Lexus NX 450h: We tested first plug-in hybrid SUV

Electrification is not new to the brand. It has been one of the pioneers in the field, has been working on it for more than 15 years, and even already has a 100% electric model in its UX range. But now the new Lexus NX makes an important qualitative leap compared to the interior edition, both in technology, with the incorporation of a plug-in hybrid power system, and in terms of quality, equipment, and driving aids. It will hit the market in early 2022 starting at € 48,500 for the 350h version and € 65,200 for the NX 450h + plug-in hybrid.

Based on the GA-K platform, also used by the RAV4 and Suzuki Across, 30 percent stiffer (using high-strength steel and aluminum), lighter than the previous NX despite the model growing slightly in length, width, and height (2,320 kg in the front-wheel-drive hybrid version and 2,540 kg in the case of the NX 450h + plug-in hybrid). It has 95 percent new parts and improvements in braking, steering, and suspension systems. For its part, the trunk offers a capacity of 545 liters in any of the variants.

The new generation has a range of engines that includes a self-recharging hybrid version NX 350h, with 244 hp (24 percent more than the current version), as well as the NX 450h +, 309 hp, which incorporates a gasoline engine 2.5 four-cylinder and two electric motors, one for each axis. They are associated with a battery of 18.1 kWh capacity and can circulate in electric mode at a maximum speed of 135 km / h. This version has a 6.6 kW internal charger, so it could fully recharge its battery in approximately 2.5 hours.

Lexus NX 450h New design

Although the dimensions of the model do not vary significantly concerning those of the previous edition and the shapes maintain a certain similarity with the previous NX family, the work carried out on the body is appreciated, with highly worked surfaces in all its angles that favor aerodynamics of the set.

A new, more prominent grille and sharpened headlamps give the new NX a distinguished and elegant character, while the side stands out for the combination of convex and concave surfaces with taut lines and a high waistline, as well as a new range of Alloy wheels up to 20 inches. The rear also draws attention to its design, which reflects a certain symmetry with the front and breaks the proportion of glass and sheet metal with a set of highly worked light clusters, joined by a thin red line.

Lexus NX 450h

The F Sport and Luxury finishes include the adaptive high-beam system with four-projector led headlights, specific bumpers with increased air channeling, a “hands-free” gate opening system, and new specific body colors, Electric Blue and Nova white.

If the exterior draws attention for its forms, the interior is even more striking for its excellent finish and fit of materials. The dashboard has been completely renewed, eliminating many switches (it has gone from 78 to 45) grouping them by functions to facilitate their handling.

You can count on a Color Head-Up Display in the two highest finishes, with the possibility of customizing the design and configuring different levels of information: complete, summarized, or minimal. The steering wheel has also been redesigned with more ergonomic shapes, more intuitive controls, and highly accessible paddles.

Receive new multimedia systems with a central touch screen of 14 or 9.8 inches equipped with navigation “in the cloud” in the real-time, next-generation operating system, compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay wireless and voice interface. It also includes the Lexus Link Connect system with a four-year subscription for all markets in Europe, with which you can know and manage various parameters of the car, such as climate control, battery charge level, location, etc.

Lexus NX 450h

The finishes, materials, and the perfect fit of the same in all its components stand out, as well as the general visual aspect, well above that presented by other European Premium brands. It includes a new electronic door opening system, called E-Latch, associated with the Safe Exit assistant function, which prevents the doors from opening in the event of a vehicle approaching.

Five different trim levels are offered: Business, Business City, Executive, F Sport, and Luxury, highly equipped from the basic level, including dual-zone climate control, dual front windows, or the Lexus Safety System safety equipment, which includes an emergency braking system. with pedestrian recognition, active cruise control with lane-keeping to provide an automatic guidance function.

It can equip heated, ventilated and memory power seats, a wireless charger for mobiles, or a hi-fi system with 17 speakers signed by Mark Levinson.

