Written by: Adil Arif
Photography by: Adil Arif
The compact crossover segment is a very popular one in metropolitan areas. The ability to maintain the practicality of an SUV in a tighter package is an intriguing proposition. Dubbed the “CUV” (compact utility vehicle), it’s a vehicle that provides elevated ground clearance and a high driving position but without the added footprint or the extra cargo volume of a full-blown SUV. To our surprise, every manufacturer on the lot is offering some form of these CUVs nowadays – Audi Q5, Acura RDX, Mercedes Benz GLK, and Cadillac SRX – but nothing from Lexus, until now.
For starters, Lexus is no stranger to the SUV market. In fact they were one of the first entrants with their coveted RX model nearly 15 years ago. It’s startling that they are the last to enter this competitive crossover segment – rival CUVs are steadily approaching their second generations now too, but better late than never. Showing up way overdue is the all-new 2015 Lexus NX.
Sharp lines and a tailored body make the NX look like a torpedo aimed right at anybody who likes to be punctual to the party, while the front fascia appears mean, aggressive and full of character. The rear is equally as stylish and the crossover looks great from every angle. As a whole, it’s very appealing to the eyes and speaking aesthetically, I really think Lexus has a winner here.
The NX comes in two flavors, the NX 200t and the NX 300h, t for turbo and h for hybrid. (you can read all about the NX 200t over here). Oddly enough, even though Lexus entered the game late, they are the only manufacturer to offer a hybrid version in this segment. Kudos to them. They saw a void and they filled it - sometimes it pays to wait. The NX hybrid also has no options; it comes fully standard and decked out in one package. Besides, the whole point of owning a hybrid is keeping things simple and efficient. But there is no skimp here, the cabin is as luxurious as they come with leather all throughout, exposed stitching, heated and ventilated seats and in my opinion some of the most comfortable seats in the market.
The driver’s gauges themselves are all digital except for a tiny fixed needle, meaning you can switch from either a tachometer or a power consumption meter to aid on modulating your right foot. Rear passengers also benefit from receiving the same seats as up front: bolstered, extremely supportive, and very comfortable for prolonged driving – did somebody say road trip? Also a first, the rear seats have electric adjustment so you can control the recline angle. Legroom and headroom are also a plenty both front and rear, accommodating six-foot individuals with ease.
Now onto the tech, and techno geeks will be happy to hear that Lexus spared no expense. A mouse pad falls right into your fingertips as you rest your arm on the center console. It allows you to flick, scroll, and click through navigation, phone, settings and vehicle information. In addition, steering mounted controls can also access different features along with a Head Up Display (HUD) projecting vital information only to the driver on the windshield. The NX 300h I tested came equipped with every possible tech feature in the book – no wonder why it has such a hefty price tag, but more on that later.
Under the hood, the NX 300h is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine that produces 154 horsepower. The engine is connected to an electric motor/generator at the front that bumps up the total available horsepower figure to 194, while torque is rated at 152 lb-ft. Below 40 km/h you have the option to use electricity alone. Lexus has also equipped the hybrid with a second electric motor rated at 67-hp mounted on the rear axle to provide torque to the back wheels when needed. A continuous variable transmission puts all this gadgetry into unison. Lexus goes on to mention that they offer the NX Hybrid with no compromise in performance, and I somewhat have to agree with them on this one. The chassis is excellent with minimal body roll, it has a great suspension setup for daily driving and also a very responsive steering rack.
The engine responds hastily and almost makes you forget you’re behind the wheel of a hybrid - that’s significant to me. There are three available drive modes – Eco, Normal & Sport. Engaging each mode changes the throttle and transmission response with Eco keeping things numb and low, and Sport more lively and aggressive. The overall effort and execution is excellent but there are a few negative sides to the story. Firstly, whichever mode you do choose, the NX 300h is still heavily geared towards maximizing fuel economy rather than performance. Hard braking also feels heavy and you can hear the charging of the battery pack engage with a “click” every time you press the brake pedal. Performance is further hampered by the CVT transmission (the only option), which can get noisy at wide-open throttle. Still, the sounds are tolerable as the cabin is heavily insulated and it does an outstanding job of keeping outside noise to a minimum.
In comparison with regular gasoline cars, fuel economy with hybrid cars are always better in the city than on the highway. That’s because hybrids can switch between gasoline and electricity. As long as you stay under 40 km/h, you have the ability to keep the car in electric mode and avoid using even a drip of fuel. And while you brake or come to a rolling stop, the kinetic energy built up from the tires will recharge the battery. It’s a win-win cycle. The NX 300h is rated at 7.1 L/100km and upon picking up my tester I noticed a previous history average of 6.6 L/100km. Impressive, so how did I end up averaging a measly 8.5 L/100km? Well we can relate this back to how Lexus said their NX hybrids had no compromises in performance. It’s capable of being a 6.6 L/100km gas saving machine, or an 8.5 L/100km performance-oriented CUV. Either way you look at it, the NX hybrid isn’t a thirsty vehicle. It produces staggering fuel consumption numbers despite the fact that we spent majority of our time in Sport mode.
With premium features like a head up display, proximity key, welcome lights, pre-collision warning, lane departure mitigation, rear cross traffic monitoring, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and power adjustable rear seating just to name a few, the NX Hybrid comes loaded to the elevens. With an as-tested price of $61,571, I personally can’t justify the $18,000 premium over the NX 200t. The NX 200t has more power, a proper 6-speed automatic, and is still capable to deliver great fuel economy. Not to mention how stunning the F-sport version looks. So if you have the money to burn, care for the environment, and aren’t too picky on the performance, the NX 300h will not disappoint you. For the gearheads, performance enthusiasts, and those looking to save a bit of money (myself included) stick with the NX 200t, it’s the better buy here.
Lexus entered the crossover market considerably later than its competitors, but it doesn’t show any signs of naivety in its infancy. They’ve created two new fun vehicles here and both are very capable in their own right. If you’re looking for a crossover, the Lexus NX is an excellent option.
型号 Model: 2015 Lexus NX 300h
顏色 Paint Type: Matador Red Mica
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $59,450
試車售價 Price as Tested: $59,450
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,660
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,630 / 1,845 / 1,645
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,835
引擎 Engine: 2.5L 4-cylinder, Atkinson Cycle, Lexus Hybrid Drive Cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) System
最大馬力 Horsepower: 194 net horsepower
最高扭力 Torque: 152 lb-ft @ 4,400 - 4,900 rpm
波箱 Transmission: Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT)
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
前懸 Suspension-Front: Independent MacPherson gas struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar, lateral dampers
後懸 Suspension-Rear: Independent, Double wishbone type, coil springs, stabilizer bar, lateral dampers
煞制-前 Brakes-Front: Vented disc
煞制-後 Brakes-Rear: Vented disc
油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 7.1 / 7.7 / 7.4
輪胎尺碼 Tires: P225/60R18