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  • 2018 Lexus NX 300h

    Posted on December 5th, 2018 ninarussin

    Compact crossover is eco-friendly

    By Nina Russin

    Lexus NX

    Lexus’ compact hybrid crossover, the NX 300h, gives couples and small families who like to adventure off the grid an eco-friendly option. The hybrid now comes standard with all-wheel drive, adding four-season capability and better traction on unimproved roads. Gasoline-electric technology is similar-to that in the Toyota Prius, utilizing an Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine in tandem with two electric motors up front and one on the rear axle to add traction on demand.

    Base price is $38,335, excluding the $995 destination charge. The NX 300h comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, tail lamps and daytime running lamps, Lexus Enform infotainment, an eight-speaker audio system, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, multi-information display and Lexus Safety System +: a suite of active safety features including autonomous braking with pedestrian detection, dynamic cruise control, lane departure alert with lane keeping assist and intelligent high-beam headlamps.

    Options on the test car add a panoramic view back-up monitor, triple-beam LED headlamps, premium 10-speaker audio system with navigation, 18-inch wheels, heated/ventilated front seats, power moonroof, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert and power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. Final MSRP is $48,308.

    Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona

    Lexus NX

    Over the past week I drove the Lexus NX hybrid throughout the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area as well as the east valley cities of Tempe, Chandler and Gilbert. As with the rest of the Lexus hybrid family, the NX seamlessly integrates green technology into a highly functional and enjoyable package, with the versatility active families are looking for.

    The ‘300’ numeric designation suggests that the power produced by the hybrid powertrain is equivalent to a V-6 engine. Net horsepower for the gasoline-electric powertrain is 195, which might appear to fall short of a six-cylinder block. However, the electric motors develop peak torque at very low engine speeds, giving the NX surprisingly good acceleration off the line. Because the system utilizes a separate electric motor to drive the rear wheels, there is no traditional drive shaft or transfer gears. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is 9.1-seconds according-to the manufacturer.

    An EV mode extends fuel economy when the vehicle is moving at or below speeds of 25 miles-per-hour. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 33 miles-per-gallon around town and 30 on the highway. Since most-all-wheel drive systems reduce fuel economy by 2-3 miles-per-gallon, the fact that the NX 300h is about 30-percent more efficient around town than the turbocharged NX 200t is a pretty big bonus.

    Lexus NX

    Power for the electric motors comes from a nickel-metal hydride battery pack located beneath the second-row seats and cargo area, so as not to affect interior volume. The battery pack location also lowers the center of gravity for better handling and stability at higher speeds.

    An electric power steering system makes the NX exceptionally easy to maneuver through crowded parking lots, with a 19.9-foot turning circle. Lexus has made good strides in improving on-center steering response at higher speeds, helping drivers feel better connected to the wheels.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts and coil springs up front and double wishbones in the rear. The compact double wishbone design is minimally intrusive to the vehicle’s cargo bay.

    Four-wheel disc brakes stop the NX in firm, linear fashion.

    Visibility around the vehicle perimeter is good. The optional panoramic view back-up monitor enables drivers to see obstacles all the way around the vehicle: a useful feature when parking at a trailhead where a small sapling could do major damage to a wheel. Blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the side mirrors, making it easier and safer to change lanes in dense traffic.

    Standard LED lighting projects longer beams than halogen with less drain on the battery. I drive an unlit section of rural road after dark on-a-daily-basis: the LED lamps extend the sightline significantly, making it easier and safer to travel at higher speeds.

    Versatile interior

    Lexus NX Interior

    While the Lexus NX interior lacks the capacity of the midsize RX, it works quite well for 3-4 passengers, with plenty of room for gear. The fold-flat second-row seat makes the NX bicycle friendly: also-accommodating skis, snowboards and camping gear.

    Keyless entry and start allows for quick vehicle entry after dark. Both climate and audio controls are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. Rotary controls for basic climate and audio functions make those-operations-quick and easy. A mouse on the center console operates infotainment functions on the center stack screen.

    I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust up for a clear forward view with good lower lumbar support.

    Standard safety

    The Lexus NX 300h comes with eight airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, daytime running lamps, all-wheel drive and Lexus Safety System +. The NX received a five-star overall vehicle score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

    Lexus builds the NX hybrid at its Miyawaka, Fukuoka Japan assembly plant.

    Like: A fuel-efficient crossover with four-season capability, good power and handling plus Lexus’ reputation for safety and reliability.

    Dislike: Extensive option packages significantly increase the vehicle’s final MSRP.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Lexus
    Model: NX 300h
    Year: 2018
    Base price: $38,335
    As tested: $48,308
    Horsepower (gasoline engine only): 154 HP @ 5700 rpm
    Torque (gasoline engine only): 152 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: 9.1 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: Standard
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 33/30 mpg city/highway

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