy and emissions figures. A turbocharged petrol version - the NX 200t - will join the ranks next year, but it is the hybrid model tested here that is expected to account for the majority of sales.

Looking like it has come straight from the pages of an Anime magazine the NX is quite conventional once you get past the striking angles and gaping grille that all new Lexus models wear. There are two versions of that grille on offer: the F Sport specific mesh grille that sits well with the overall styling, and a more conventional slatted unit for the rest of the range, which does not. There is more than a touch of the Mazda CX-5 or even Mitsubishi ASX to the overall look, but since the arrival of the Evoque this sector is style led and you are certainly unlikely to miss the NX.

Inside it's typical Lexus; everything is impeccably tailored and of high quality. Leather with contrast stitching adorns the seats, doors and dashboard, the last of which is topped with a full-colour infotainment screen and analogue clock. The centre console is Lexus IS-like in its layout, that is to say it is button heavy with 30+ different toggles and switches to distract you while driving. The plastic around the console also looks and feels cheaper than the rest of the cabin and somewhat lowers the tone.

At 355 litres the boot space is smaller than that offered in the likes of the Audi Q5 or BMW X3 with the electric motors eating into the available space. There is a large storage area below the boot floor and the rear seats are powered so can be collapsed by simply flicking a switch, but neither of these can make up for the fact that some smaller compact crossovers offer more space.

How does it drive?

Like all Lexus models the NX is easy to drive without being particularly rewarding. There was a lot of talk about the engineers working on the dynamics of the car, but it fails to shine through. If you want a premium SUV that is fun to drive look at the X3 or Evoque. However, the NX scores well for comfort with the suspension soaking up all that the road can throw at it. The hybrid system is punchy with plenty of low-down torque, but the proceedings are dominated by the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which, when asked for quicker acceleration, leads to the engine spinning away at the upper end of the rev range. This would not be that much of an issue were the cabin well isolated from the noise, but unfortunately it is not. When the engine has done its thing the sound is replaced by wind roar from the wing mirrors and road noise from the tyres. Thankfully the Mark Levinson stereo system (standard on the Premier trim) can be deployed to drown out the noise but you really shouldn't have to.

Verdict

The Lexus NX comes very close to being a worthy rival for the Range Rover Evoque et al, but falls just short. The centre console is not befitting of the car's 42,995 price tag and, out of town at anything other than a cruise, the transmission really does become a thorn in the side of an otherwise excellent drivetrain. Overlook these things though and you have a striking looking SUV with an interior that could teach rivals a thing or two about ambience.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain


Paul Healy - 21 Oct 2014



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2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.

2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.



2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.
 

2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.
 

2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.
 

2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.
 

2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.
 

2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.
 

2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.
 

2014 Lexus NX. Image by Lexus.
 






 

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