2018 Lexus NX 300h hybrid review with video

The basics:

Base price: $55,300 + tax
As tested: $55,300 + tax
Projected combined economy: 7.5 L/100 kms (31 US MPG)
Fuel economy during our test: 10 L/100 kms (23 US MPG) (very cold conditions)
Competitors: Lexus RX hybrid, Toyota RAV4 hybrid, Volvo XC60 PHEV, etc

So let me get this straight, you’re looking for the comfort, all wheel drive and utility of a crossover while still having a fuel sipping hybrid? Well, since its 2014 launch, Lexus has been offering up an anecdote with the compact NX hybrid. It’s shares the same powerplant as its less luxurious sibling, the Toyota RAV4 hybrid but brings a lot more creature comforts to the table… and offers the clear conscience of best in class fuel economy. Or does it? We spent a week driving the NX in some very cold weather to see how it will perform as a family hauler in a winter wonderland and here’s what we found out.

Pros:
– At over $11,000 more expensive than the starting price for the traditional gas powered NX, it’s a big jump. But beyond its hybrid powerplant, there are also a lot of standard features in the 300h hybrid that don’t come on the more basic NX. Things like larger 18 inch wheels, a heated steering wheel that’s also power tilt and telescoping, ventilated front seats, driver seat memory, an integrated garage door opener, moon roof, roof rails for easily installing a ski box or bike rack, a household style 120 V plug-in point, a huge 10.3 inch infotainment system screen and Lexus navigation (rather than Scout GPS, which is Toyota’s answer to smart phone integration and mapping. It comes on the lower trims of the gasoline NX and it is buggy, complicated and irritating. Nice not to have to deal with this in the hybrid NX)
– New exterior styling on the front and back end for 2018 looks very good. It gives the NX a very cutting edge, sleek appearance
– While I already really liked the handling and suspension feel in the 2017 model, it’s been further refined for 2018 with new adaptive variable suspension. The NX strikes an incredible balance between cruising and cornering feel
– And if safety is a top priority for you, all NX trims now have the Lexus Safety System as standard. That gives you pre-collision braking, auto high beams, radar cruise control and lane keep assist for your piece of mind
– Despite having only 194 horsepower when you combine its 2.5-litre gasoline engine and its electric motor, its still fairly peppy (but you’re going to get a more spirited drive out of the gasoline NX, which delivers 41 more horsepower out of a 2-litre turbo)
– The Softex faux leather seats are soft yet durable – and because it’s a greener product than conventional leather, they line up well with hybrid buyers who may be looking to lessen their environmental impact
– Second row leg room is tight but manageable for front facing kids or shorter adults. But if you have a really tall driver up, like anyone taller than me at 6’2, you’re not going to be left with much space in the second row at all. And if you still have rear facing car seats in your life, well, you’ll feel the pinch there, too. But this is a compact crossover after all. Honestly, I was expecting it to feel more cramped than it actually is

Cons:
– While Lexus says you should expect to see between 8.5 to 10.6 L/100 kms out of the regular NX, the hybrid is projected to have a 20% improvement of around 7.5 L/100 kms. Lexus claims better fuel economy in the city than you should see on the highway because it can run more exclusively off of its electric motor at slower, stop and go speeds. But like the Camry hybrid that I was in last week – because of this cold, snowy weather – we haven’t seen anything near those projected fuel economy numbers. Our average this week has been 10 L/100 kms – which puts it just slightly ahead of its 2 L gasoline sibling when we were testing it in equally cold, snowy conditions last year. Between knobbier winter tires and more demands on the batteries keeping the cabin warm, winter and hybrids don’t play well together and it can negate the benefit of slapping down all that extra money. So take a good, hard look at the kind of conditions you’ll be driving in before committing to the hybrid
– Another beef is the continuously variable transmission. The automatic that you find in the strictly gasoline NX was good when we tested it last year. But this CVT tends to roar and surge along – even while cruising at times – and that can make the cabin a fairly noisy place to be
– While that class-leading 10.3 inch infotainment system is beautiful, it’s still controlled using Lexus’ rather unfortunate remote touch interface. Couple that with the infotainment system, which is overly complicated, and it’s a frustrating experience that falls way behind the streamlined systems that we now see from Volvo, BMW, or even Ford
– In fact, the cabin in general on this car just doesn’t match up with its futuristic exterior lines. It’s an odd, cluttered mix of track pads, analog clocks and dated switchwear. But that said, everything does feel solid and well-built. No cheap plastics, no out of place rattles
– The NX’s Nickel Metal Hydride batteries are stored in the trunk which makes the NX’s already tight cargo capacity even tighter. It goes from 500 litres in the regular NX down to 475 litres – which, if you can believe it, puts the NX right on par with the tiny Honda Fit hatchback. If you’ve got a lot of stuff or a big dog, this isn’t the car for you

Family Wheels report card:

Family Wheels driver comfort score: 4/5
Family Wheels interior layout score: 3/5
Family Wheels infotainment system score: 3/5
Family Wheels interior noise score: 3.5/5 (65 dB at 100 kms/h)
Family Wheels performance score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels rear passenger score: 3/5
Family Wheels trunk test score: 3/5
Family Wheels fuel economy score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels build quality score: 4.5/5
Family Wheels value score: 3/5

Family Wheels overall score: 34/50= 68%

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