Hybrid Efficiency in A Premium SUV
If you are considering stepping-up to owning a Lexus, congratulations on reaching a certain level of success. The reward for such success is having the finer things in life, which is exactly where Lexus has positioned itself: affordable luxury.
How does owning a Lexus make it different from owning a Toyota, because, as we all know, Toyota (the parent company of Lexus) also builds high-quality cars? Lexus will tell you it is the owner experience that begins at the dealership and continues through many years of driving one of their cars.
Clean Fleet Report recently had the opportunity to drive the 2017 Lexus NX 300h AWD. We were looking forward to our week-long time behind the wheel as we had just finished driving the 2017 Toyota RAV4h AWD, on which the NX 300h AWD is based. Our comparisons are below, but suffice it to say that the modest premium for stepping-up to the Lexus should be a serious consideration.
The all-wheel drive 2017 Lexus NX 300h is powered by a parallel hybrid drivetrain, the Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive. In the parallel hybrid system the electric motor can power the car by itself, the gas engine can power the car by itself, or they can power the car together.
The Hybrid Synergy Drive system comprises a 2.5-liter, 16-valve I-4 engine, that runs on unleaded regular. The Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) produces 154 horsepower (hp) and 152 pounds-feet of torque. The hybrid portion consists of two electric motor generators (MG 1 and MG2): MG 1 starts the ICE and charges the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) hybrid battery, while MG2 drives the wheels and regenerates during braking and coasting, producing 141 hp. Combined Hybrid Synergy Drive system horsepower is 194.
The power gets to all four wheels via an electronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The EPA rates the fuel economy at 33 city mpg/30 highway/31 combined 31. In 310 miles of 65-percent highway/35-percent city driving, Clean Fleet Report achieved an average of 32.2 mpg. However, in two 100-mile all-freeway, all-cruise control runs, we averaged 35.8 mpg. So, while it is always nice topping the EPA estimate, you should be aware (maybe excited or intrigued?) that the NX 300h gets excellent fuel economy for a compact SUV and is a solid contender of CFR’s 30 MPG AWD Club.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Our 2017 Lexus NX 300h AWD weighed in at a hefty 4,180 lbs. which made us wonder if a turbo might be a nice addition. The Lexus Hybrid Synergy Drive system ran smooth, quiet and was not buzzy, but acceleration was slow. Maybe it was the weight?
Ed note—The non-hybrid NX 300 does feature a 2-liter, 235-hp, turbocharged engine that has better performance on paper, but also has significantly lower fuel economy.
There are three driver-selectable settings of EV, Eco and Sport, offering distinctly different driving opportunities. For everyday around-town driving and once up-to-speed on the highway, the performance from Eco was fine. However, load the NX300h with five passengers plus their gear and the need for more power will become apparent.
- EV runs solely on electricity for about a half mile at no more than 25 miles per hour.
- Eco prioritizes fuel economy by optimizing throttle response and reducing the air conditioning output.
- Sport sharpens the shift points, throttle response and steering feel. Selecting Sport mode will get you to 0 – 60 between eight and nine seconds. Respectful enough, but certainly not a speed burner.
The ride was smooth on the highway and around town. The electric-assisted power steering offered acceptable road feel while body lean for a small crossover was manageable. Clean Fleet Report’s NX 300h came with the Luxury Package option that included 18-inch wheels and 225/60R All-season tires, MacPherson struts up front, a double wishbone rear suspension, with stabilizer bars all the way around. Overall the NX 300h was pleasant and easy to drive. Wind noise was low with a respectable 0.34 coefficient of drag (Cd).
Stopping was straight, without fade on repeated stops. The four-wheel power-assisted disc, anti-lock brakes, were part of the regenerative charging system that converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery when applying the brakes or coasting. To complete the stopping suite was brake assist, electronic brake distribution, vehicle stability control and smart stop technology – all standard equipment.
Driving Experience: Interior
The base 2017 Lexus NX 300h interior is quite nice, but opting for one of the five optional variations you can raise the interior comfort, look and feel a few notches. The dash layout is simple, with straight-forward gauges and controls, all within easy reach of the driver. Clean Fleet Report is a big fan of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls, so Lexus earned our praise. Our Luxury Package came with leather seats that are heated, power-adjustable and ventilated up front, while the outboard rear seats recline. The driver’s seat is 10-way power-adjustable, which includes power lumbar support, the passenger is eight-way power-adjustable. We also liked the center armrest’s correct height and large storage area and the eight cup holders throughout the cabin. Have no fear of cabin occupants becoming dehydrated.
