2015 Lexus NX 300h AWD

2015 Lexus NX 300h AWD Review

Bringing typical Lexus sensibility to a new market.

By: Andrew Krok

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: March 16th, 2015

If you buy a Lexus, you more or less know what you're getting yourself into. You'll be buying a quiet, comfortable, reliable car that, depending on the model, looks either boring or not of this planet. For 2015, Lexus has added yet another vehicle to the latter group. It's called the NX, and it's a crossover built to slot in beneath the RX in terms of both size and cost. Its primary competitors are other small-to-mid-sized crossovers: Audi Q5, BMW X3/X4, Mercedes GLK, Acura RDX, vehicles of that ilk.

What gives the Lexus an advantage is its available hybrid powertrain, the only one on the luxury side of this segment. That swaps out the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in favor of an Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter I-4 mated to an AC electric motor (two, if you opt for AWD) good for a net output of 194 horsepower. It's the same system seen in other Lexus vehicles, like the ES 300h. That's not to say it's old; it's quite a good system, and it does return good mileage.

In fact, that's the kind of thinking that can be applied to not just the NX's drivetrain, but to the car in general, and even across the brand as a whole. It might look a little old at first glance, but once you realize that it's found a formula that works, and it's sticking with it, you come to appreciate what's good about it.

  • Interior

    If you like the sharp proboscis that adorns the NX's front end, you're going to like the interior, too, because the shape of the center console mimics that unique protuberance. That casts a permanent shadow on the lower console controls, which belong to the radio/media side of the infotainment system. The controls on the upper half are tilted upward, which is only a little awkward for the first couple days of use, but everything falls to hand with familiarity a short time thereafter.

    In general, the interior bears more than a passing resemblance to other members of the Lexus lineup, which is to say that it's an awfully pleasant place to spend time. The seats are soft without causing discomfort on long hauls. There's even a small mirror that comes out of the center console, which we're told is not for cocaine, but rather for checking your look after you don the sunglasses hidden in the compartment below.

  • Exterior

    If you like it, you like it. If you don't, you don't. It's pretty simple with this car, because it's a pretty polarizing car. Some people won't like the fact that the NX's sides feature a greater variation of hardness and softness than your average Michelin-starred cheese menu. Some people will like the slight slope in the rear roofline, even if it comes with a trade-off of reduced cargo capacity and ever-so-slightly-diminished rear headroom. Some folks are looking for a compact luxury crossover with some character, and others are looking for an Audi Q5.

    The 300h trim level gives a bit of class to the exterior, mainly through the addition of bright horizontal slats in the Lexus-family spindle grille. It does make it look classier.

  • On the Road

    Those familiar with Toyota-family hybrids will find nothing out of the ordinary with the NX 300h. The Atkinson-engine-and-electric-motor combination combine for above-average efficiency, but the tradeoff is below-average acceleration. It's somewhere between 8.5 and 9.0 seconds to reach 60 mph, which isn't terribly slow in the grand scheme of things, but you will have to give some thought to your on-ramp strategy. The CVT likes to do its fair share of thinking, too; it seems to take an awfully long time between planting your foot and achieving a gear ratio capable of considerable forward motion. The same type of apathy-based resistance is applied to braking and turning, as well; it will do what a car is supposed to do, but it would rather you just stay in a straight line.

    But when you're in that straight line, boy howdy, the Lexus's best qualities come out in force. As with every other Lexus available for purchase, the interior is very well insulated from road or traffic noise at any speed. The suspension is well tuned for comfort, and the crossover's weight helps dampen the effects of crappier roads. With a gentle foot and a working knowledge of how and when EV mode kicks in, most owners shouldn't have a problem hitting the EPA estimates for fuel economy.

    The only real issue we had with the hybrid powertrain was an occasional underbody shuddering as the car came to a stop, as well as when the I-4 would start contributing to the car's forward motion.

  • Final Thoughts

    When it comes down to it, the Lexus NX has no problem standing and making its greenhorn presence acknowledged in a group filled with industry veterans. It's got sharp styling and the only hybrid powertrain in the segment, and it embodies all the qualities that come with the Lexus badge. It's a good option for RX buyers who don't want something that large, and it's also a good option for X4 buyers who don't want to shed tears every time they look onto the driveway. It shouldn't be confused with anything remotely sporty; if you want that, you'll want to look at the NX F Sport, which utilizes a 2.0-liter I-4 and plenty of overly aggressive exterior baubles.

    But if you want a solid, reliable, quiet compact crossover that won't ruin your wallet with its thirst, the NX 300h is a great choice.

  • Specs & Price

    Engine: 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle naturally-aspirated I-4, plus permanent-magnet AC electric motor with nickel-metal-hydride battery pack

    Transmission: Continuously variable

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, all-wheel drive

    Power Output: 194 horsepower (net)

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 33 city / 30 highway

    Base Price: $41,310

    As Tested: $52,013 (incl. $925 destination)

    Available Features:

    Luxury Package: Wood interior trim, perforated leather-trimmer interior, heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, power rear hatch

    Premium Package: Moonroof, 18-inch alloy wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, LED daytime running lights with integrated turn signals

    Navigation System Package: Voice-activated navigation with seven-inch display, remote touchpad, additional USB port, premium sound system, Lexus Enform App Suite

    Comfort Package: Seat memory, auto-tilting side mirrors, integrated garage door opener, power tilt-and-telescope steering column, auto-dimming rearview mirror

    Individual Options: Triple-beam LED headlamp, moonroof, pre-collision braking system with adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, power rear hatch, Qi wireless phone charger, heated steering wheel, blind spot monitor, power-folding rear seatbacks

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