The second generation Lexus NX, the brand’s compact luxury SUV, doesn’t look much different than the first, but there are significant changes under the sheet metal. Nowhere is that more true than with the new NX450h+ hybrid variant.
The NX’s redesigned exterior isn’t quite the crumpled sheet metal riot of its predecessor, though it still eschews the sleek minimalism of, say, Volvo XC60. The NX once again presents the world with a sharp face with a twin grille and tick-shaped running lights.
The interior is slightly more spacious than before, although the small windows diminish that impression. As is typical for Lexus, every touch point in the interior, starting with the leather on the steering wheel, feels quality. Speaking of touch points, both the exterior and interior door handles are electronic, opening with a light push (just like a Corvette!); the inner handles are also automatically disengaged when a vehicle or cyclist approaches from that direction. Like many other Toyota hybrids, the NX450h+ has a chunky electronic shifter with an unusual double-J shift pattern, although the owner will likely get used to this quirk.
Lexus is finally moving away from the remote touchscreen infotainment interface, and the new NX has a touchscreen instead. The large 14.0-inch display (a 9.8-inch version comes in smaller trims) looks great, but for all that real estate, it can only display two functions at once in a smartphone mirror image. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are wireless, and Apple Music and Amazon Music are integrated into the system. Wireless smartphone charging is an option and comes with a digital key feature. As usual, the interface would have benefited from a few more physical controls beyond just the small volume knob and the two cabin temperature knobs. And there is no place to rest your hand while trying to press the right touch points on the big screen (for example, to adjust the sound or adjust the fan speed). We’re also not fans of the four-way multi-mode buttons on the steering wheel that have two sets of functions, meaning there’s a 50 percent chance they’re not in the mode you want.
HIGHS: Easily beats other NX variants, really useful EV range, 36 mpg combined.
The big news this generation, however, is a new hybrid powertrain that combines a naturally aspirated base engine, a top-of-the-line turbocharged engine, and a conventional hybrid. They are all four-cylinder. With 302 horsepower, the NX450h+ plug-in is the clear alpha dog among its siblings.
The power plant is essentially lifted from the Toyota RAV4 Prime (the two cars share a platform). It uses the same 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine found in the base NX250 and the standard NX350h hybrid. (The non-hybrid NX350 has a turbocharged 2.4-liter four.) Electric motors assist the gasoline engine and are the sole source of power to the rear wheels, providing all-wheel drive capability.
An 18.1 kWh lithium-ion battery powers the motors. That capacious battery provides a whopping 37 miles of range in the EV, according to the EPA, or 33 miles on the highway in our test (the same as the RAV4 Prime). The only other hybrids in this class are the XC60 T8 Recharge, Lincoln Corsair Grand Touringand Audi Q5 55 TFSI e. Volvo got a bigger battery for 2022 this increased its range to 35 miles, but the Lincoln is only capable of 28 miles and the Audi only 23.
Our tester was equipped with an optional 6.6 kW on-board charger, which cuts the full charge time from 4.5 to just 2.5 hours when using a 240-volt power source. On paper, it’s an $800 option, but Lexus tells us that every NX450h+ sold in the US will be equipped with this noteworthy feature instead of the standard 3.3kW equipment in other global markets.
Even when it’s not running as an electric, the NX450h+ is a gas-guzzler with an EPA-estimated 36 mpg combined. We got 35 mpg during our 75 mph highway fuel economy test (that’s right in line with the figure for the regular NX Hybrid).
As with the RAV4 Prime, the NX450h+ easily outperforms its peers. While the regular NX350h accelerates to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds and the turbocharged NX350 takes 6.6 seconds, the NX450h+ needs just 5.6 seconds. (We didn’t test the base NX250, but that version’s 203 horsepower is the weakest of the bunch.) The plug-in hybrid similarly stands tall when we look at mileage, going from 50 to 70 mph. per hour in 3.8 seconds versus 5.0 for the regular hybrid and 4.5 for the NX350. It’s also one of the plug-in hybrids that, when switched to EV mode, doesn’t wake up the gas engine when you step on the accelerator. In fact, it’s quite peppy as an electric car when it’s splashing around town, although its 9.4 second battery-powered 60 mph time isn’t exactly fast.
