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2016 Lexus NX300h - Luxury Over All Else

April 26, 2016

The theory of a hybrid vehicle makes sense; fuel efficiency is increased, negative environmental impact is decreased, and depending on the specific technology, the driving experience can actually be smoother and more refined. However, the benefits of a hybrid vehicle can sometimes come at the cost of other driving elements, as we discover in the 2016 Lexus NX 300h.

 

Design:

 

EXT: The 2016 NX is a handsome vehicle, overall. As the mid-size RX’s little brother, the compact luxury crossover NX beautifully incorporates Lexus’ current design language and aggressive lines. The sharp hourglass shape of the grille and lightning-bolt-like LED lights make the NX unmistakable as a Lexus when seen in rearview mirrors. There is a slight overbite in the general appearance of the front fascia, but that is easily remedied by the optional F-Sport package, which includes a front air splitter. Our NX is fitted with the 18” split-five-spoke wheels, which fill the fender wells nicely, completing the SUV’s aesthetic.

 

INT: The interior is exactly what we would expect from Lexus; refined, sharp, and premium-feeling. Fit and finish is near perfection. With the center console’s generous storage capacity and small, pull-out mirror, it is obvious that Lexus is aiming for female buyers with the NX; and judging by the reactions from AUTONOTAStv’s female team members about the interior’s features and ergonomics, Lexus has certainly hit their target.

 

 

What we do not find so appealing about the NX is not necessarily unique to the model, but rather the brand. Lexus’ Etune system, with the optional “Remote Touch,” can be clumsy. The NX infotainment control was no exception. Meant to mimic the functionality of a mouse pad, the Remote Touch pad allows the driver to scroll through music, navigation, etc. However, considering the sometimes inaccurate nature of the cursor, overall system interaction is not exactly pleasurable.

 

What we do not find so appealing about the NX is not necessarily unique to the model, but rather the brand. Lexus’ Etune system, with the optional “Remote Touch,” can be clumsy. The NX infotainment control was no exception. Meant to mimic the functionality of a mouse pad, the Remote Touch pad allows the driver to scroll through music, navigation, etc. However, considering the sometimes inaccurate nature of the cursor, overall system interaction is not exactly pleasurable. In the exterior and interior design department, the NX has remained true to what the market has come to expect from Lexus; refinement and quality, with a sporty flair. 

 

Driving: As discussed earlier, depending on a particular vehicle’s segment, hybrid versions may sacrifice certain elements that make driving enjoyable, for the sake of efficiency. In the case of the NX 300h, we believe said sacrifices have been made in vain. The NX 300h’s average fuel economy is only 7mpg higher than the NX 200t. The 300h’s fuel tank is also nearly three gallons smaller than the 200t’s, which in LA traffic, makes for seemingly more frequent pit stops at the gas station. All in all, efficiency increases from the 200t to 300h are negligible.

 

Under acceleration, from any RPM, the 300h feels underpowered, which it is. At over two tons, with only 194 horsepower and, worse yet, 154 pound-feet of torque, we look at our watch on freeway on-ramps. Our 300h’s 0-60 time is just under 10 seconds. Sport mode does not help much; it prevents main engine shut-off at red lights and keeps RPMs up, but there is no notable performance improvement.

 

Brake feel is almost non-existent, as the braking system in completely electronic. The brakes are highly effective, but by no means confidence inspiring. We find ourselves just dumping our foot into the pedal, wondering what braking characteristics will arise each time around. Braking predictability in the 300h is definitely an area that needs improvement.

 

Steering is direct enough, given the vehicle’s completely by-wire nature. The NX is sharp and goes where you point it, almost when you point it. Road feedback, on the other hand, is rather numb. The NX steers well, but do not expect to feel the road at your fingertips. Another complaint we have about the 300h is it’s ECVT. Hammer the accelerator pedal and you are met with high revs and little acceleration. It is almost comical how the 300h revs to nearly no end, but does not shift, like a blender set to “liquefy!”

 

In the case of Lexus NX model lineup, the hybrid version may not make much sense to most buyers. If one rarely ventures out from a 5-mile radius, the 300h might make sense in terms of fuel efficiency. But in real world commutes and longer distances, there is just no benefit to going with the hybrid option. What $10K in hybrid options and technology gets you, in the case of Lexus’ NX, is a handful of extra MPGs and a rubbish driving experience. Is it worth it? Let’s just say, we are excited to review the 200t. 

 

_

Weak, uninvolving powertrain

Absent brake feel

Clumsy infotainment system

 

+

Interior refinement and comfort

Exterior design

 

Specs:

Engine – 2.5 liter I-4, Hybrid

Drivetrain – AWD

Horsepower – 194 @ 5700 RPM

Torque – 152 @ 4400 RPM

Transmission – Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT)

Weight – 4180 lbs

Starting Price -  $39,720; Tested at $48,985

 

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