Lexus, Toyota’s luxury division, introduced two versions of their NX luxury compact utility crossover last year, the Lexus NX 200t and the Lexus NX 300h hybrid. There’s also a special, performance oriented NX F-Sport that’s based on the NX 200t. All three Lexus NX models are loosely based on the same platform as Toyota’s RAV4 – loosely being the key word, as 90 percent of NX parts are different, and even similar parts have undergone retooling with tighter tolerances that result in a feel that’s considerably more luxurious than the mass- produced RAV4.
Lexus actually pioneered the car-based luxury crossover category 17 years ago with their RX 300 (launched in 1998 as a 1999 model). The NX models clearly indicate an evolution in the segment that the RX 300 created. NX models are larger, heavier, quicker, with greater fuel economy than that first mid-sized RX. The compact NX is also more structurally sound with an increased use of high-tensile steel, screw welding and adhesives in production.
Power for the Lexus NX 200t and Lexus NX 200t F-Sport represented the first use of Toyota’s 2.0-liter, DOHC, 16-valve twin scroll turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engine with intercooler and electronic fuel injection that delivered 235 horsepower in a range from 4,800-5,600 rpm, while also developing 258 pound feet of torque from 1,650-4,000 rpm. The engine’s variable valve timing enabled it to transition instantly from Otto to Atkinson cycle as power or fuel economy requires.
The Lexus NX 300h, which we’ll deal with here, borrows its 2.5-liter, in-line four-cylinder power source from the Lexus ES 300h. Both the standard NX 200t and NX 300h will be available in either a front-wheel or all-wheel drive configuration.
The engine, which is transversely mounted up front mates to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) with intelligence. Motive force is transmitted to either the front wheels or full-time all-weather all-wheel drive, which utilizes active torque control with and electromagnetic coupling for the rear differential, instead of a conventional torque converter, which allows the system to move from 100 percent up front to a 50/50 split with the rear wheels.
In terms of its appearance, the new Lexus NX displays a highly emotional overall design with sharp lines and angles in a condensed mass that features solid surfaces, pronounced front and rear fender flares that are incorporated or fused into the dramatic diamond-shaped body style that leads off with Lexus’ signature “spindle” grille, flanked by sharp, thin geometric headlamps and arrowhead shaped LED running/directional lights. The windscreen is sharply raked rearward over the rear-slanted roof that ends with an integrated spoiler. The peak of the diamond-shaped body’s door section thrusts upwards diagonally, matching the roof’s peak in the side silhouette. The tail end presents a squared-off, sculpted look, accented by the uniquely shaped bright dual exhaust tips.
The Lexus NX 300h rides on suspension componentry consisting of a MacPherson strut design and a rear trailing arm type double-wishbone unit with separated springs and dampers that avoid cabin intrusion by the strut towers.
Standard worthwhile features include: keyless locks, door handle footlights, LED headlamps and turn signal lamps, 17-inch wheels, Siri Eyes Free mode and an 8-speaker CD audio system with satellite radio. The 7-inch multimedia display features a touch pad located in the center console with haptic adjustable feedback, providing familiar pinch, stretch, pinch, drag as well as double-tap functions, similar to a lap top computer. The rear cargo cover may be folded in half, and is able to fit under the rear storage compartment with the spare tire.
There is a full suite of available active safety features including: lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and pre-collision braking. There’s also an enhanced Lexus Enform app that allows setting speed or distance limits for a guest driver – great for monitoring and controlling teenaged driver activity. Another high-tech feature is the wireless charging of Qi-equipped electronic devices. So many features abound in all of the Lexus NX models, that space prevents listing them all here. Of course, there are options available for personalization and enhancement.
My test 2016 Lexus NX 300h 5-door SUV was a front-wheel-drive version and came with a base price of $39,720, which increased to a total of $48,945 after factoring in a compatible wireless charger, electrochromic inside rear view mirror, power folding rear seats, the Luxury Package, Navigation Package, electrochromic outside rear view mirrors with blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, intuitive parking assist with clearance and back sonar, along with delivery, processing and handling fee. The exterior was sprayed Blue Vortex metallic, complemented by a tan and black interior with piano black trim accents.
The 2016 Lexus NX 300h represents a stellar entry into the compact luxury crossover league. It will fall in between BMW’s X3 and the Lexus RX 300 in dimensions and power. The Lincoln MKC is another potential competitor, possessing similar parameters.
The steering wheel was inspired by the Lexus LFA in its shape and feel, and fits the car’s demeanor in terms of handling attributes and characteristics, which are spot on, delivering a planted and stable and comfortable ride quality.
The overall performance of the Lexus NX 200t and 200t F-Sport is a cut above that of many competitors, but the interior ambience and luxuriousness is its strong suit. Fit and finish are well above entry-level standards, reflecting an old-world craftsmanship quality.
Bottom-line, the 2016 Lexus NX 300h was designed to play a leading role with the focus on attracting a more youthful buyer, and the Lexus team seems to have nailed it. It is extremely good-looking, performs well and represents a good value, while delivering respectable mileage with its hybrid system.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2016 Lexus NX 300h 5-Dr SUV
Base Price: $39,720.
Price as Tested: $48,945.
Engine Type and Size: 2.5-liter, DOHC, 16-valve in-line four-cylinder with Atkinson cycle and electronic fuel injection.
Horsepower (bhp): 154 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 258 @ 4,400 rpm
Hybrid Power system: Series/parallel system with gas engine, high-voltage battery and electric motors. Total system power – 194 hp. Two permanent magnet motor generators MG1 & MG2 and motor generator rear (MGR), 650V and sealed Nickel Metal Hydride – 204 cells and 244.8V Nominal Voltage.
Transmission: Electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
Drive Train: Transversely mounted front engine / FWD or full-time all-weather AWD.
Steering: Electric Power Steering
Suspension: Front – MacPherson strut, coil springs.
Rear – Trailing arm double wishbone type, coil springs.
Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front) with four-channel, 4-sensor ABS.
Tires: Michelin Primacy MXM4 225/60 R18 mounted on 5-“U” -spoke alloy wheels.
Wheelbase: 104.7 inches
Length Overall: 182.3 inches
Width: 73.6 inches – (mirrors folded / 89.9” open)
Height: 64.8 inches
Curb Weight: 4,055 lbs.
Turning Circle: 19.9 ft.
Fuel Capacity: 14.8 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: 35 mpg city / 31 mpg highway Drag Coefficient: 0.34
0 – 60 mph: 9.1 seconds