CONS: Not significantly faster than rival turbo-fours, huge price tag over other NX models.
Take a look outside the windows of a Lexus dealership, however, and the NX450h+’s muscular image fades a bit. Its 0-60 mph time, for example, beats it by just 0.1 seconds 228-horsepower BMW X1. And the Lexus trails its mainstream-branded cousin, the Toyota RAV4 Prime, which sprints to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. Audi Q5 hybrid with 362 horsepower is much faster, acceleration to 60 in 4.5 seconds. Lexus is easy to leave Corsair, however, which needs 7.0 seconds to complete this run.
As you’d expect, the ride is plush, with some head-tossing the only consequence of encountering patchy tarmac. Even with the 20-inch wheels that are standard here, the 235/50R-20 tires have generous sidewalls to help cushion sharp-edged bumps, despite being run-flat tires. Those tires held 0.81g on the slippery surface, but the NX450h+ F Sport has little interest in fast cornering. Tire squeal appears early, as does body roll and understeer. This category is hardly rich in offers for driving pleasure, but Acura RDX, BMW X1or even Mazda CX-5 all are more attractive than this Lexus.
NX buyers probably won’t be too concerned about that. The more important issue for them is whether a plug-in hybrid is the right choice. With a starting price of $57,300, the NX450h+ is $14,600 more than the NX350h and $14,200 more than the non-hybrid NX350. (Add another $1,250 if you want the 450h+ F Sport trim, found on our test sample.) If fuel economy is a concern, it’s better to save that $14K and go for the equally fuel-efficient NX350h. For those looking for the ultimate in performance, the NX450h+ is a better choice, though it may not be sporty enough to satisfy. The diligent plug-in buyer will be the one to really get the most out of the NX450h+, given its long EV range. Factor in battery-powered mileage, and fuel economy will surpass that of a regular hybrid, and much more reliable acceleration is a nice bonus. As you might have guessed, the first Lexus plug-in only reaches its potential and becomes a plus when you really plug it in.
2022 Lexus NX450h+ F Sport
Vehicle type: front engine, front and rear engine, four-wheel drive, 5-seater, 4-door station wagon
Base/as tested: $58,550 / $64,105
Options: Vision Package – Panoramic View Monitor, Lane Change Assist, Front Cross Traffic Alert, $1,070; tri-beam headlights with washers and turn signals, $850; 6.6 kW on-board charger, $800; illuminated door and cargo sills, $760; Ultra White premium paint, $595; handy smartphone package – digital key, wireless phone charging, $450; activity mount – receiver for bike mounts, etc. (not for towing), $390; rear and side puddle lamps, $325; carpet cargo mat $110; universal backseat tablet holder, $110; wheel locks, $95
DOHC 16-valve 2.5-liter Atkinson inline-4, 181 hp, 165 lb-ft + 3 AC motors, front: 179 hp, 199 lb-ft; rear: 53 hp, 89 lb-ft (combined: 302 hp; Li-ion battery 18.1 kWh; on-board charger 6.6 kW)
Transmission: stepless automatic
Suspension Front/Front: Strut/Multilink
Brakes, front/rear: 12.9-inch ventilated disc/12.5-inch ventilated disc
Tires: Bridgestone Alenza A/S 02 RFT
235/50R-20 100V M+S
Wheelbase: 105.9 inches
Length: 183.5 inches
Width: 73.4 inches
Height: 65.8 inches
Passenger volume: 92 feet3
Cargo volume: 23 feet3
Curb weight: 4,487 lbs
C/D EXAMINATION RESULTS
60 mph: 5.6 sec
1/4 mile: 14.1s @ 99 mph
100 mph: 14.4 sec
130 mph: 33.9 sec
The results above are omitted 1 foot deployment 0.3 sec.
Start from 5–60 mph: 6.0 sec
Top Gear, 30–50mph: 2.9s
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 3.8 sec
Top speed (gov): 130 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 179 feet
Road resistance, 300-foot pad: 0.81g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 38 MPGe
75 mph highway, EV/Hybrid mode: 78 MPGe/35 mpg
Range 75 mph highway, EV/Hybrid: 33/500 miles
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 36/38/33 mpg
Combined gasoline + electric: 84 MPGe
EV range: 37 miles
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