NX300h style polarizing, spirit electrifying

August 30, 2018 by
Filed under: Weekly test drives, Autos 

NX300h wears new Lexus signature styling well, adding sportiness to AWD hybrid value.

By John Gilbert

    The whole automotive world is chasing the global stature of hybrid dominance established by Toyota and its upscale Lexus arm. And some are making large gains, and might even be passing the electric-assist pace-setter. But the Toyota-Lexus dynamo is not about to relax and give up its place on the pedestal.

    The 2018 Lexus NX300h may be Exhibit A.

   Since Lexus nor doesn’t have a dealer in Northern Minnesota, but several  in the Twin Cities a couple hours south of Duluth, a lot of customers make the trip for the uplifted style. We can still admire the features of the Lexus NX300h from afar, and ponder how it might fit into a Great White North scenario. I got a test week for a closer examination,

   The Lexus NX300h is loaded with impressive features, and while it is subtle in its performance, the NX300h all-wheel drive runs around on hills and curves in the summertime as though it is a cure looking for a disease. With the right winter tires, a front-drive SUV probably wouldn’t have any trouble, but all-wheel drive simply assures a competent driver to make it through the worst blizzards the Duluth area can generate.

    For the price — ranging from $38,000 to $48,000 — there are a lot of AWD competitors, even within Toyota’s guardianship, but the NX300h has emerged from the tangle to put on display the most contemporary feature offerings from Toyota’s vast hybrid storehouse.


Rich interior fabrics fill the interior of the NX300h and controls are within easy grasp.

  Its drivetrain has a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder gas engine connected to electric power from the corporate Hybrid Synergy Drive, and as the latest version of Toyota engineering skill, the combined output of the 2.5 gas engine and the battery-pack juice comes to 194 horsepower — more than enough to send the NX300h rocketing on its way.

    Toyota had long been the stubborn promoter of nickel-metal hydride battery packs, but now the Lexus models and some Toyotas have gone upscale to the new lithium-ion battery packs, capturing power more efficiently, making it go longer, and recharging swiftly.

    The shape and contours are what they call polarizing. You love it or hate it, with no in-between. Personally, I really admire the new look, with its signature grille and all the slashed contours of the sides and rear. It comes with an electronically-controlled CVT (continuously variable transmission), which may annoy some hard-core driving enthusiasts with the droning feel of acceleration.

    My wife, Joan, and I took the NX300h on a trip halfway across Minnesota, from Duluth to Brainerd and back, to watch the NHRA drag races, and we found the accommodations very comfortable and smooth on the highways. We also registered 33 miles per gallon, which doesn’t seem mind-blowing for a 4-cylinder-and-hybrid set-up, but when you consider that it is an all-wheel-drive SUV that will actually tow up to 2,000 pounds, it becomes more impressive.

The aggressive, curvy exterior continues to the rear of the 5-passenger NX300h.

   Naturally the NX300h has all the latest connectivity and driver-aid systems, such as lane departure warning and assist, and a larger nav screen with an updated audio system, and also LED headlights.

   Like its Toyota kin, this Lexus model has top safety ratings and a retained value estimate of 55 percent after five years of ownership.

   Base price on the NX300h is $38,335, and as-tested it came to $47,165 with all the added-on devices, such as cross-traffic alert, navigation system and 10-speaker premium sound. Another interior trademark of recent Lexus SUVs and cars is the touchpad on the console, with a handy little pad to allow you to rest your right palm while your fingers cavort about the touchpad summoning up audio, navigation, messages and all other sorts of current connectivity. 


Clean styling lets interior luxury speak for itself.

Touchpad has its own palm-rest pad, concealing a tiny storage bin, for ease in operation.

  Of course, you can also compare the NX300h to the GX, LX, RX and new UX for size variations, although all of them have that similar identifying look. Polarizing. The NX300h, however, can make the others jealous with that hybrid system, and I think the rich finish of the interior panels, such as the seats and dashboard and console, are the best in the Lexus group.

   I always prefer the agility of a more compact SUV, given a choice, and while the NX300h has a sporty, compact appearance because of all the contours and curves, it has surprising interior room in the bargain.


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