2022 Lexus NX 450h+ F Sport review (video)

Lexus is one of those brands that sets the standard in luxury. That’s why when it releases a new model, we all try our best to get front row seats to see what the company has come up with. The second rendition of the Lexus NX mid-sized SUV has just been released in Australia, and it brings with it more luxury, more powertrain choices, more fuel efficiency, and more style.

Kicking off the line-up is the NX 250. It gets going with a front-wheel drive 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 152kW and 243Nm. The NX 350 boosts power with an all-wheel drive 2.4-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine that outputs a confident 205kW and 430Nm. Both models come with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Lexus is not hiding from the demand for more fuel-efficient cars. That’s why the new NX has another two hybrid models to choose from; the NX 350h and the NX 450h+. Both use the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a CVT auto gearbox. The 350h combines electric power to produce 179kW. It is available in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. The NX 450h+ is exclusively an all-wheel drive plug-in hybrid, and peak power increases to 227kW. Here, we’re testing the latter, which is the flagship of the new range and the first plug-in hybrid from Lexus.

Prices commence at $60,800 for the NX 250, and peak at $89,900 for the NX 450h+ F Sport as we have here (excluding on-road costs).

2022 Lexus NX 450h+ F Sport – THE SPECS

Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Electric: 18.1kWh battery, 134kW front e-motor, 40kW rear e-motor
Output (combined): 227kW (torque not specified)
Transmission: CVT auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F: 20×7.5, 235/50
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 2015kg
Power-to-weight: 8.87:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 1.3L/100km
Economy during test: 6.4L/100km

Fuel capacity/Type: 55L/95 RON
Power efficiency: 174.6kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 3.11 seconds*
0-100km/h: 6.25 seconds*
60-110km/h: 4.22 seconds*
1/4 mile: 14.48 seconds at 159.6km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.684g
100-0km/h braking: 3.08 seconds at 40.21 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.138g
Decibel at idle (on standby: 22*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 78*
Priced from: $89,900

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2022 Lexus NX 450h+ F Sport – THE PACKAGE

Even though the NX is all-new, it’s still undoubtedly a Lexus if external design is anything to go by. It retains the huge trapezoidal front grille and those sharp angles. But it’s all been modernised in a beautiful way. The rear gets one long LED light unit that spreads across the tailgate, and an angular C-pillar. The NX 450h+ scores the F Sport trim by default, which includes an F Sport bodykit. It brilliantly adds flair to its overall appearance.

The NX now sits on the bigger Global Architecture-K (GA-K) platform – stemming from the wider group’s TNGA layout – allowing designers to produce an overall larger vehicle with wider tracks (35mm at the front and 55mm at the rear), and reducing rear overhang to give the NX a more muscular stance.

A soiree of new tech awaits within. But to get inside, you use new electrically operated door handles, or ‘E-Latch’. There is a button on the inside of the door handle that releases the door latch for you, alleviating the need for the handle to spring out from the door. It’s the same on the inside too – you simply press a button that is ergonomically suited to be pressed by your thumb, and then push on the door. It does take a little getting used to, but it’s all in the name of safety. It allows for the new ‘Safe Exit Assist’ to step in and prevent doors from being opened in the path of vehicles approaching from the rear.

The tech keeps flowing in the cabin. The showiest feature is a huge 14-inch TFT touch-screen display – the biggest from a Lexus to date. It forms what Lexus calls the ‘Tazuna’ cockpit. Many physical buttons, switches and dials have now been integrated into the touch-screen, thanks to its sheer size. Lexus claims buttons have been reduced from 78 to 45. Thankfully, the important and frequently used adjustments are permanently available on the side and bottom of the screen. For example, fan speed, climate temperature, and volume control are still quick to adjust.

The instrument cluster is not as large and fancy. In fact, it’s a tad ‘Toyota-style’ bland. It centralises around a circle which gives all the usual power usage and driving statistics. At least it pairs with a head-up display to expand info out.

In terms of interior practicality, there is a comfortable amount of room to relax whether you’re in the front or rear. The preference would be in the front though, as the front seats have a steep slant that eats into the second row. The front seats are also moulded into one solid shape, so it’s hard to get good vision if you like to see where you are going from the rear.

We appreciate that the centre console has been lowered slightly, offering a less boxed-in feeling that Lexus has been notorious for in the past. There are handy storage areas littered throughout the cabin, including a space under the wireless phone charging pad. The charging pad slides so you can access the space. Very thoughtful.

If boot space is of high importance, the mid-sizer does well, at 520 litres. Though, it’s a slightly smaller space than the Audi Q5 and BMW X3’s 550 litres of luggage space. It does not appear at all as small as the figures suggest – it seems wide and flat. It grows even bigger to 1141 litres when the electrically-foldable rear seats are down.

With the NX 450h+ getting the F Sport grade by default, this means a unique leather-accented upholstery can be chosen in black, white or red. The red appointment in our test vehicle is striking and feels very high in quality.

Other tech and unique safety features include intersection turn assist, emergency steering assist, front and rear clearance Sonar sensors, lane-tracing assist, “Hey Lexus” speak recognition which has the ability to pick up on which passenger is speaking, adaptive variable suspension, tri-beam LED headlamps with adaptive high-beam, a Mark Levinson 17-speaker sound system, panoramic moonroof, heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats, power adjustable steering column, and power folding rear seats.

Lexus has one of the best after-sales support systems on the market. All NX grades come with capped-price servicing for three years or 45,000km (every 15,000km or 12 months), at $495 each service. This includes the dealership collecting your NX from home or work and leaving you with a loan vehicle. You also receive three years of roadside assistance, a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, and membership to the brand’s Encore Platinum owner benefits program. The program gives owners benefits like access to Lexus vehicles when travelling interstate or to New Zealand, access to exclusive events and offers, and even a complimentary single phase 7kW AC home wall charger with installation included. That is remarkable after sales care.

