Lexus represents the pinnacle of Toyota Motors’ luxury, a world-class marque with a wide range of vehicles. Like the eponymous Toyota brand, Lexus offers numerous hybrid models, building on the company’s prowess and leadership in that category. The compact Lexus NX crossover utility vehicle is one such model that has received the gas-electric treatment. It comes with conventional and plug-in variants, the latter named the NX 450h+, and the subject of this review.
Lexus NX Overview
The Lexus NX rolled out in 2015, offered in 200t (turbocharged gas) and 300h (hybrid) variations. Both 2015 models offer standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive. In 2018, as part of a model refresh, the 250t became the NX 300. The first-generation model continued through 2021, then was replaced in 2022 with the second-generation NX.
For 2022, the Lexus NX shuffles the lineup again. This time, it is represented by NX 250 (gas), NX 350 (gas/turbo), NX 350h (conventional hybrid), and NX 450h+ (plug-in hybrid) models. This is the first time a plug-in hybrid is offered under the NX umbrella.
Lexus NX Hybrids
Before we drill down on the model at hand, it is worth examining the two hybrid choices that accompany the NX. The 350h is the conventional version. This one comes with a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine and a pair of electric motors. There is 239 horsepower available and this model averages 39 mpg. A 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive come standard.
The latest model is the NX 450h+. We won’t pretend to understand why Lexus added a “+” symbol after the sub-model name. In fact, all four names are easily forgotten. Thus, we believe most customers will refer to the four as gas, turbo, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid (PHEV). We’ll use the PHEV term liberally throughout this article.
Under the hood of the NX PHEV is also a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Three electric motors are present; the third one works with the starter and feeds the battery system. Like the conventional hybrid, this one is all-wheel drive. But unlike the hybrid, a continuously variable transmission routes power to the wheels. The total system performance is 302 horsepower. This model has a 37 mpg all-electric range and averages 37 mpg.
Highlights of the Lexus NX 450h+
The Lexus NX PHEV comes in two grades — Luxury ($57,705) and F Sport ($58,955). Add $1,025 for the destination fee. On the other hand, the conventional hybrid comes in three grades with prices ranging from $43,105 to $50,555. The packaging of the standard PHEV and for the top-line conventional hybrid is similar. However, the price differential disappears when the $7,500 federal tax credit on the PHEV is factored in. All prices are for the 2023 model that carries over.
Here are the highlights of the PHEV:
We can use the term “cutting edge” liberally to describe various vehicles, but the Lexus NX is almost in a league of its own. This crossover features an oversized hourglass grille. The hood’s character lines meet the outer edges of the grille to shape a formative presence. Oversized cutouts flank the lower section. Sleek headlamps with “checked” LED lights complete the frontal expression.
The sides are active, not particularly busy with a kicked-up beltline meeting a cascading roofline. Huge wheel wells offer a muscular touch and are complemented by additional signature lines and body sculpting. From the rear, the oversized taillamps are connected by a singular LED light bar to form an attractive look. Additional body sculpting, diffuser-like trim, and reflectors bring up the rear.
With the wheelbase pushed out slightly over the previous model, the NX PHEV has more cabin space available. Interestingly, this translates into more space for passengers, but a bit less space for cargo. Indeed, although the standard cargo space measures 22.7 cubic feet. However, the overall cargo space measures just 46.9 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. That’s down from the 54.6 cubic feet found in the first-generation model.
As for passenger space, this model seats four adults in comfort or two adults and three youngsters. The younger ones, of course, sit on the rear seat. We were impressed by how much headroom and legroom both rows offer. Hip and shoulder room is constrained on the second row when three are present, thus our seating recommendation. We know some families will still find the overall space limiting, therefore a move up to the all-new Lexus RX seems warranted.
Credit Lexus for designing an upscale and elegant interior. This model is dominated by soft-touch and fine materials, including open-pore wood trim and standard leather-trimmed seats. Choose the F Sport and this one utilizes NuLuxe, a leather-like material that’s comfortable and breathable. Color us impressed by the two-tone upholstery with contrast stitching. A power-controlled tilt-and-telescopic steering column, heated front seats, power front seats, dual-zone climate control, and keyless entry with remote start come standard. Choose the F Sport and this model features special badging, debossing, and aluminum pedals.
