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Car reviews - Lexus - NX - 350h F Sport


We like
Strong, smooth and efficient driveline, confident handling, mostly well-sorted ride, logical human-machine interface, comfortable and supportive seating throughout
Room for improvement
Some vibration through dashboard, light but evident tyre rumble, rear-seat space best for younger children, minor connectivity quibbles

Mid-sized premium SUV is loaded with luxury and tech, and super-efficient as well

6 Apr 2023



THE Lexus NX has been on sale in Australia for just over a year, the Japanese premium marque’s five-seat medium SUV priced from $60,800 plus on-road costs and offering various engine choices, including a direct-injection 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol, 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol, and both petrol-electric hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. Not to mention two- and all-wheel drive.


The NX range begins with the NX250 which is fitted with a 152kW/243Nm normally aspirated 2.5-litre petrol engine and eight-speed automatic transmission, the two-wheel drive variant debuting Lexus’ “human-centric” Tazuna cockpit, which includes power adjustable and heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and a 9.8-inch infotainment array featuring “Hey Lexus!” voice recognition, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity, plus DAB+ digital radio reception.


The entry-grade NX also features 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with automatic high-beam assist, a power-operated tailgate, as well as an extensive range of safety technologies. The NX250 includes safe exit assist (SEA) with new e-latch electrically activated door handles, which can detect cyclist and passing vehicles and prevent the Lexus’ doors from being opened. 


The Lexus-first system joins intersection-turn assist (ITA), emergency steering assist (ESA), parking support brake (PKSB), blind-spot monitor (BSM), dynamic radar active cruise control (DRCC), lane-tracing assist (LTA), and road-sign assist (RSA). All NX derivatives are further equipped with Lexus Connected Services, which includes SOS call functionality.


Lexus says the NX250 can accelerate from standstill to 100km/h in 8.7 seconds and that it has a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 6.9 litres per 100km.


Moving up the price sheet, the $65,800 (+ORCs) NX350h Luxury range will arrive with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine coupled to an electric motor. The maximum combined power for two-wheel drive variants is listed at 179kW/239Nm (petrol engine), with the electric motor adding its own 270Nm kick. On the all-wheel drive variant ($70,400 +ORCs) the peak output of the electric motor is 391Nm. Both variants feature a continuously variable transmission (CVT).


Lexus says the two-wheel-drive NX350h Luxury can accelerate from zero to 100km/h in 8.7 seconds and the AWD variant is a second faster. Optimal combined-cycle fuel economy is 5.0 litres per 100km. The NX350h’s equipment levels are otherwise identical to those of the NX250.


Next up is the NX350h Sports Luxury. Priced from $73,100 (+ORCs), the mid-tier derivative is available in two- and all-wheel drive guises, but offers additional equipment compared with its Luxury-spec siblings.


Extra features include 20-inch alloys, tri-beam LED headlights, leather-accented upholstery, a larger 14.0-inch infotainment screen, 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster, colour head-up display, 360-degree camera, ventilated front seats, digital rear-view mirror, wireless smartphone charging pad and a 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system.


The F Sport range is also priced from $73,100 (+ORCs) and is offered with the hybrid powertrain found in the NX350h (tested) or with a 205kW/430Nm 2.4-litre turbo-petrol engine and eight-speed automatic combination. Lexus says the latter can accelerate from standstill to 100km/h in 7.0 seconds and return a combined cycle fuel economy figure of 8.1 litres per 100km.


F Sport derivatives include a sports body kit, body-coloured wheel arches, black window surrounds, scuff plates, perforated leather-accented steering wheel and transmission lever, alloy pedals, sports seats, Hadori aluminium ornamentation, and five-mode Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) with performance dampers front and rear.


Lexus’ F Sport range is available with the same enhancement packs offered on the NX350h Sports Luxury.


Finally, and priced from $89,900 (+ORCs) is the NX450h+ F Sport all-wheel drive. The range-topping variant merges the equipment from standard NX F Sport grades with a moonroof, heated steering wheel and a digital rear-view mirror.


The NX450h+ F Sport is powered by a 227kW plug-in hybrid powertrain comprising a 2.5-litre petrol engine and dual electric motors – one on each axle. Power is sourced from an 18.1kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which Lexus says can provide an all-electric driving range of up to 87km.


The flagship variant is said to be capable of accelerating 0-100km/h in 6.3 seconds and its optimal combined cycle fuel economy is rated at just 1.3 litres per 100km.


Included in the price of the NX450h+ are two charging cables and a complementary home-charger installation (by JetCharge). The latter is claimed to reduce charging times (from depleted to fully charged) to about two-and-a-half hours.


Customers can also choose to upgrade to a premium charger with additional scope of functionality, such as a touch-display, Wi-Fi and Ethernet compatibility, smartphone app connectivity and dynamic load management.


What’s more, NX450h+ owners will receive a three-year membership to the Lexus Encore Platinum owner benefits program, which includes Lexus on Demand, through which members can borrow another Lexus on four occasions, for up to eight days.


The Lexus Encore Platinum members are also provided with eight valet parking passes to use at select Westfield shopping centres and the Chadstone shopping centre in Melbourne.


Finally, the brand has also introduced a new Lexus Connected smartphone app to coincide with the arrival of the NX. Like in ES and LS models, the NX comes with complimentary Lexus Connected Services, including automatic collision notification, SOS emergency call and stolen vehicle tracking.


