Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested

Published:01 February 2022

Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

► We drive the new Lexus NX
► Lexus says it’s 95 per cent new
► PHEV is velvety, regular hybrid less so

How important is an infotainment setup? In 2022 is it paramount to make a car recommendable?

Never has the answer been a more emphatic yes than with the Lexus NX. Every posh Toyota review for the last few years has had a but the size of an elephant. And that but says: ‘but, the infotainment is cack.’ This new one is much better and ultimately makes the NX a much more recommendable car.

Other new things include a clever, frugal and expensive plug-in hybrid system, a first for Lexus, and electronic door latches that should prevent you from clotheslining cyclists.

It doesn’t look much different on the outside

Lexus claims it’s 95% new but, stylistically, it’s definitely an evolution.

It’s still dominated by the massive ‘Spindle’ grille, and from the front and sides it does look broadly similar to the old car – the full-width tail light round the back is a nice new addition though.

Plug me in and power me up

The plug-in car has a familiar 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine running the energy-efficient Atkinson cycle paired up to an electric motor on the front axle, while a separate motor powers the rear giving the NX electric four-wheel drive.

Badged 450h+, it has an 18.1kWh battery pack sitting under the floor. A full charge takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes using a home wallbox, and properly juiced up Lexus claims a range of 42 miles on mixed roads or up to 55 miles in urban conditions. That’s slightly more than an X3 or Evoque, though not as much as the recently updated XC60.

It’ll do up to 83mph on electric power, too, making it more than just a temporary thing for towns. And the brand’s focus on refinement means it really is silent when the engine’s off, in contrast with some rivals where the combustion motor’s absence serves to highlight wind and road noise all the more.

And the self-charging one?

We’ve managed to make it this far without detonating the self-charging bomb, but we may as well include it for the commenters.

It uses the same 2.5-litre four banger, except it’s not paired with an electric motor that can drive up to 42-miles on its own.

Output is 241hp and 0-62mph is dealt with in 7.7 seconds for the four-wheel drive model and 8.7 for the front-wheel drive car.

On our 70-ish mile test drive with the four-wheel drive version we managed 42mpg which is pretty damn close to its WLTP (44.1-47.9mpg) figures.

What’s the inside like?

Previously, Lexus’ insistence on sticking with an awkward floating joystick and later, a touchpad, combined with ancient and ugly software meant frustration on every journey. It couldn’t be ignored. But it had to be tolerated.

Glory be, it no longer needs tolerating. The old system’s been replaced by a full touchscreen unit – 9.8-inches across on the base model nobody’s going to buy, and a massive 14-inches on the higher-spec cars.

It’s responsive enough, easy to use, comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (which you might prefer to use) and a Siri-style voice assistant (which you probably won’t).

Bright, clear and simple, it’s probably the single biggest upgrade over the old car, and it’s been a long, LONG time coming.

The rest of the cabin’s neat, too. It’s very driver-focused, with controls clustered tightly around the captain’s chair and the touchscreen angled towards it too. The physical switches largely make sense – a ‘home’ button for the infotainment would have been nice, but it’s good to see physical A/C controls, a volume dial and rotary drive mode selector.

It is a shame, however, that the steering wheel controls have had a bit of a downgrade – they’re now multifunctional and unmarked, Lexus expecting you to see what function they’re intending to commit by staring at a chart on the head-up display.

Rear seat and boot space is average rather than class-leading, but quality is top-notch and it’s nice that Lexus will offer a wide variety of colourful upholstery choices instead of the unrelenting seas of black you find in most rivals. It feels more of a luxury vehicle than an X3 does.

How is it to drive?

It’s fine. Not earth-shattering, not groundbreaking, but importantly, not tiresome either.

The handling is tidy and precise, but lacks much in the way of engagement.

The plug-in feels very Lexussy indeed. It’s silent, perky enough if not exactly quick and feels up for an undemanding commute or school run.

The brand has more experience making hybrids than just about any other company and it’s pretty much nailed the experience when it comes to daily driving. Having enough power in reserve – 305bhp to be precise – means that you don’t need to work the four-pot that hard in most situations, so the typical CVT mooing doesn’t occur unless you’re really flooring it.

Performance is peppy when you need it to be, too, with a 6.3-second 0-62mph sprint and plenty of puff in reserve for overtakes. Just don’t bother with the Sport or Eco driving modes. The former misses the point of this car while the latter is miserable.

The same can’t be said for the regular hybrid. Without that huge slug of electric torque to help out, its 241bhp can feel strained under hard load.

Sure, the 0-62mph time is dealt with in 7.7 seconds in 4WD cars (8.7 for FWD), but ask too much of it and the CVT becomes a bit DAF-like.

Both plug-in and regular hybrid models ride well. F-Sport models get adaptive dampers and set to Comfort, they glide down the motorway and deal well with pockmarked tarmac too.

Even the regular models with passive suspension handle Britain’s roads very well.

Anything else?

We found the seats on our F-Sport test car a bit huggy for those who are broad in the buttock. A Lexus should have sofas so we’ll hope that less sporting trims feature wider bases.

Lexus is making plenty of noise about safety kit, and it’s true that the standard roster is very impressive – adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping aids, autonomous emergency braking, road sign assist and all-round LED lights.

Lexus NX: verdict

It still won’t set any keen driver’s heart on fire, but the new Lexus NX is comfortable, efficient, and should prove utterly painless to own – helped by up to 10 years of warranty cover. And for many, that’ll be enough.

The upgraded infotainment is a revelation that’s been far too long in the making, and improvements to the old car’s comfort and practicality are also welcome additions. As with other Lexus models, it feels welded, rather than screwed together.

The plug-in hybrid is the more convincing of the two engine choices, but it’s pricier. You’re looking at close to £60,000 for a top-of-the-line car. And that’s BMW X5 money.

Specs

Price when new: £48,745
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 2487cc 4cyl petrol hybrid, 305bhp @ 6000rpm, 167lb ft @ 2000-3700rpm
Transmission: CVT, electric all-wheel drive
Performance: 6.3sec 0-62mph, 124mph, 313.9mpg, 20g/km
Weight / material: 1990kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4660/1865/1660

Rivals

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  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
  • Lexus NX (2022) review: plug-in and self-charging hybrid tested
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