Until this year, we were not fans of Lexus’ infotainment interface. Previously, a scratch pad managed the screen and that was a difficult arrangement. This year, the pad is gone, replaced by touchscreen access on a 14-inch display. The layout is more user-friendly, although the system is not as intuitive as some competitors.
Lexus equips the NX Hybrid with a 10-speaker audio system or an available 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio package. Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the requisite USB ports are standard. Oddly, a wireless device charger is offered as an accessory upgrade and isn’t standard equipment.
Leading-Edge Safety Features
Credit Lexus for supplying a generous list of driver-assist safety equipment. These elements include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane tracing assist, and lane departure alert with steering assist. The NX’s adaptive cruise control system includes curve speed management; automatic high beam headlights, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and road sign alert are also included.
There are a few additional features available, and these are bundled as part of a $1,070 upgrade. These include a panoramic view monitor, lane-change assist, front cross-traffic alert, and a steering wheel touch sensor. A 10-inch head-up display is standard.
About the NX Hybrid Powertrain
Lexus utilizes a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, three electric motors, and a continuously variable transmission to motivate the NX Hybrid. That’s one additional motor than the conventional hybrid and a different transmission choice.
Electric motors are also known as generators. One electric motor turns the front wheels, and the second spin the rear wheels. Both supply regenerative braking with kinetic energy replenishing the battery system. The third electric motor feeds the starter and sends power to the lithium-ion battery pack. This layout results in 302 horsepower or significantly better than the 239 offered by the standard hybrid.
The NX Hybrid delivers approximately 37 miles of all-electric power. Once exhausted, the gas engine takes over. At the same time, additional energy continues to travel to the battery pack, offering partial replenishment for the same.
Connecting to a home 120-volt outlet replenishes the battery overnight. Utilize a 240-volt outlet and that time is reduced to 4.5 hours. With a larger onboard charger included, the charge time drops to 2.5 hours.
On the Road
Press the ignition and you’ll be greeted with silence. The dashboard activates, but you’ll be met with crickets. Only a low hum is evident and that’s the sound of the tires as you move away from a dead stop.
The NX Hybrid moves forward at a leisurely pace. But if additional power is warranted, the gas engine kicks in. Under hard acceleration, the two systems join forces. Indeed, by pressing the pedal to the metal, the NX Hybrid reaches a 0-60 mph time of 6 seconds. That’s strong, respectable, and within reach.
We found the steering nicely weighted with decent feedback. Body roll is minimal and the brakes are firm. The ride is so-so on rough surfaces, be prepared to feel the bumps and grind.
The CVT causes the engine to whine under hard acceleration, but we’ve heard noisier transmissions. The electric motors temper some of that strain to deliver a satisfying driving experience.
There is just a $1,250 price separation between the Luxury and F Sport models. For the added cost, the F Sport brings in sportier exterior trim, metal pedals, extra bolstered front seats, and other interior embellishments. This model also supplies an adaptive variable suspension system for improved handling. That’s a generous amount of equipment for a modest price increase, therefore we suggest choosing the F Sport.
2023 Lexus NX 450h+ Specifications
|Lexus||2023 NX 450h+|
|Price Range||$57,705 to $58,955|
|Standard Engine||2.5-liter I4|
|Horsepower||181 lb.-ft. @ 6,000 rpm|
|Net Horsepower||302 hp|
|Curb Weight (pounds)||4,475|
|Legroom (f,r…inches)||41.0, 36.1|
|Shoulder room (f,r…inches)||56.3, 54.0|
|Hip room (f,r…inches)||56.3, 52.5|
|Gross vehicle weight (pounds)||5,600|
|Fuel Tank (gallons)||14.53|
|EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined)||36 combined|
|Manufacturing Plant||Cambridge, Ontario CANADA|
Specifications supplied by the manufacturer.
Exterior photos copyright Stumpwater Media Group, LLC. Interior shots supplied by Lexus.