New Lexus NX 2021 review

The new Lexus NX 450h+ is the brand's first ever plug-in hybrid model, and it promises up to 40 miles of pure electric power

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Verdict

The all-new Lexus NX in plug-in hybrid 450h+ form adds advanced powertrain tech and improved infotainment to the premium Japanese brand’s recipe for a mid-size SUV. Material and build quality are still great, while the NX is also now a more practical machine. It’s pricier too, but then it now offers more than ever, especially if you’re after an alternative to some of the mainstream German manufacturers.

Lexus took its time with its first mid-size premium SUV model, the NX, and it’s not been in a hurry to replace the original. On sale for seven years, the NX has finally been succeeded by an all-new second-generation car, however, based on the brand’s latest TNGA-K platform borrowed from parent company Toyota.

The new car grows by just 20mm compared with its predecessor, and while the design is different, it’s more an evolution of the NX, with tighter surfaces and sharper creases, rather than a total restyle. A large spindle grille and slim LED headlights still give the car its trademark look.

Despite the similarities, 95 per cent of the NX’s components are new, and that includes the powertrain in this NX 450h+ model, because this new NX is Lexus’s first-ever plug-in hybrid, made possible by the move to a new platform.

Lexus is no stranger to hybrid power though, having been a pioneer of petrol-electric propulsion for decades. As a result, the Japanese brand has adapted its 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (182bhp here) to work in conjunction with an 18.1kWh battery and a pair of electric motors – delivering 180bhp on the front axle and 53bhp at the rear – for a total combined output of 302bhp.

With four-wheel drive thanks to the rear motor, that’s enough for a 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds, but PHEVs are about range and efficiency, rather than performance.

Lexus claims that the NX 450h+ can travel up to 40 miles in zero-emission mode, at up to speeds of 83mph; a 6.6kW on-board charger means the battery can be topped up in two hours and 45 minutes using a home wallbox.

Combined, the two power sources will return official figures of up to 313.9mpg (just make sure you maximise home charging to get as close to this as possible) and CO2 emissions as low as 20g/km, so the NX falls into the seven per cent benefit-in-kind company car tax band, making it an affordable machine to run for business users.

In EV mode the NX is quiet and smooth, with sufficient punch that it’ll pull away and accelerate swiftly enough without the petrol engine cutting in. When this does happen, though, the 450h+ reacts promptly enough; refinement takes a bit of a hit, but the transition between electric and petrol power (and back again when slowing down) is superbly smooth. Even on larger wheels the ride is relatively comfortable too.

This has always been the case with Lexus’s ‘self-charging’ hybrids, and there’ll still be one on offer in the new NX range in the form of the 350h.

The new car’s interior is unrecognisable though, with a slicker, more sophisticated look and improvements in an area that has been a traditional weak point for Lexus: infotainment.

Base-spec NX 450h+ models feature a 9.8-inch screen, with F Sport and Takumi trim benefiting from a larger 14-inch touchscreen and a 10-inch digital dash panel.

It removes the previous infuriating track pad control system, which can only be a good thing, while built-in nav, connected services, wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto are fitted as standard on the upper two grades. All plug-in hybrid models feature wireless charging, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, LED headlights and keyless go, amongst other features.

Switching to the new platform also improves space inside as the new NX is less cramped than its predecessor, while boot space stands at 545 litres with the seats up and 1,436 litres with the seats down – this is the same for both the hybrid and the plug-in model.

Prices start from £48,800 for the NX 450h+ Premium Pack, which is the base model with this new plug-in powertrain, and rise to £54,800 for this F Sport Premium Plus Pack car.

That’s £7,000 more than for the 350h self-charging model in cash terms, but out-right buyers should remember the potential fuel savings given the NX’s impressive all-electric range, while company car users will pay less thanks to the PHEV’s lower CO2 output.

Of course, buy on finance and the monthly costs will make this new, more technologically advanced SUV seem more affordable.

Model:Lexus NX 450h+ F Sport Premium Plus
Price: £54,800
Engine: 2.5-litre 4cyl petrol + 2x e-motors
Power/torque: 302bhp/N/A
Transmission: CVT automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 6.3 seconds
Top speed: 124mph
Economy/CO2: 313.9mpg/20g/km
Electric range: 40 miles
On sale: Now

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