Since its release at the beginning of 2022, sales remain strong for the second-generation Lexus NX range. The mid-sized luxury SUV is in second place in VFACTS new vehicle registration figures for the first half of 2023, trailing behind only the Tesla Model Y.
Unlike the German-built rivals, the NX offers a range of powertrains that include hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology, attracting a different subset of buyers. But do hybrids contradict luxury? Let’s give the NX the once-over to see.
2023 Lexus NX 350h Luxury: Specifications
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder hybrid
Output: 179kW / Unspecified torque
Gearbox: CVT auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 18×7.5, 235/60
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 1835kg
Power-to-weight: 8.20:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 5.0L/100km
Our consumption: 5.3L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 50L/95 RONPower efficiency: 25.57kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 3.53 seconds*
0-100km/h: 7.75 seconds*
60-110km/h: 5.53 seconds*
1/4 mile: 15.35 seconds at 146.3km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.674g*
100-0km/h braking: 40.52 metres 3.11 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.114g*
Decibel at idle (/sport mode): 37*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 75*
Starting price: $73,850
*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different
2023 Lexus NX 350h Luxury: How much does it cost?
In non-hybrid form, there are two powerplant choices. The NX 250 is powered by a front-wheel drive 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 152kW and 243Nm. Then the NX 350 lifts power with an all-wheel drive 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that yields 205kW and 430Nm. Both models are paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
In hybrid form, you have the NX 350h and the NX 450h+. Both use the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a CVT auto gearbox. The 350h combines electric power to produce a peak output of 179kW. It is available in front-wheel drive and ‘eFour’ four-wheel drive. The NX450h+ is exclusively an ‘eFour’ plug-in hybrid with peak power at 227kW.
Throughout the powertrains, there are also Luxury, Sports Luxury, and F Sport trim grades to choose from. Here, we’re testing the NX 350h Luxury eFour, which retails from $73,850 (excluding on-road costs). The NX range commences at $60,800 for the NX 250, and tops out at $89,900 for the NX450h+
2023 Lexus NX 350h Luxury: Interior & packaging
External design is indisputably Lexus-style modern extravagance. It is made up of large metal areas with jagged contours all over. The way the creases blend across panels give off a sense of solid build quality. You get the recognisably huge spindle front grille and sharp-angled windows, and they still look modern. At the rear, one long LED light unit now sweeps across the tailgate and wraps around the side to the C-pillar.
The NX has grown, now that it is built on the bigger Global Architecture-K (TNGA-K) platform. This has enabled designers to produce an overall bigger SUV with a wider track (35mm wider at the front and 55mm at the rear), while reducing the rear overhang to give the NX a brawnier posture.
The tech starts even before you set foot inside. To get inside, new electrically-activated door handles, or ‘E-Latch’ technology is utilised. Essentially, they replace the mechanical pull-handle on the inside and outside with an electronic button. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take long to get used to. And it’s all in the name of safety, allowing the new ‘Safe Exit Assist’ to step in and prevent doors from being opened into the path of vehicles or bikes closely approaching from the rear.
Once you’re inside, the dominating feature is the 9.8-inch touch-screen (14-inches in the F Sport and Sports Luxury trims). It is the centrepiece of what Lexus labels the ‘Tazuna’ cockpit. Many physical buttons and dials have now been unified into the touch-screen. Thankfully, the screen is quick and clear to grasp and to adjust settings on the run.
The instrument cluster in front of the steering wheel is not quite as outstanding. It’s okay, just not impressive. You sense some Toyota-style blandness. It focuses around one dial, which gives all the power usage stats. It couples with a head-up display to offer more live info.
Regarding space, you can sit back and chill comfortably in the front and rear. Only a steep slant from the front seats might impede on taller bodies as it eats into the back row. The front seats are also moulded into one hard and solid shape, making it difficult to get good forward vision as a rear passenger.
Since the previous generation, the centre console is lower, which creates a more airy and open space around you. There are also more nifty storage spaces scattered throughout the interior, including a thoughtful space under the slidable wireless phone charging pad.
Further back to the boot, the space offered in here is commendable, with 520 litres. On paper, it falls short of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3’s 550 litres, but it seems big enough to us – it’s flat and wide. It also offers 1141 litres if you fold down the rear seats.
For the NX 350h Luxury’s interior colour scheme, buyers can choose between a black and rich cream, hazel, black, or dark rose trim.
Standard safety and tech highlights in the NX 350h Luxury include intersection turn assist, emergency steering assist, front and rear clearance Sonar sensors, lane-tracing assist, “Hey Lexus” speak recognition which has the ability to pick up on which passenger is speaking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, radar cruise with road sign detection, 10-speaker audio, heated front seats, a powered tailgate, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Our test vehicle is fitted with the $3000 ‘Enhancement Pack’ as well, which gives a moonroof, a kick sensor for the powered tailgate, and a wireless smartphone charging pad.
