Why The Lexus NX Hybrid Is The Only One You Should Get

Opinion / 3 Comments

The NX is much improved, but the hybrid drivetrain is what sells it.

The compact luxury crossover segment is typically the most profitable for luxury automakers in the US market, but for Lexus, it's the mid-size RX that's dominated sales. Perhaps that's because the first-generation NX, launched in 2014, never stood out in the most cutthroat luxury class there is. Now the second-generation 2022 Lexus NX has arrived on the market to improve on what the previous model started for the brand. At the launch event, we sampled the gas-powered NX 350 but missed out on driving what we now believe is the best version, the 2022 Lexus NX 350h Hybrid.

Lexus sent us an NX with its standard hybrid drivetrain (a plug-in hybrid is also offered) to spend the week with. We took it on a mini road trip to Tampa Bay and learned why the hybridized NX is the only one we'd recommend buying. In fact, the hybrid drivetrain is this car's ultimate selling point. We'll also explain what we love about the NX, and what could be improved.

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Love: The Hybrid Is The Star

Lexus offers the new NX with two gasoline variants: the NX 250 with 203 horsepower (basically a gussied up RAV4 we suspect is designed with lease prices in mind) and the NX 350 with a new 2.4-liter turbo four-cylinder producing 275 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque. That latter option sounds compelling for performance-minded buyers out there, but independent tests put the NX well behind its rivals in acceleration times. Plus, 22/29/25 mpg city/highway/combined is nothing to brag about in 2022.

That's why the NX 350h makes so much sense to us. It's down on power compared to the NX 350, producing 240 hp, but that's still a 20 percent increase over the outgoing model and enough to yield a 7.2-second 0-60 time (1.9 seconds quicker than the old NX 300h). For reference, independent tests have clocked the hybrid at 7.0 seconds with the more powerful turbo model three tenths behind it. What's more impressive, the hybrid manages 41/37/39 mpg city/highway/combined. Seeing as the NX350h costs $500 less than it's gas-only NX 350 counterpart, we'd say the hybrid is a no-brainer. In fact, there's nothing quite like the NX hybrid in this segment, as competitors mostly use a PHEV setup.

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Love: Finally, The Trackpad Is GONE

At long last, the much-maligned Lexus Remote Touch Controller is gone, replaced by an available 14-inch touchscreen infotainment system with a brand-new user interface. Like what's found in the new Toyota Tundra, this system features all the 2022 car tech buzz words: wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, intelligent voice assistant, Apple Music and Spotify integration, user profiles, digital key, cloud mapping with Google POI data, and over-the-air update capability. This system is simple to navigate, snappy to use, and aside from a few issues that we'll cover later, is a massive improvement over any previous Lexus infotainment.

Our favorite feature was the available bird's eye camera system, which pre-records what's behind or in front so you can see what's underneath when the vehicle. We also enjoyed the 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, though it's only available as a pricey $2,125 option, and only in conjunction with other extras that raise the price by a combined $5,275. Other minor features like heated/ventilated seats that stay in the same setting when you get back in and the digital rearview camera make the NX feel like smartly crafted vehicle.

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Love: Reasonable-ish Pricing

The 2022 Lexus NX 250 with front-wheel drive starts at $39,025, undercutting pretty much everything in the competitive set. However, with the same powertrain as the RAV4, we imagine the NX 250 won't offer the effortless acceleration desired by most luxury buyers. Luckily, the NX 350 isn't too pricey, still undercutting many of the European options at $42,625 with standard AWD. But for $500 less, it's the NX 350h that we'd drop our hard-earned cash on. With generous power and stellar fuel economy, it's the best all-around in the lineup. We'd recommend adding the Premium Package for $3,050, and stopping there at $45,175. As you'll soon find out, the NX can get pricey if too many option boxes are checked.

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Hate: Not All The Tech Is Great

Though the NX is a massive leap forward with regards to technology, it doesn't feel like Lexus stuck the landing with certain features. Having wireless CarPlay is a nice convenience, but it failed to connect to the car on several occasions, leaving us without various features. Plugging in the phone solved this issue (most of the time), but made the whole experience feel very un-Lexus. That old touchpad system was far from perfect, but it connected to Bluetooth quickly and without issue every time.

Some upgrades like the 14-inch touchscreen are welcomed, while others felt like tech for the sake of tech. The controls for the gauge cluster, for example, are unlabeled and only appear through the head-up display or the driver display if the HUD is turned off. They are touch-sensitive, and you can only use one at a time based on how the information pops up. What was wrong with normal buttons? Thankfully this feature is locked to a $1,070 package. Unfortunately, that package includes the cool 360 camera. The door handles are also needlessly complicated, using an electronic button rather than a physical handle. These feel like gimmicks that didn't need to be there.

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Hate: Play-It-Safe Styling

When Lexus first revealed the second-generation NX, we were far more impressed with the interior technology than the exterior styling. It's a subtle improvement over the old NX, but we wish Lexus would have moved forward in a bolder direction. Instead, it deleted the "L" logo in the back in favor of the "L-E-X-U-S" script written out, which looks awkward to our eye. The signature spindle grille still isn't to everyone's taste, but we think it looks better when optioned in F Sport guise. Unfortunately, only the NX 350 and NX 450h+ offer the F Sport Handling package.

We do want to offer Lexus some praise for the NX's color palette. Buyers have a choice of several vibrant colors, including Redline, Cadmium Orange, Nori Green Pearl, and Grecian Water (blue). Sadly, our tester came wearing a mundane Cloudburst Gray hue.

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Hate: Expensive Options

The NX 350h starts off reasonably priced, but the options on our test vehicle added up to about $13,000 (around $55,000 total). For that price, you could spend a bit more to get the NX 450h+ plug-in hybrid, which is the quickest model in the lineup with 304 hp and a six-second 0-60 time. The PHEV costs $56,725, but qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit, essentially making it cheaper than a fully loaded standard NX Hybrid. if you plan to deck out the 350h with options, you should just go straight for the 450h+. There's just one problem; you can't find one.

Like the RAV4 Prime on which it is based, the NX 450h+ is in short supply right now. Even if a local dealer manages to get one, they likely won't let it go without a markup. So if money is an object, the standard NX 350h seems like the best option right now.

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