Going by the look of the second-generation Lexus NX, the brand’s designers are certainly on a roll.
The “tentativeness” of the previous model has been replaced by assured and confident styling. Its front end has a chiselled countenance, the flanks are clean and muscular, and the bodywork has crisp lines throughout.
More importantly, the designers have not over-styled the car. The number of crisp lines that help define the SUV is just right. From head to tail, the new NX is good-looking from almost every angle.
NX350h: LUXE LOUNGE
The cabin is just as attractive as the exterior, and crucially, boasts improved ergonomics as well.
Behind the wheel, you’ll find that the driving position is spot on, with easy-to-reach controls and unique innovations, such as the touch-sensitive panels on the steering wheel.
This new control scheme is called “Touch Tracing Operation”. Light pressure on these brings up your menu options on the heads-up display, allowing you to say, skip between music tracks or adjust your cruise control settings. This also helps you maintain focus on the road ahead.
The new 14-inch touchscreen display looks brilliant. True to Lexus’ attention to detail, the touchscreen is constructed with glare-reducing bonding technology. Gaps between the glass panel and LCD are filled before the surfaces are attached, minimising the refractive light index and screen glare.
More importantly, the system menus are relatively intuitive and the only way to navigate them is using the touchscreen – the much-despised Remote Touch Interface is nowhere to be found.
Other neat details include the electronic latching or E-Latch for the doors, and the Digital Rear-View Mirror, which uses a rearward facing camera to display live footage on screen. It’ll be useful when the backseats are occupied and rearward visibility is blocked.
The only feature in the cabin that seemed lacking was the ambient lighting. Though it offers a palette of 64 colours and 14 pre-set themes, the light intensity itself is too gentle. Though designed to be subtle, owners should have the option to brighten it if that is what they prefer.
Less subtle, on the other hand, is the performance-oriented nature of the NX350h’s drivetrain. Its main motivator is a naturally aspirated, 2487cc inline-4 producing 188hp and 239Nm. Paired to an electric motor, the system has a combined output of 240hp.
It may not be quick by sports car standards, but the NX350h does reach the century mark from a standstill in 7.7 seconds, which isn’t slow either.
Either way, the drivetrain’s key characteristics are what will draw buyers. It’s quiet, feels punchy, and paired to an E-CVT, pretty darn seamless, too.
The eco-friendly aspect, however, seems to have taken a backseat. Lexus says the NX350h covers up to 20km per litre of unleaded, but over three days, this writer only averaged 12.3km/L.
The NX350h might do better in more conservative hands, though its 1790kg mass and all-wheel-drive system could still blunt these efforts. So, the best thing to do is to enjoy what the NX350h does well, which is deliver a peppy yet refined drive.
Apart from the smooth acceleration, it also feels like there’s more in reserve, which is always a nice feeling. Twist the dial to select the Sport setting and the SUV responds more eagerly. Makes you wonder why there was a need to make this car “green” in the first place.
When it comes to stopping, the brakes have been given a pedal return damping mechanism, which aims to “enhance the dynamic quality of the pedal release operation”. The end result is a solid and reassuring feel – no sponginess here.
The NX350h delivers a quiet and unruffled ride, soaking up and dismissing undulations as you’d expect. Helping it in this regard are the vehicle’s GA-K platform, which is lighter and stiffer than before. The model also benefits from laser screw welding and structural adhesives.
A more rigid body enables engineers to increase the pliancy of the dampers, since the suspension does not have to make up for the lack of stiffness.
AN INTERESTING TAKE
The NX350h meets (and surpasses) expectations in many regards. It feels luxurious and well put-together, and the cockpit is a big step forward in many aspects.
The NX is roomier than before, and Lexus’ penchant for refinement is clearly on display.
Now, the real surprise here is that Lexus seems to have traded efficiency for better performance and drivability, for the NX350h is clearly a superior drive compared to its NX300h predecessor.
The fact that it looks this good is no bad thing, too.
Lexus NX350h Luxury 2.4 (A)
ENGINE 2487cc, 16-valves, inline-4, hybrid
MAX POWER 188hp at 6000rpm
MAX TORQUE 239Nm at 4300-4500rpm
TOTAL SYSTEM OUTPUT 240hp
POWER TO WEIGHT 134.1hp per tonne
0-100KM/H 7.7 seconds
TOP SPEED 200km/h
CONSUMPTION 20km/L (combined)
PRICE EXCL. COE From $199,800 (after $15k VES rebate)
AGENT Lexus Singapore