There is a combination of hard and soft plastic on the dash and door panel surfaces, with seating for five and ample rear head and leg room. A third row would have been tight, so we appreciate Lexus not trying to cram one in. Storage is good with the rear seat up (including four under-floor storage areas for securing valuables from inquisitive eyes), but expansive when the 60/40 rear seat is folded flat–well, almost flat. It is curious that the rear seat does not fold completely flat, something that is de rigueur for crossovers and SUVs. Access to the storage area is through a power lift gate, with a convenient low lift-over load height.
There was no challenge finding a comfortable seating position with the power tilt and telescopic steering column, and the heated leather-wrapped steering wheel that included audio and telephone controls. Our NX 300h had the optional Navigation Package with the upgrade Lexus 10-speaker Premium Sound System with a subwoofer. This package includes a seven-inch touchscreen color display that handled navigation, the backup camera and SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3. Connectivity includes a USB port with iPod control, aux-in jacks, advanced casual voice recognition, Bluetooth streaming audio and hands-free telephone with Siri Eyes Free mode. The audio bundle includes a wide array of features through the Lexus Enform App Suite. The very cool Qi-compatible wireless mobile phone charging is an option.
Other nice interior features are power windows and door locks, power and heated outside mirrors that are auto-dimming, dual zone automatic climate control, power moonroof, carpeted floor mats, rear shelf tonneau cover, exterior temperature display, day/night rearview mirror with Homelink and two 12-volt accessory outlets. The optional rain-sensing front wipers are a very handy feature.
Driving Experience: Exterior
Starting with the signature Lexus spindle grille and the L-shaped LED headlights, the NX300h is distinguishable from its competitors. The hood sweeps up to the laid-back windshield and onto a rail-equipped roof (with a shark fin antenna), with its highest point behind the front seats. It all ends with a built-in spoiler over the rear hatch glass and window wiper. The shelf-like LED rear tail lights continue the L-shape design cue.
Safety and Convenience
The 2017 Lexus NX 300h AWD has a 5 Star government safety rating, the highest they provide. Safety and convenience features including eight air bags, remote keyless entry, theft deterrent system, tire pressure monitoring system, and the previously mentioned vehicle stability assist, traction control and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist. Standard and optional safety technology includes pre-collision braking, intuitive parking assist, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure alert and dynamic radar cruise control.
Pricing and Warranties
The 2017 Lexus NX 300h AWD base price is $39,720. Clean Fleet Report’s test vehicle had option packages totaling $11,087, for a MSRP of $50,807. All listed prices exclude the $975 delivery processing and handling fee.
The 2017 Lexus NX 300h AWD comes with these warranties.
- Basic 48 months/50,000 miles
- Powertrain 72 months/70,000 miles
- Corrosion/Perforation 72 months/Unlimited miles
- Hybrid Components 96 months/100,000 miles
- Roadside Assistance 48 months/Unlimited miles
Observations: 2017 Lexus NX 300h AWD
Lexus describes the NX300h AWD as a sport utility vehicle that emphasizes efficiency and where “luxury goes green.” With a sharp design, impressive interior room, good driving pleasure, safety systems, and, of course, hybrid technology, there is far more to the 2017 Lexus NX 300h AWD than mere fuel sipping.
Smart shoppers will know that Lexus is the upscale division of Toyota, and that Toyota sells the RAV4h AWD, a car very similar to the NX 300h AWD. With the fully optioned RAV4h AWD selling for a few thousand dollars less than the base model NX 300h AWD, consumers will ask why spend more for the same car? Well, to be blunt, these two are not the same car.
The NX 300h AWD comes with many standard features not found, or even available as options, on the RAV4h AWD. The reduced noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH in automotive engineering speak) and a longer and more comprehensive warranty make the price difference go away. Plus, the Lexus dealer experience–from shopping, purchase and service–is held in high regard in the automotive industry.
Lexus talks in terms of luxury. Clean Fleet Report might be more comfortable with the term premium. While the NX 300h AWD is clearly a serious step-up from most small crossovers, it falls just a bit shy of true luxury, which can be found on more expensive SUVs, including those made by Lexus. So, when you are researching the right SUV and have determined you deserve a bit more of a premium experience, then go for the NX 300h AWD. You will not be disappointed.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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