Without giving the sport away within the first line, Lexus has a success on its palms with the brand new NX hybrid. Its attract is all of the extra stunning on condition that, of late, the Japanese premium model has appeared a bit misplaced. Amid waves of recent fashions coming from heavyweight European rivals like Audi, BMW and Mercedes, Lexus was typically missed.
For a model that pioneered premium petrol-electric hybrid know-how – and foresaw the dying of diesel a number of years in the past – Lexus has been gradual to make the following logical leap to plug-in energy. That was largely all the way down to the powertrain technique of its father or mother Toyota, but it surely blunted Lexus’ modern edge.
Thankfully that’s altering, first with the all-electric model of the UX at present on sale, and later this 12 months with the arrival of the brand new RZ 450e. That automotive is more likely to steer loads of consideration Lexus’ manner.
However, whereas a wholly EV fleet could be the tip objective, proper now for a lot of Irish motorists, the plug-in hybrid provides the best bridge to electrical motoring, notably in the event you don’t dwell on the east coast conurbations the place charging factors are extra widespread.
Plug-in hybrids have been the main target of loads of ire by those that declare homeowners purchase a plug-in hybrid, or PHEV (plug-in hybrid electrical automobile) for the tax rebate, however by no means use the plug. These motorists, it’s alleged, simply drive round on the petrol engine, carrying the battery and electrical motor alongside for the journey, thereby burning extra gas and emitting extra carbon than an everyday combustion engine automotive.
In actuality, it might appear silly to forego the electrical helps on a PHEV, notably once they provide a lot useable vary and driving advantages as they do within the new Lexus NX 450h.
Just to be clear, the brand new NX is available in two flavours: common hybrid and plug-in hybrid. But with a value distinction of below €3,000, it might appear an actual disgrace to overlook out on the flexibility to plug it in – and entry a grant for a EV residence charger if you’re fortunate sufficient to have a personal driveway. For that cash you additionally transfer as much as all-wheel drive. Seems like a no brainer.
Not solely that, however with this plug-in model Lexus has managed to mix a formidable fully-electric vary with respectable gas economic system when the battery is depleted.
While Lexus claims an formidable electric-only vary of 74km from the NX’s 18.1kWh battery pack, we did handle a formidable 54km from it, on a mixture of roads and as much as motorway speeds. Using an everyday plug socket for an in a single day cost, it coated all our driving wants for the primary few days of pootling into city and across the suburbs.
After that, and with the battery depleted of its plug-in cost, the gas economic system settled into the area of 5.5 to six l/100km, which is on a par with the non-plug-in hybrid model of the automotive. So it’s a winner all spherical.
Lexus has all the time delivered a greater hybrid driving expertise than its Toyota cousins just because they go for bigger engines. While Toyota is fixated on gas economic system, Lexus desires to mix these financial savings and environmental issues with a extra participating premium driving and efficiency expertise. At the top, look to the gorgeous LFA. For an instance of when the recipe went awry, look to the reasonably lacklustre CT. With smaller engines supporting the electrical motor, it results in much more engine whine as they run to their rev limits below the management of CVT computerized transmissions.
This was additionally a problem evident within the first-generation NX with its 2-litre engine. This time the NX encompasses a extra strong 2.5-litre petrol engine that doesn’t begin to complain until you actually kick down on the throttle. And with a mixed output of 309bhp from the combination of petrol engine, 134kW entrance electrical motor and 40kW rear electrical motor, it by no means feels underpowered. Just go simple on the throttle.
That’s one thing which may elevate eyebrows when Lexus refers to our range-topping take a look at model because the F Sport. Using Sport on this automotive is one thing of a misnomer.
This is a heavy crossover SUV on the finish of the day, and one the place the engineers’ eyes have been all the time targeted on gas economic system figures. The NX claims a 0-100km/h time of 6.3 seconds, but it surely’s at its greatest if you’re a bit gentler together with your proper foot and solely name upon the total energy of engine and electrical motors when overtaking or getting out of a decent spot on a twisty street.
And it’s on these twisty roads that the NX begins to settle into its groove, proving it’s really a reasonably enjoyable crossover to drive, absorbing the bumps but staying upright within the bends and impressively sharp in relation to steering. As anticipated from a Lexus, it’s additionally extremely comfy on longer motorway runs, though the F Sport seats could possibly be much less cossetting.
The deserves of this new NX don’t finish there. Lexus has tweaked the styling to make the up to date crossover a bit extra elegant than earlier than, although that large grille remains to be a speaking level. Lexus design nonetheless appears very busy in comparison with rivals.
But it’s inside the place the NX actually shines, with a cabin that’s now arguably the perfect of the bunch on this aggressive crossover class. Gone is the foolish Lexus tackle a mousepad; in comes an ultra-smart touchscreen with spectacular high-end graphics. Step as much as the F Sport model and your touchscreen grows from 9.8 inches to a dash-dominating 14 inches. There are much more buttons and knobs than on rivals, however the end is correctly premium.
The remainder of the cabin is equally spectacular, though rear-seat legroom could possibly be higher. Bootspace at 500 litres with the rear seats up is on a par with any government saloon.
Mind you, so is the worth. Starting at €58,130 for the common hybrid and €61,100 for the plug-in model, that is firmly within the territory of Irish government favourites just like the BMW 5 Series saloon. Would you actually desire a comparatively compact crossover as an alternative of the comfy cruising pedigree of a Lexus ES, for instance? It appears from gross sales figures that many do. Logic apart, Irish automotive consumers are turning to crossovers en masse.
Since its inception within the Nineteen Eighties, Lexus has rightly earned a status for delivering premium high quality on a par or if not higher than its European rivals. It has missed its mark a number of occasions alongside the way in which, notably in its efforts to try to accommodate the tastes of each North American consumers and Europeans.
Not so with the NX: this can be a high quality proposition from the powertrain by means of to the premium inside. Judged towards equal premium rivals, it appears a extra tempting proposition. Alongside the brand new all-electric RZ, it seems like Lexus is again within the recreation.
Lexus NX450h+ F-Sport: the lowdown
Power: 2.5 four-cylinder petrol engine with with 40kW electrical motor creating 309hp and 227Nm of torque, driving a CVT computerized transmission and four-wheel drive.
- CO2 emissions (annual motor tax) 25g/km (€140).
- Fuel consumption: 1.2-litres per 100km (256mpg).
- 0-100km/h 6.3 seconds.
- Price: €70,900 as examined; NX begins at €58,130, with 450h+ Executive at €61,100
- Verdict: A high quality premium crossover with plug-in enchantment