2016 LEXUS NX 300h HYBRID IS LUXURIOUS “GREEN” CROSSOVER
By Tom Crosby
When gas prices are low, the sale of larger vehicles increases. That has been the trend by United States buyers for the last decade; with the corollary being high gas prices lead to a surge in the sale of smaller, gas-sipping vehicles. But the hybrid Lexus NX 300h compact SUV, introduced new in 2015 and virtually unchanged except for improved smartphone connectivity, has bucked that trend. During a year of low gas prices, NX 300h sales have grown.
While a pricey “green” vehicle, it boasts ample space for all occupants to ride in comfort, earns top crash safety scores, retains a high resale value and gets best-in-class gas mileage. Our 2016 test drive had all-weather drive, a hybrid rarity. It uses a third electric motor for rear wheels, with two other electric motors working simultaneously but split to achieve better weight distribution. NX stands for nimble crossover and the 300h handled responsively without scary lean when negotiating high-speed turns and the ride was cushioned on 18-inch wheels and an excellent suspension system. Hybrid DNA for the 300h comes from the 2.5-liter engine shared with the Toyota Camry Hybrid.
Options included several safety features – like all-speed adaptive cruise control – along with navigation ability and comfort aides like premium audio and leather heated steering wheel. Like sister Lexus compact crossovers, it has three drive modes – eco, normal and sport, which provided a satisfying power spurt but generated some engine whine. Acceleration feels pokey in the lower two other drive modes but very quiet. Neat features include automatically dimming headlights for oncoming traffic, a wireless charging tray for Qi-compatible phones, a leather-covered coin tray and a front passenger cushion airbag to prevent occupants from submarining under the seatbelt and off the seat. The outside is edgy with a spindle grille, angled front lights, chrome surrounds on windows, character lines creating a distinctive, non-boxy look. Inside, soft leather, quality materials and a two-color scheme achieve an upscale look, accented with contrast stitching. The center spine storage bin contains electronic outlets with breathing room for cords on devices resting outside, like a cell phone.
As in many Lexus models, the touch-pad that controls the eight icons on the dashboard’s elevated 7-inch display screen is hard to control, so sensitive as to be frustrating and distracting. Voice controls can be used but command recognition was spotty. Rear seats fold down to improve a smallish cargo area containing a spare tire and first aid kit.
LIKES: Luxury, cabin comfort, looks, ride, handling, mileage
DISLIKES: Twitchy touch-pad, voice recognition
- Base price w/destination fee $42,250 ($48,160 as tested)
- Curb weight 4,180 lbs.
- Wheelbase 104.7 inches
- Length 182.3 inches
- Width 73.6 inches
- Engine specs 2.5 liter, DOHC, inline 4 cylinders
- Horsepower 194 hp at 5,700 rpm
- Torque 152 lb-ft (rpm not available)
- Transmission Continuous variable automatic
- EPA Rating 33 city, 30 highway
- Range 14.8 gallons, regular
- Performance 0-60 in over 8 seconds