2014 Lexus NX 300h F Sport

Lexus has added a smaller crossover SUV to its range. The Lexus NX 300h hybrid sits a little under the RX models, and a long way down from its big daddy the Lexus LX. The latter is a full-on 4WD rather than simply an SUV, though it has to be said that not many Lexus LXs ever get their pretty alloys muddy.

The Lexus NX has arrived at exactly the right time for the upmarket Japanese marque. The market for small to medium prestige SUVs is booming in Australia, indeed globally. The three upmarket Germans are there in a big way, Audi Q3, BMW X3 and the all-new Mercedes GLA, are involved in a major battle. And the British Range Rover Evoque is also attracting more than its fair share of buyers.

Lexus NX 300h, priced from $55,000 to $75,000 (plus on-roads) offers excellent value when compared apples-to-apples on equipment levels with the Europeans. Lexus tells us the savings range from about $14,000 to $34,000 but you may care to check for yourself when shopping around.

2014 Lexus NX 300h F Sport

Styling of the NX is bold, you could even say it’s a touch on the brash side. Akio Toyoda, the chief of the company, doesn’t like his cars being described as conservative.

Just look at that huge ‘spindle’ grille, the deep swages in the doors and the sharp kick-up at the rear and you well think that the boss’s wishes have been put into reality.

If there’s a possible drawback to the shape it’s that the window-line may prove too high for smaller children to see out easily. We didn’t have any kids on hand at the press launch, but will round some up when we do our routine test on home ground.

Like many SUVs these days the Lexus NX is offered with both two-wheel and four-wheel drive, with a big emphasis on the latter as the two-wheel variant is only sold in one spec level, the Luxury; whereas the four-wheel drive come as Luxury, F Sport and Sports Luxury.

2014 Lexus NX 300h Luxury with enhancement pack

Keep in mind that all-wheel-drive isn’t just there for off-road exploring, it also offers extra grip on slippery roads, be they rain soaked or in icy mountain regions.

At this stage the only powertrain is a hybrid one (the little ‘h’ in Lexus speak stands for hybrid and there are quite a few other ‘h’ models in the extensive Lexus car and SUV ranges). A turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine will arrived in Australia in the first quarter of 2015.

The hybrid uses a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with the efficient Atkinson cycle, as well as electric motors. Complex algorithms juggle the power between the two, with up to 147 kilowatts being provided when you want to go hard, while fuel consumption and emissions are minimised when you want to do the right thing by the air we all breathe.

Lexus NX 300h can operate for limited distances on electric power alone, ideal when you’re in garages, closed carparks and the like. Electric motors also give instant added urge off the line and when overtaking.

The instant electric response is our favourite feature of all electrically powered vehicles and we loved it in the Lexus during our drives out of Adelaide during the media launch.

On the road we were treated to the typical Lexus smooth, quiet feel. The NX really does purr along effortlessly and makes an excellent touring car. The rear seat provides good legroom for most, though some may have to request those in front to give up a little of their space.

Handling and general chassis dynamics are competent, but this is no sports SUV in the manner of the big name Germans. Which is exactly as it should be, those who love their a Lexus aren’t interested in setting lap records on track days. They want peaceful progress in real world driving with a minimum of fuss.

Will the all-new Lexus NX 300h sell? Most certainly, in our opinion; it’s competing in a booming market segment, is well priced, pleasant to drive and ride in. In short, it will make a lot of owners very happy.

The complete Lexus NX 300h range is:
NX 300h Luxury 2WD 2.5-litre petrol / electric hybrid five-door wagon: $55,000 (automatic)
NX 300h Luxury AWD 2.5-litre petrol / electric hybrid five-door wagon: $59,500 (automatic)
NX 300h F Sport AWD 2.5-litre petrol / electric hybrid five-door wagon: $66,000 (automatic)
NX 300h Sports Luxury AWD 2.5-litre petrol / electric hybrid five-door wagon: $75,000 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Lexus for drive-away prices.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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