TEST DRIVE: 2017 LEXUS NX 300h HYBRID

Lexus gives its customers an amazingly wide range of products to choose from in every configuration. Compact luxury SUVs are often a gap in auto builders’ model ranges, but not at Lexus where the NX model is offered with both conventional (2.0-litre turbo) and hybrid powertrains.

I tested the NX 300h hybrid variant in a very wide range of road and weather conditions as it was my “vehicle of choice” for the entire holiday season when I took a trip from Richmond to Vancouver Island. It was the perfect vehicle for the task as the weather ranged from dry and sunny to raging snowstorms with icy roads in between.

I should mention right from the start that this was without doubt the most economical vehicle I’ve ever driven on a road trip that wasn’t an out-and-out EV. Fuel sipping wasn’t the word for how well this one performed. I picked up the NX in North Vancouver, drove to Richmond, spent several days involved with local shopping runs and than it was off to Tsawwassen and the ferry. Having crossed to the Victoria area for Christmas and also driven up to Sooke and back, I headed home the way I came and after driving through snow back to Richmond I confirmed that I’d only used a quarter of a tank of fuel. At times, the fuel computer was reading less than 7-litres/100 km combined (Lexus claims 7.4-litres). I should add that my test NX was as fully equipped as it could be and carrying a considerable load for the trip, along with two occupants.

Although the NX falls into the compact class, it’s very roomy and has excellent cargo space. Using the maximum available cargo area by folding the back seats was easy on my NX because it was equipped with power controls. This eliminated the usual struggle it’s possible to have with manual-folding seat backs. The styling is very bold with all kinds of sculpturing in the bodywork, fronted by the big grille we’ve come to associate with Lexus vehicles. Being a Lexus, it’s beautifully finished with flawless paintwork and trim.

The seating is very comfortable and supportive, especially the front pair which have high, cleverly-integrated, head restraints. All the expected convenience items were available including traffic proximity warning devices, navigation (with an iPad-like screen) and an outstanding sound system. I liked the heated steering wheel rim, which must be great therapy for anyone suffering from arthritis. Certainly it’s very welcome on a chilly morning and saves you wearing potentially slippery gloves.

The power unit is a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder with electric motor developing a combined 194-horsepower. That may not seem like a lot of power, but given the great torque performance of electric motors, the NX feels peppy and accelerative and can certainly get smartly off the mark when required. The hybrid battery is split into two parts for better weight distribution and to enhance interior space. Transmission is a continuously variable unit with Eco, Normal and Sport modes. Since I drove mostly in traffic, I used the Eco mode all the time and still got lots of throttle response.

The NX 300h is a remarkable vehicle in many ways. You get all the luxury that could possible be desired if the options list is exploited and despite the extra weight you get with adding extras, the fuel economy is remarkable. There are certainly rivals to the NX from various luxury automakers now, but this Lexus in hybrid form is a fantastic buy that won’t cost that much to run.

IN SUMMARY

BODY STYLE: 4-door & hatch SUV, 5-seater

ENGINE: 2.5-litre 4-cyl Atkinson Cycle 194-horsepower

TRANSMISSION: Continuously variable (CVT)

PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in approx. 8.5 secs

PRICE: Base MSRP $54,150. As tested $62,971.25 inc. freight etc.

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