Lexus NX 450h Efficient motors

The 350h hybrid version increases its power to 244 hp, compared to 198 of the previous edition, and can have one or two electric motors on the axles, depending on the traction system, front or total, which are powered by a small 70 cell 259 V battery. It can circulate exclusively electric up to a maximum speed of 125 km / h if the battery is fully charged and the terrain conditions allow it, although the electric autonomy is not striking in this case.

It uses the same 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle engine as the NX 450h + plug-in electric hybrid, but with higher performance thanks to a different ECU, generating 24 percent more power than the previous NX 300h, allowing for acceleration 0-100 km / h, in 7.7 seconds.

It is equipped with the same transmission system as the NX 450h + and is available with front-wheel drive or E-Four-4WD all-wheel drive.

The NX 450h + also features the 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle heat engine but adds a 134 kW front electric motor, a 40 kW rear electric motor, and an 18.1 kWh capacity lithium-ion battery. , so it can travel in electric mode between 69 and 98 km of distance, it promises acceleration from 0 to 100 km / h in 6.3 seconds and CO 2 emissions between 20 and 26 g / km.

Lexus NX 450h Interior

It offers an operating program that can manage the battery charge through the combustion engine, maintaining or increasing it until it reaches 80 percent of the total capacity. In this case, the heat engine is kept at a constant speed if it can carry out the movement exclusively with the electric motor. It is equipped with the E-Four electric all-wheel-drive system, through the rear electric motor and has a towing capacity of 1.5 tons.

The driver can select from four driving modes for the plug-in hybrid electric system: EV mode is the default, with which it can operate exclusively on electric power until the limit of its range is reached. In this case, the electric driving mode is exclusively prioritized and the combustion engine does not acteven if the accelerator pedal is fully depressed and maximum power delivery is requested, a situation sometimes compromised to perform an overtaking maneuver.

When the battery is depleted, operation automatically switches to HV (Hybrid Vehicle) modecapable of automatically engaging the combustion engine when additional power is needed and immediately thereafter returns to EV operation. HV mode can also be selected to keep the battery charged.

Additionally, it has a driving mode selection systemNormal offers a balance between driving performance and economyEcowhich adapts throttle response r and air conditioning performance to save fuel, and Sportwhich modifies steering and throttle response.

On F SPORT trims equipped with Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS ), Sport mode is replaced by Sport S and Sport S + modes, resulting in a stiffer suspension and a sportier steering feel. Although it is equipped with a continuously variable transmission system, it is possible to act on the interlocks of the box using the cams to adjust the ratios to the most suitable speed.

Excellent driving pleasure

In addition to the comfort provided by the pleasant cabin, with well-supported and superbly comfortable seats, the rolling silence provided by the good suspension filtering, and double glazing, the dynamic section of the model deserves a prominent chapter.

Although it is not possible to speak of lightness since in any of the versions the weight of two tons is far exceeded, it is true that the position of the batteries -which favor the center of gravity-, the good distribution of weights between axles and the excellent performance of the suspensions, contribute to making the final work of the set very satisfactory on any type of route.

We have also found the operation of the brakes particularly striking, which offers an excellent feel in any phase of pedal travel, without electrical/mechanical sensation, and with a spectacular biting capacity. The electric actuation in the braking phase is not noticeable in the pedal, showing a very efficient operation even with prolonged use.

Particularly noteworthy is the operation of the plug-in hybrid when operating in electric modeas pleasant or more than some high-end models exclusively powered by a battery. Smooth, silent, and progressive at all times and with a very striking thrust capacity.

What’s more, with such autonomy and driving pleasure, it can compete directly with exclusively battery-powered models, since it has almost the same advantages as these and does not present any autonomy or recharging problems.

The price of this variant is indeed high, about 6,000 euros more than the conventional hybrid versions, but the pleasure of use it provides and the autonomy it achieves in electric mode can amply compensate for the extra cost, eight percent higher.

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