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Road Test: 2017 Lexus NX 300h

Bold design and luxury meet fuel efficiency and reduced emissions with the 2017 Lexus NX 300h. Compact crossovers are a popular segment these days, offering the best combination of utility, comfort, efficiency and value. Luxury compact crossover continue that offering but in higher-end finishes, quality and design.

Ride and Handling

The NX 300h rides comfortably but not overly soft. The suspension feels refined and appropriate for crossover’s character. It absorbs road imperfections well and maintains composure, but provides agility and little body lean around corners.

In the EV drive mode, under certain conditions, the NX 300h can run solely on the electric motor for up to 0.6 miles at lower speeds (below ~25 mph). EV-only driving engages automatically under the right conditions or can be manually selected via a button on the center console if the NX meets all the necessary requirements (battery level, engine load, speed, etc).

18″ wheels and tires are part of the Luxury Package on our tester, but 17″ wheels and tires are standard.

Braking

Firm and secure pedal feel with none of the odd feeling that was typical of past hybrids when the braking system transitioned from partial mechanical braking and regenerative, to full mechanical braking.

Regenerative braking changes the electric motor to a generator that captures the kinetic energy of the wheels when the brake is applied, storing it in the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) hybrid battery pack.

Powertrain and Fuel Economy

The NX 300h’s hybrid drive system is a perfectly orchestrated operation of three propellers: gas engine, front motor and totally independent rear motor. The rear electric motor is part of the intelligent AWD system and is standard for 2017.

The 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and high-torque electric motor route through a unique continuously variable transmission. The system varies power between the gas engine and electric motor, or combines both as needed. The result is a combined 194 system horsepower.

Fuel economy after a week of local and highway driving (30%/70%) averages in at 31.8 mpg. The EPA rates the NX 300h at 33/30/31 (city/highway/combined). That’s impressive for a fully capable crossover.

Noise

Laminated glass all around, extra door seals, and extensive noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) work results in an extremely quiet driving experience when on electric power alone; when the engine does kick on, it’s a smooth purr. Wind and road noise are minimal.

Headlights

Superb LED low-beam headlights project a wide, distant path of light. Halogen high-beams are a different color temperature, but do an excellent job of illuminating far off and wide.

LED taillights are sharp and show off the NX’s rear design at night.

Full-LED headlights with automatic high beams are optional, but we’d like to see the auto high beams as standard equipment.

Interior Fit and Finish

Typical of Lexus vehicles, the NX 300h is superbly finished. Everything is swathed in leather, padded or soft materials. Every mating surface and gap is tight and the craftsmanship is clearly evident.

Seating

The seats are incredibly comfortable, supple and supportive with a number of power adjustments in every way with memory. The rear seats feature power adjustments and remote power folding from controls at the driver’s seat or in the cargo area. Thickly padded elbow rests and center storage lid are appreciated.

Front seating is heated and cooled, and the steering wheel is power adjustable and heated as well.

Cargo room is plentiful and well shaped, with lighting on either side of the cargo area for better illumination at night. A 12V outlet is back there as well.

Visibility

The stylish design does impede visibility at tad in the rear 3/4 area, but thanks to blind spot monitor, it’s a non-issue. The front pillars are thin and door-mounted mirrors lead to better visibility around turns. The standard backup camera and sensors in the front and rear (Intuitive Park Assist) make any parking situation a cinch.

The door mounted mirrors are auto-dimming and automatically tilt down in reverse for easy parking.

Gauges and Controls

Sharp, well-lit gauges and controls provide all information at a quick glance. Knobs and buttons feel good but could stand to use more symbols and less text.

Everything is well-organized and group together in a logical way.

Infotainment

The NX 300h’s multimedia system features a 7-inch screen mounted on the dashboard. The optional Lexus navigation system works well and quickly responds to voice and physical inputs through the screen or Remote Touch controller. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are still not available, but Siri Eyes-Free mode helps with getting information, making calls and sending messages. Call quality is exceptional thanks to the ultra-quiet cabin.

The flat Remote Touch pad works well but we found the mouse-like version to work better while moving. Behind the controller hand-rest is a leather strap that when pulled out, reveals a personal mirror.

A Qi wireless phone charging tray is located under the center armrest and keeps the phone out of sight while driving.

Music sounds rich thanks to a 10-speaker sound system with 2 USB and a 3.5-mm input, CD and the various HD radio and streaming inputs.

Crash-Avoidance

A pre-collision preparation system, automatic emergency braking, and all-speed dynamic radar cruise control are optional on all trim levels. The radar cruise is on the conservative side but works well, and we’d like to see lane departure warning with lane-keeping assist added.

Parking sensors front and rear put an audible measure on proximity to other objects, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert are very much appreciated.

Crash Test Results

The NX 300h is a top performing IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and earned all 5 stars in the NHTSA crash testing program.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 9
Braking 9
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 10
Noise 10
Headlights 9
Interior Fit and Finish 10
Seating 10
Visibility 8
Gauges and Controls 9
Infotainment 7
Crash-Avoidance 8
Total Score 90
Facts
Make: Lexus
Model: NX 300h
Trim Level: Standard
Engine: 2.5L I4 Hybrid
Transmission: CVT
Options: Luxury Package, Navigation Package, Pre-Collision System, Intuitive Park Assist
Base Price: $39,720
As-Tested Price: $51,187

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