2023 Lexus NX 350h Luxury: Powertrain & handling
Lexus has stepped up with engine power lately – especially when combined with electric power. It’s also great that the NX leaves you with lots of choice when it comes to powertrains. The NX 350h is a decent middle ground among the range. It’s not a plug-in hybrid but it is electrified with two permanent magnet synchronous motors and a lithium-ion battery that supports a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine.
The engine extracts 140kW/239Nm on its own, or a potent 179kW when combined with the electrified side. Acceleration from 0-100km/h is achieved in 7.7 seconds according to Lexus. Our tests, using a Vbox, recorded a best effort of 7.75 seconds.
From the commanding seat, the hybrid gracefully and calmly gets up to speed quickly. You can feel that it uses the electric side a fair bit. And all that electric torque makes keeping up with traffic flow a breeze. But when you need to add further haste to your acceleration, it does it begrudgingly, in a rather piercing fashion. The engine starts to sound breathless and harsh like a run-of-the-mill, naturally-aspirated Japanese four-cylinder. There isn’t much muscularity or thrill to be experienced.
It doesn’t help that the NX 350h uses a constantly variable automatic, which makes the engine sound bland and panted. But there are six artificial steps in the linear auto, accessible via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters if you want to have a play.
The NX 350h AWD uses Lexus/Toyota’s ‘e-Four’ system. It uses battery power to drive the front and rear wheels, with a variable torque distribution ratio allowing drive to be split from 100:0 front/rear to a rear-biased 20:80.
All the beauty and benefits in this powertrain lie in fuel consumption figures. Officially, the average consumption rate is 5.0L/100km. Considering it produces 179kW of power, 5.0L/100km is impressive – lower than most of its German rivals. And the great thing is, this figure is realistic.
Our average was close, at 5.3L/100km. You’ll also find that it is more economical in city or urban environments rather than cruising on the freeway, as more frequent braking charges up the battery. But higher speed economy has improved, as the petrol engine can now be switched off when cruising downhill at speeds of up to 125km/h, compared with 68km/h in the previous-generation NX 300h.
On the road, the suspension feels soft and springy. This doesn’t necessarily equate to a luxurious ride. The initial jolt of bumps are smoothened out, but their causal bounce flows into the cabin. It easily bottoms out if you travel over bumps with speed as well.
This means that it doesn’t quite match the handling performance levels of the German luxury equivalents. It’s more in line with non-luxury SUVs, as its limitations on bends present quickly as grip and body roll set in. You get MacPherson struts and a stabiliser bar up front, and a trailing arm double-wishbone setup at the rear. Obviously, the NX 450h+ with its adaptive shock absorbers handles fast cornering significantly better.
The NX 350h has been engineered more for the bitumen than off road. The low ground clearance of 180mm, run-flat tyres and no spare wheel, and the lack of off-road driving modes means you shouldn’t take your NX further off the tar than perhaps a rough dirt road. In base model form you do get tall 235/60 tyres though, which can help in these kinds of environments.
2023 Lexus NX 350h Luxury: Key attractions/reasons to buy
If you don’t care much for performance attributes, the NX 350h will woo you with its low and realistic fuel consumption averages and emissions.
Lexus has one of the best after-sales support systems on the market; and surprisingly, it’s not costly. All NX grades come with capped-price servicing for three years or 45,000km (every 15,000km or 12 months), at $495 each service. This includes the dealership collecting your NX from home or work and leaving you with a loan vehicle.
You also receive three years of roadside assistance, a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, a 10-year warranty on the battery, and membership to the brand’s Encore Platinum owner benefits program. The program gives owners benefits like access to Lexus vehicles when travelling interstate or to New Zealand, access to exclusive events and offers, and a five cent per litre Ampol discount on premium unleaded fuel.
Lexus still means high-tech luxury in our minds. Its first-class external design and high-quality interior and centre touch-screen continue to live up to the name. There is a decent list of features as standard, and you’ll appreciate the wide variety of powertrain options available in Australia.
2023 Lexus NX 350h Luxury: Key considerations before you buy
In 350h spec, it lacks thrill from the non-turbo engine and CVT auto, but if you want such characteristics the NX 450h+ can fill any voids, or go for the 2.4 turbo and eight-speed auto in the NX 350. The handling is also not quite as sharp as some of the European offerings.
For its intended purposes, however, this does tick a lot of boxes. It’s reasonably quick, merely sips fuel, and offers good practicality and brilliant build quality.
2023 Lexus NX 350h Luxury: Video
How does it rate against its rivals?
The NX 350h is a high achiever as a mid-sized SUV in the categories of luxury, build quality, and economy. But there isn’t much passion in the driving department in our opinion, even though handling dynamics have improved a lot over the previous model thanks to the introduction of the TNGA platform.