2022 Lexus NX 450h+ F Sport – THE DRIVE

We love that the NX now gets some grunt to match its levels of luxury and prominent design. The 450h+ is a plug-in hybrid petrol/electric setup that has a peak power of 227kW when there is juice in the battery. If the power source is from the petrol engine only, power peaks at 136kW. Because it’s a naturally aspirated engine with no turbo, torque is a low 227Nm from the petrol unit.

Luckily, the engine doesn’t need much torque as the electric power significantly boosts it. There are two e-motors spinning away – the one powering the front wheels develops 134kW and 270Nm on its own, and the rear motor compliments with 40kW and 121Nm.

Even if you don’t regularly plug-in to charge the batteries, it still uses the electric side a lot. Especially on take-off and under 40km/h. Which means it gets up to speed with no effort or need to push whatsoever. It seems to idle up to speed quickly and confidently. All that electric torque makes it feel like a walk in the park. The official 0-100km/h time is 6.3 seconds, and we recorded a best of 6.25 seconds.

The key factor with the NX 450h+ is in its ability to drive in fully electric mode only for up to 87km. If your commute round trip is less than 87km, and you can plug it in to charge the 18.1kWh lithium-ion batteries after each trip, you could potentially do away with petrol. This would be great for drivers who want the low cost and emissions of electric power but want a petrol engine there as a backup for emergencies and those longer holiday trips.

But don’t let the official fuel consumption figures fool you with PHEVs like these. They don’t paint the full picture. Vehicles sold in Australia use the ADR 81/02 testing standard, which only runs the vehicle for 20 minutes. The NX 450h+ scores a low 1.3L/100km because it would have been fully charged, and the petrol side would have kicked in during the last few minutes of the test only. So, 1.3L/100km does not mean much.

The more relevant information to know is that fuel consumption will be zero when in all-electric mode, or about 7.1L/100km over a tankful (750km), and when the battery is not charged to start with. When the battery is fully charged to start with, we averaged 5.8L/100km over a tankful of fuel or roughly 800km – we travelled more than 1500km during this test.

The NX 450h+ can also recharge the batteries with engine power by selecting ‘Battery Charging’ mode. This puts extra load on the engine and fuel consumption temporarily spikes. In theory, it could be used when you are travelling on the freeway, then you could use the electric power when in built-up areas where driving is slower and more suited to EVs.

It could also allow you to synchronise with the weekly petrol price trough. In other words, you could use petrol when it is cheaper, and use electric power when petrol is more expensive within the week. In practice, the extra fuel consumption used to recharge the batteries in our test cancelled out any fuel savings when running on electric-only mode. So, we struggle to see any significant benefit in this function.

It’s a pity the hybrid NX models are paired with a dull CVT auto transmission. Yes, they are more fuel efficient than conventional multi-ratio autos. But they don’t seem to contribute to an enthusiastic driving experience with their shrill sound, and odd feel of momentum.

On the open road the NX 450h+ handles deceivingly well. By this we mean that it almost gives a false sense of security when tackling corners with haste. It handles bends sturdily with minimal body roll, gliding around like a very well-sorted high-end luxury sedan. But then, when pushed hard, the grip threshold can catch you by surprise. We experienced this during our common twisty road test route. It could be due to the calm and gliding nature of the car in all other circumstances.

When you don’t have your racing cap on, the ride quality is what we expect from a sporty variant like this F Sport – taut but comfortable. It absorbs bumps brilliantly and is not too soft. Thanks to the adaptive shock absorbers, the 450h+ can be relaxing and exhilarating, and change in fractions of a second.

Because there are lots of things happening when the brakes are applied, smooth braking is a challenge. It’s the curse of hybrids, and NX hybrids use an electronic system over the conventional vacuum setup in the petrol models. When braking, generators variably kick in to recharge the batteries. But in turn, it feels like the required brake pressure constantly varies. More noticeable at lower speeds, the result is a jerky braking behaviour at times.

It feels like Lexus has engineered the NX more for the bitumen than off road. A low ground clearance of 190mm, the F Sport bodykit overhang, and low-profile tyres on those glamorous 20-inch alloy wheels mean you wouldn’t want to take your NX further off track than perhaps a smooth dirt road.

Towing capacity is poor, at 1000kg, braked. A Bunnings box trailer is about as much as the NX will be good for. Though, we assume that most serious towers would want a bigger SUV anyway.

2022 Lexus NX 450h+ F Sport – THE VIDEO

2022 Lexus NX 450h+ F Sport – THE VERDICT

The second generation NX struts many brilliant aspects. It is loaded with new and important safety technology that we haven’t seen before, offers dazzling creature comforts, and that Lexus quality and design is still unmistakable.

In addition, we see new and much-welcomed drivetrain options that increase power and improve fuel consumption. The NX 450h+, being the first plug-in hybrid from Lexus, hits the current market appetite spot on with an in-between petrol/electric drivetrain that can exclusively run on either or both until the Aussie EV infrastructure improves. It also incentivises with an impressive 227kW.

Even though the 450h+ is $30k more than the most affordable NX, we feel it is justified. It is a higher spec with loads of features, so you are getting more than just the high-tech powertrain.

PROS:
– PHEV gets impressive 87km electric range, and incentivises with 227kW
– Complimentary 7kW AC wall home charger and installation costs included
– Interior and material quality are second-to-none
– Massive new high-quality touch-screen
– Very nice handling with TNGA-based platform

CONS:
– Indicator stalk feels cheap when clicked, sounds like it’s clanging against plastic
– Odd-feeling grip threshold when pushed hard in corners
– Poor towing capacity

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