What is it?
Why would I buy it?
Radical looks, plenty of technology and for the tree huggers
Why would I avoid it?
Design might be too radical for some, very good options in this segment
Lexus arrived in India earlier this year with the ES sedan, the RX 450h and the LX 450d. While the LX was upwards of 2 crores, even the RX was upwards of a crore putting the cars in the super expensive bracket. Lexus needed something affordable that could introduce new customers to the Lexus brand. The NX 300h aims to do just that.
The smallest SUV in Lexus India’s line-up, its termed as the premium urban sports gear. To put it simply this one is an urban crossover for the tree huggers. At first glance it looks pretty similar to the RX. Sharp lines running all over, an aggressive front stance thanks to that spindle grille and sleek hatchback-ish profile means the NX is a love it or hate it design. For some it might be a little too radical, especially when you compare it to the very subtle German competition, but some like me, love the futuristic styling.
Now what you see in the pictures is the sportier F-Sport variant which gets an all-black grille, bright machined finish alloys and a front splitter as well. The Luxury variant gets a chrome outline on the grille and wheels with coloured machining. Overall I think the NX is a very smart looking SUV and will provide a stark contrast when compared to its competition.
How is it on the inside?
The cabin carries all the exterior drama on the inside too. The dashboard looks like a piece of art the way it’s been crafted, more so because of the protruding centre console. What gives away the Japanese roots is the spread of plastic and the number of buttons on the dash, extremely busy design this one.
The seats are lovely (both are powered too) and hold you extremely well and the steering just makes it better. It’s the perfect size in all respect and just feels great to hold.
Important things here are the 10.3-inch multimedia display. The fidgety joystick has now made way for well sized touch pad with haptic touch that works brilliantly. If you have an iPhone, you also get wireless charging and included in the centre console is a leather draped vanity mirror as well.
At the back, you get more than adequate legroom and very good under-thigh support too which should make those long journeys very comfortable. An interesting feature in the Luxury variant is ability to fold the rear seats at the push of a button. The F-Sport gets it too, but needs manual labour.
Boot space is accommodating but thanks to the electric motor at the back, the full size spare wheel is quite raised and does eat up space. Along with all the fancy tech, it’s a secure cabin too with as many as 8 airbags, traction control stability control and ABS.
How does it drive?
Even though Hybrids do not get any special subsidies in India Lexus has decided to stick with the technology to be more efficient and to stand out from the competition. Powering the NX is a 2.5 litre petrol engine which is assisted by two electric motors at the back. On its own, the petrol engine makes about 152bhp, but along with the electric motors, the combined output rises to an impressive 195bhp. Push start the engine to life and you will be greeted with an eerie silence and one might just try pushing the start button again. If fully charged, the NX starts off in pure electric mode and takes off without any mechanical whirr whatsoever. It’s only once you hit higher speeds that the petrol engine takes over.
Gearbox duties are handled by an E-CVT gearbox with 6-speeds and this we think is the only fly in the ointment. Thanks to the rubber band effect, the engine gets pretty noisy as the revs get higher. And every time one tries to accelerate it’s the same story and that can get a little annoying. However, once the intelligent gearbox adapts to your driving style things get quiet as a library. Performance though is nothing to shout about and the NX does not like to be hurried. Twisting the dial to sport or sport plus does add a little urgency but then again the NX makes it clear it does not prefer getting the beans. But driving it in a relaxed manner does have its benefits. Lexus claims the NX will return 18 plus kmpl (Arai claimed) which is a darn good number for a big SUV like this.
Now the NX is front wheel driven for the better part of its driving, but should your right foot get in hyper mode, E-AWD system is engaged through an electric motor. Also with 185mm of ground clearance, the NX isn’t meant for any kind of off-road antics at all. You also get to choose between four modes, Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport Plus. Eco dulls down the engine response quite a bit and it’s in this mode that you can pull out the most efficiency. Normal balances out things, while sport ups the ante for the engine response and steering. If that’s not enough, you hit Sport Plus which besides the previous two additions also stiffens up the suspension for a more enthusiastic drive.
But does it work? Indeed. In Sport Plus, the NX was a joy to hustle around the tight bends of Goa. No it’s not sportscar fun, but it offers enough to put a smile on your face and make the co-passengers go pale. Howeve, past the good roads and the tight bends, it’s not entirely smooth sailing.
Even in normal mode, where the suspension has the most give, the NX feels stiffly sprung. The suspension feels quite clunky too especially over broken patches and sharp edges. We did not really get to drive it for too long so we shall reserve our comments till we put it through our exhaustive road test regime.
Should I buy one?
The NX 300h aims to be the entry level Lexus which will open the door for a lot of new buyers. With prices to be upwards of Rs. 60 lakh, the NX might not feel as premium as its price, but where it lacks in outright premium-ness it makes up in technology. The Hybrid motor is a marvel in the way it marries the petrol engine with the electric motor. As a result driving the NX is quite a different driving experience and I mean that in a good way. It’s also loaded with features, looks fantastic and guarantees an entrée into the exclusive Lexus club.
Where does it fit in?
Pictures by Kapil Angane