2015 Lexus NX 300h Hybrid SUV Test Drive: Good Looks, Hopefully Better Mileage

Toyota has been a hybrid trailblazer.  The Prius is top-of-mind when it comes to a hybrid car.  What you may not have taken the time to think about is that under their Lexus RX 300h marque, Toyota created the market for the hybrid SUV.

Remember the Audi Q5 commercials from a few years ago?  They went directly after the RX, to the point where they’d feature the actual car in ads.  This is a testament to how tight the RX had the market wrapped.

The plan is for the NX 300h to become the replacement model for the RX.  It will be available in dealer showrooms beginning in December.

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The NX has some great styling going for it.  If you watch the AutoByTel review above, you’ll see that the reviewer is impressed with the looks AND the interior and storage space available in the NX 300h.

Here’s the idea behind the design:

Following in the tire tracks of the new-generation Lexus GS and IS sedans, the 2015 NX brings dramatic design to a segment populated by boxy offerings…The concept of making a vehicle look as if it was styled from a single piece of metal is a long-held image in the auto industry. The NX design team took that image to heart. They used the die of the spindle grille as a base over which molten steel was poured to see how the shape would naturally form. The result inspired the NX’s angular, integral shape.

 

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Interior space is generous, especially once you put the split rear seats down.  You get 16.8 cu/ft with the seats up, but a whopping 53.7 cu/ft with them down.  Lexus uses a C-pillar as a way to allow more storage space:

The NX’s C-pillar is angled and wide to optimize internal storage width. Four golf club bags can be laid longitudinally across the cargo area instead of being wedged diagonally.

 

Four golf bags is a plus, especially for the eternal golfer called “me”.

Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty, performance and economy.  AutoBuyTel says, performance is lagging, probably because the NX 300h comes equipped with a 2.5 liter engine that has to pull 2 tons of vehicle.  Before you, your friends and everyone’s stuff goes inside.  The good people at GreenCarReports.com came away with the same conclusion.  Here’s their take:

Still, the hybrid NX doesn’t have enough motor power to accelerate in brisk traffic on electricity alone. Like the larger RX, it will switch on its engine to provide power when  taking off from a stop–rather more so than the Lexus ES 300h sedan that uses the exact same powertrain, a function of the heavier and bulkier crossover body.

 

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[Tweet “So the NX 300 is a green car that does go slow.  At least the ride is luxurious.”]  Again from GreenCarReports.com:

On the road, the engine noise of the hybrid NX is almost entirely muted by insulation and noise-suppressing materials. In general, it drives like a somewhat more lithe version of the mid-size RX hybrid.

 

FYI “lithe” means moving in an easy and graceful way.  The AutoBuyTel reviewer raved about the luxury feel in the video.

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On to economy.  One of the beefs with the later RX models was that they didn’t deliver the MPGs as advertised.  GreenCarReports.com did a piece on the mileage discrepancy:

We obtained an all-but-brand-new 2013 Lexus RX 450h from the maker, and embarked on a 750-mile, five-day road test, covering about three-quarters highway and rural two-lane roads.
We obtained an overall figure of 26.8 miles per gallon, according to the car’s trip computer.
That’s about 10 percent lower than our all-wheel drive RX 450h’s EPA combined rating of 29 mpg (30 mpg city, 28 mpg highway).
For reference, the front-wheel drive 2013 RX 450h is rated at 30 mpg combined (32 mpg city, 28 mpg highway).

 

Since the NX goes on sale in December, all we have to go on is Lexus’ claim that the NX 300h gets 32 miles per gallon on a combined city/highway course.

 

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Sebastian James

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