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Test drive: Lexus NX 450h+, the brand’s first plug-in hybrid electric model

LLM motoring editor Lisa Curtiss reviews the all-new Lexus NX 450h+, the brand’s first plug-in hybrid electric model.

By Lisa Curtiss  |  July 7, 2022
Lexus NX 450h+

The all-new Lexus NX is serious competition for all luxury medium-sized SUVs, with its eye-catching design, dynamic driver-focused performance and efficient eco-forward plug-in hybrid electric powertrain which is a first for the brand.

Lexus is on a roll for creating cars as desirable to gaze at as they are great to drive. It’s hard to fault the elegant lines of the sublime LC500 we’ve tested, which happens to be swift, beautifully balanced and engaging to drive.

The all-new NX also has ample kerb appeal with its bold muscular curves contrasting with sharp angles to give it substance yet sportiness. It’s all about preserving the avant-garde character that proved so attractive to customers with the first-generation model while using a new more sophisticated, mature and dynamic design language. The result is what the brand calls ‘functional beauty,’ a blending of design with performance to produce styling that delivers improved aerodynamics, noise reduction and fuel efficiency.

Viewed from the front, the hallmark Lexus grille plays a more integral role in the design. Its lines flow back to accentuate the long bonnet and generate the overall form and volume of the body as it flares broadly through the muscular rear wings. The elegant shape of the bonnet also supports good forward visibility from the driver’s seat.

Lexus NX 450h+ front view

Head to the back to appreciate how the model’s long and sleek front-end contrasts with a condensed rear section with its short overhang and powerful haunches. The rear view is distinguished by new L-shaped all-LED light clusters, and Lexus’s signature blade lighting which spans the width of the vehicle, a feature first seen on the UX compact luxury SUV.

There’s a choice of 11 colours, including three shades that use Lexus’s advanced sonic paint technology – sonic white, sonic titanium and new sonic grey. Five ultra-thin layers of paint with compressed pigment particles are applied and hand polished to achieve striking light and shade contrasts and a deeper lustre across the bodywork.

Slip inside the new NX to really appreciate how excellent Lexus’ cabins are. This is the first model to feature Lexus’s Tazuna concept for the driver’s cockpit, an approach that was first revealed in the Lexus LF-30 Electrified concept car. Taking its name from a Japanese word describing a rider’s use of the reins to control a horse, it focuses on giving the driver direct, intuitive control of the vehicle, following the principal of ‘hands on the wheel, eyes on the road’. It also raises the quality of the driving experience, making the driver feel confident and in command of their vehicle and their surroundings.

Lexus NX 450h+ rear view

Chief engineer Takeaki Kato explains: “We have redefined the ideal cockpit space as the contact point between driver and vehicle, aiming for a cockpit that enables a deeper and more intuitive connection and allows for more faithful controllability of the vehicle.”

To help keep the driver’s attention focused on the road ahead, the primary sources of information – the multi-information display, multimedia screen, gauges, meters and optional head-up display – are grouped so they can be read at a glance. The number of switches has been reduced significantly too, to keep the cockpit as uncluttered as possible.

There’s a new, more-ergonomic design steering wheel too, and the shift lever – styled like those found in the Lexus LC and LS flagship models – was made as compact as possible, but with a snug fit in the hand and set at an ideal angle. Similarly, the length of the arm rest on the centre console has been increased to improve comfort for both the driver and front seat passenger. The cockpit feeling is created by the shape of the driver’s space curving around from the door to the centre console.

Lexus NX 450h+ front view

While the driver experiences the focused, engaging environment created by the new Tazuna cockpit design, passengers enjoy a greater sense of space with an elevated level of comfort, quality and attention to detail that are quintessentially Lexus, evoking the feeling of a luxurious lounge. Great attention has been paid to making the seats as comfortable as possible and eight-way power adjustment, plus lumbar support, is available for the front seats on high grade models, while on F Sport models additional forward/back headrest adjustment is provided.

Gentle, indirect cabin illumination can be adjusted using the Lexus mood selector to help create the right effect for every journey, with ambient lighting in the footwells, door panels and centre console. There are 64 different colours to choose from; of these, 14 have been pre-defined to reflect different moods inspired by nature. Climate control has also been enhanced and there’s minimum interference from road, wind or engine noise thanks to range of enhancements.

As an SUV you’d expect there to be space, and there is. The load space is 545 litres with the rear seats in place, increasing to a maximum 1,436 litres with the seats folded down. There is sufficient room to carry three golf bags or two large suitcases (77 and 63-litre), without the seats being lowered.

Lexus NX 450h+ charging

Out on the road, this is a delight of a car to drive. Unlike may SUVs of this class, it’s agile, swift and responsive.

Lexus has drawn on more than 15 years of hybrid technology expertise to produce this first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). The full plug-in system, including electric motors and battery, produces a maximum 305bhp/227 kW, enabling acceleration from 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds. At the same time, CO2 emissions between 20 and 26g/km and fuel economy between 256.8 and 313.9mpg are among the best in the new NX’s class.

Thanks to its powerful battery and superior efficiency, NX 450h+ also provides a substantially higher EV range. At 43 to 47 miles combined, rising to 55 to 61 miles in the urban cycle – twice the range offered by competitor cars. The NX 450h+ is also equipped as standard with Lexus’s intelligent E-Four electric all-wheel drive system and has a 1.5-tonne (braked) towing capacity.

Feature wise, there’s a raft of safety, dynamics and infotainment tech to appreciate. Our top trim Takumi model’s highlights include the excellent third generation Lexus Safety System+ with Pre- Collision System, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Trace Assist, Road Sign Assist and Automatic High Beam/Adaptive High-beam System. Also, Head Up Display, Lexus Link Pro multimedia system with four- year connected services subscription, cloud-based navigation, embedded navigation, voice assistant, 14-inch HD touchscreen and faster CPU, leather upholstery, eight-way power front seat adjustment and more.

Over all this is a highly desirable, top quality, luxurious and attractive SUV that’s a pleasure to drive and be a passenger in. It’s a lot of car for the circa £59,700 cost. For more information visit, lexus.co.uk/car-models/nx/plug-in-specifications/.