There’s little more to say about the Lexus NX300 hybrid other than, “I want this SUV”.
Okay, a lot more.
I fell in love with the upscale hybrid on a recent test drive in the wintry Northeast that included a meterologist’s mix of hydroplaning on rain soaked and snow melt roads, crunching over icy parking lots and driving on slippery snow.
There was not one split second when I doubted this nimble SUV would deliver the rock-solid control and performance Lexus is known for, and keep me safe.
The NX300h used to be called the NX200t, but it still has the same 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, electric motor and combined 194 horsepower as its sibling Toyota RAV4 hybrid, although the cars don’t look or drive the same.
There’s also a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that kicks out 235 horsepower.
The NX300h is available only as an AWD, so it slurped a bit more fuel than the non-hybrid, non-AWD version.
Even so, I averaged 27.9 MPG on mostly highways, back roads and small towns between NYC and the ski slopes of Stratton, in Vermont’s Green Mountains.
It would have done better with more start-stop city driving, where hybrids excel for fuel economy, closer to its 33 MPG city rating from the EPA.
Still, 27.9 is great for a vehicle of this size and weight, which just happens to be loaded with high-tech features.
There are three driving modes – Eco, Normal and Sport, when you get to play with the paddle shifters.
Eco is for stop-and-go traffic, and improves fuel economy. Since it also seems to affect acceleration power, it’s not the best mode for highway merges.
Sport mode tightens steering, suspension and braking ever so slightly. But it’s only for clear, dry roads, not for snow or ice.
Paddle shifters on a hybrid!
Six speeds on a hybrid SUV!
How cool is that, and demonstrates how far hybrid technology has driven forward since Toyota introduced us to the Prius, the world’s first hybrid, way back in 1997.
Twenty years since we met the Prius! That’s a lifetime in automotive technology and engineering.
Lexus NX 300h Additional Features I Loved
I loved that this Lexus still has a CD slot, which most manufacturers have eliminated, so you can still bring along a stack of your album favorites instead of relying on Sirius or whatever is on your mobile phone.
And there’s plenty of room to store them in the large armrest bin, where two USB ports also reside.
I loved that the center console has a small removable panel ideal for holding that phone, and that its underside features a handy mirror for checking your lipstick before meeting your dinner date or new business client for lunch. Clearly, Lexus wants women drivers in this vehicle.
And I loved the elegant, old-fashioned analog clock smack in the middle of the cockpit, the giant, well-lit speedometer/odometer configuration and the comfortable leather seats and steering wheel with contrast stitching.
Winter Driving Tips from the Team O’Neill Rally Driving School
Ditto I loved the easy-to-find button to disengage traction control, for those times you need some wheel spin to get you out of a rut, whether that’s snow, mud or sand.
It’s a good thing to practice on an empty parking field, as I did at Stratton, with Tim O’Neill, founder of the Team O’Neill Rally Driving School.
(If you squint, you can see ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter behind the wheel in this photo)
O’Neill trains police and other government officials on evasive and chase driving tactics and skills, and teaches the rest of us safe driving.
O’Neill reminded me that even in a vehicle as safe and sturdy as a Lexus, it takes further to stop on snow and ice than it does to accelerate, and the importance of slowing down in less-than-perfect conditions.
Another winter driving tip he shared tip is to slow down on any hill before you get to the crest, because the road can be clear on one side, but icy and slippery on the other because of how and where the sun is shining.
The O’Neill school is in New Hampshire, but he made a special trip to Vermont to meet with me and several other journalists.
I also loved the blind-spot warnings in the sideview mirrors, but didn’t love that they don’t work after dark.
The split rear seats offer a power fold and recline option. But I don’t understand why there are no more “pass-through” slots in SUVs for long, narrow cargo like skis or golf clubs.
There’s no choice but to flip down half of the back seat to fit luggage and gear, which means that a family of four would have to leave behind one member or add a roof rack, which creates drag and cuts down on fuel economy.
I also don’t love the touchpad console controls, and I’m not alone.
The brand’s infotainment system is known to frustrate many Lexus buyers.
The four-direction touchpad is far from intuitive, and there are time-consuming submenus galore until you find what you’re looking for.
Price: The NX300h starts at $39,530. The F Sport model I tested is an additional $2,400, less than comparable luxury models from Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Essentially, you are getting a compact for the price of a subcompact.
As I said at the start of this review, I want this SUV.
This review was written for my Green Wheeling column, syndicated by Motor Matters, and edited for publication here on ecoXplorer.
Republished with the permssion of Motor Matters.