The auto industry keeps expanding and diversifying in every conceivable way. While some companies explore uncharted territories to create new market segments (and new needs consumers never knew they had), others take the more prudent approach and just follow the lead, which is pretty much what Lexus did when developing the all-new NX.
Many will lament the lack of interior space for families on a daily basis or perhaps its very limited off-road potential. Sure, the NX is no minivan and prefers the urban jungle to anything that resembles dirt trails, but can you really blame Lexus for wanting a piece of the rapidly growing small-crossover pie?
Despite a more angular and chiselled look than the popular RX (I'm not including the next-generation model that recently debuted at the New York Auto Show), the NX is very reminiscent of its bigger, bestselling brother. As if designers were told to please younger, less conservative buyers, it sports a super-aggressive front fascia with the brand's signature spindle grille and ultra-thin headlight cluster.
The NX 300h stands out from the base NX 200t with an exclusive grille treatment and no visible exhaust tips in the rear. What you will notice back there are some of the most uniquely shaped taillights on the market. As for the side profile, you be the judge -- hit or miss?
Once inside, you'll be greeted with the same ambiance as in recent Lexus products, even though the centre stack is totally different. The main controls are cleverly laid out, and near the shifter you'll find the drive mode selector (Eco, Normal, Sport) and Remote Touch interface featuring a touchpad, not to mention a wireless charging tray for your smartphone in the centre compartment.
Finding a proper driving position in the 2015 Lexus NX is easy thanks to multiple adjustments for the leather seats and steering column. On the flip side, visibility isn't great due to the wedge-shaped rear side windows. There's plenty of room up front, not so much in the second row, and the trunk compares to a number of segment rivals.
NX 300h vs. NX 200t
A week prior to my road test of the new 2015 Lexus NX 300h, I had the opportunity to drive the standard, non-hybrid version. I found the latter's new 2.0L turbocharged engine dynamically impressive, which is seldom the case with Lexus vehicles. While the NX 200t is not as sharp as an Audi Q5, for example, it shows how sporty the comfort-obsessed Japanese luxury brand can be when it comes to SUVs/CUVs.
Unfortunately, the NX 300h fails to provide the same kind of excitement. The 2.5L engine is less powerful (194 hp vs. 235 hp), while a CVT replaces the 6-speed automatic transmission. The paddle shifters are gone, as well, making the driving experience less engaging. Simply put, the NX 300h is just another hybrid from the Toyota stable.
This crossover excels at delivering, not on big-time thrills obviously, but rather outstanding fuel economy. As a matter of fact, my tester averaged 8.9L/100km despite my lead foot. If you use the Eco mode more regularly than I did, expect even better numbers.
Wrapping up the 2015 Lexus NX 300h
Driving enthusiasts may want to look elsewhere because the NX 300h is designed to offer a quiet, comfortable drive first and foremost. Starting at $59,450 (plus freight and delivery), it requires a hefty sum for a vehicle that's less exciting and rewarding than the conventionally powered model. Features and amenities are aplenty, sure, but the temptation to settle for the NX 200t will be strong, especially with a base price of just $41,450. Yes, that's a whopping $18k discount -- think about how much gas you can buy with that!