Together with the existing Lexus App, through which owners can access the Lexus Encore owner benefits program, the new app introduces new connectivity features, such as Lexus Remote Connect, which allows owners to operate some of the vehicle’s functions via their phones, Lexus Status Connect, which allows access to a wealth of vehicle information and analyses the driver’s acceleration, braking and cornering behaviour to produce a Drive Pulse rating, as well as Lexus Multimedia Connect, which includes cloud-based connected navigation with live traffic, weather, parking and map updates, location searching, and first-mile and last-mile routing.


It also offers personalisation of various functions, broader voice command functionality, access to notifications and web browsing through the head unit using Wi-Fi tethering to a user's smartphone.


On NX250 and Luxury grades, the system uses cloud-based maps – where a Data Communication Module (DCM) connection is available – and provides surrounding area map data for temporary offline navigation. The system allows the driver to ask their Lexus for info about the nearest petrol station and receive live directions, live traffic, parking and location services via the DCM.


In addition, F Sport and Sports Luxury grades feature embedded satellite navigation mapping.


Lexus offers three years’ complimentary Lexus Connected Services subscription and membership of the Lexus Encore owner benefits program (from the registration date of applicable models).


All Lexus passenger vehicles are backed by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants receive a 10-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty on the battery.


Driving Impressions


For most of us, the Lexus NX is a great mid-sized SUV. In fact, it’s probably the Goldilocks of the Japanese luxury car-maker’s SUV line-up. Not too big. Not too small.


It really is the right sized SUV for a wide range of buyers, be they younger families, singles, downsizers or even upsizers, assuming you’ve come from a premium hatch or compact SUV.


But more than that, it’s a terrific SUV to drive in a variety of conditions and environments, which is to say it will suit city and country buyers alike. We spent the Monday to Friday jostle commuting from the city to the suburbs in Lexus’ NX350h F Sport before taking a leisurely country drive over a weekend. Both were little short of a delight.


The NX performs very well around town and sits smartly in city traffic. It offers an exceptional view forward and operates comfortable in stop-and-go traffic, an environment where Lexus’ well-calibrated driver assistance technologies really come into their own.


Fuel economy – and remembering this is a petrol-electric hybrid vehicle hovered in the low- to mid-5.0-litre/100km range, which didn’t really degrade during highway driving where the indicated read-out sat at a steady 5.8L/100km.


However, the NX does show a little variance in ride quality when sampling the two environments. Sharp edged potholes and bridge expansion gaps can jar the ride considerably, the low profile rubber and larger alloy wheel combination of the F Sport grade transmitting quick a shock to the cabin. But experience the car on lumpy and poorly surfaced sections of road and you’ll barely notice a thing.


The ride is far softer than you would expect. There is no head toss to speak of and little nasty pitching motion when accelerating and decelerating. In a word, the NX maintains its composure very well, and is not easily upset by unexpected mid-corner bumps, retaining its intended line with confidence and accuracy.


We found the level of body roll to be well curtailed by Lexus’s fast-acting adaptive dampers. Fast directional changes failed to upset the NX’s hold on the road surface, even in damp conditions. And pleasingly, with the exception of a little tyre thrum, the cabin remained quiet as well, which for those with longer commutes is bound to be a blessing.


Unfortunately, there is a little vibration transmitted to the cabin when travelling on coarse chip asphalt or over poorly maintained surfaces. A light, plastic vibration is heard from behind the binnacle, shaking the head-up display notably. It is a bothersome issue that contradicts the quality and serenity otherwise experienced in the cabin, and something we hope is peculiar to this hard-driven test car.


Away from that, the cabin is appreciably quiet with little wind noise and almost no mechanical din to speak of. It is also a surprisingly capacious space in which to spend time, though lanky teens and taller adults may find rear-seat head- and legroom somewhat limited, especially over longer distances. Cargo space is adequate for a weekend’s luggage or a mess of heavy school bags.


We found the fit and finish of the cabin to be excellent, with wonderful attention to detail and a smooth transition between contrasting materials. The amount of storage offered is incredible given the size of the car, the centre console – with its bi-fold lidded bin, generous cup holders and useful device tray – a particularly well-thought-out inclusion.


On the downside, however, we did experience a couple of interesting connectivity glitches with the wireless Apple CarPlay system. The connection dropped entirely on one occasion and needed to be reset. We also had difficult in having the system automatically attenuate the music being played when reading a text or taking a call… perhaps a system reset or software update was in order.


Otherwise, there is very little to complain about inside the cabin. The climate control system maintains temperature exceptionally well and can be adjusted or trimmed down to a softer response so that the fan noise isn't distracting over a conversation or the glorious of the Mark Levinson stereo.


The way the heated and ventilated seats interact with the climate control an automatic mode is likewise exceptional, as is the heated steering wheel, which is a welcome feature on cool autumn mornings.


On balance, we really enjoyed our time with the Lexus NX. It really is a wonderful car in many, many aspects. It is not only a terrific size, but it drives and feels the way a premium SUV should. The cabin is sensibly packaged, the design cohesive, and the feel at the wheel exceptionally fluid.


If you’re shopping for an SUV in the small-to-medium prestige segment then the NX is one vehicle that deserves to be very high up the wish list, particularly if the clinical ‘sameness’ of the German marques is becoming a little hard to take.

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