Lexus does everything except make the tea
Executive motors are incredibly sophisticated these days with fabulous features which seem to do everything except make the tea. No doubt someone at Lexus is fine-tuning just such a device at this very moment.
But even without a cup of Yorkshire’s finest, this model is impressively ahead of the game.
There is no tiny screen here, more of a vast television-sized monitor which you swipe and pinch and press, much like an iphone.
And using the Lexus Link app, owners can activate the car’s heating and ventilation before setting out, for example cooling the cabin or de-icing the screen in preparation for a journey.
Yet, away from the computerised wizardry, it remains a very interesting car indeed. Big, bold and smart, it actually costs less than you might imagine.
This is the second generation of the mid-size luxury SUV and it introduces new design, new powertrains, new connectivity, safety and convenience technologies and comprehensively improved dynamic performance.
The NX 450h starts at under £40,000, which I admit is still a lot of money but compared to some other executive SUVs, it’s positively paltry. Even the packed-to-the-hilt version here costs just over £50,000. A fortune to you and I, but in the grand scheme of all things in the posh SUV universe it is positively affordable.
The original NX launched 2014 became Lexus’ best-selling model in Europe, with more than 175,000 sold, most of them to customers new to the brand. Currently, the NX accounts for around one third of Lexus’ European sales and it is also a key model globally, with worldwide sales already above one million.
So, how does it square up? It’s a decent looking vehicle. I quite like the boldness and the strong angles, but I imagine some think it’s too quirky, too un-subtle even.
If the exterior divides opinion, than the cabin certainly doesn’t: it’s spectacularly good. It used to be the German brands which had the best dashboards but this gives Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz a run for their euros. It is minimalist but at the same time packed with quality.
The number of switches has been reduced from 78 to 45 and they have been grouped in zones. Physical buttons have been retained for the most frequently used functions, for quicker, more intuitive operation. Those used when driving are arranged around the wheel; the audio and air conditioning controls have been consolidated in the central display screen; and driving controls that can be used when the vehicle is stationery are located in the centre console.
And when you want to get out of the car, don’t think about pulling a lever. Instead, simply press a button and the door opens. Now, this is system too far. Solve problems if you can, but opening a door was never a problem in the first place. Still, it will be an interesting talking point when your passengers can’t exit the vehicle, even if they are tired of you blithering on about yet more technological advancements.
It is called e-latch. This allows the door to be opened with a smooth, simple and near-silent motion, inspired by the shoji sliding room dividers in Japanese homes. Nice idea, but I’m unconvinced.
Now this car might be green with incredible miles per gallon and very low emissions but it is sporty in the extreme. Push the accelerator and you can top 60mph in 6.3 seconds.
The car is the company’s first plug hybrid electric and halo model of the range, with 305bhp, combined emissions between 20 and 26g/km and 43 to 47 miles range in electric mode, rising to 55 to 61 miles in urban areas. It will even generate electric power as it drives in petrol mode.
It is a sporty model. On F Sport models as tested they are equipped with Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) and Sport mode is replaced by Sport S and Sport S+. Selecting Sport S+ provides additional control of the AVS and electric power steering (EPS) to give more focused sporting, responsive performance. An additional Custom mode allows the user to apply their preferred settings for the powertrain, AVS, EPS and air conditioning.
It is also a very practical car. The “no compromise” packaging of the NX’s interior allows for a generous load capacity: the load space height is the same as in the previous model but is 40mm longer. Thus, load space is 545 litres with the rear seats in place – more space for day-to-day use. This increases to a maximum 1,436 litres with the seats folded down. There is sufficient room to carry three golf bags or two large suitcases, without the seats being lowered.
Lexus might still seem like a new brand but it has been with us since 1989 as the upmarket wing of Toyota. It has now expanded to 12 models spanning SUVs, saloons, convertibles and coupes. My favourite? The LC, which is a darling of a coupe, or the LC C, its topless sibling.
But I loved the NX more than I expected. For a boxy SUV, it has much to praise.
Lexus NX450h F Sport Premium Plus
Price: £51,760. NX450h starts at £39,760
Engine: A 2,487cc four-cylinder engine and an electric motor with a combined 305bhp. It has a 43-mile electric driving range
Performance: Top speed 124mph and 0 to 60mph in 6.3 seconds
Costs: 256.8mpg, provided you charge up the electric motor
Insurance: Group 40E
Warranty: Three years, 60,000 miles