The Lexus NX has been the Japanese premium brand’s star performer since it was launched in 2014.
The hybrid SUV is its best-selling model in the UK and in Europe and marked new levels of success for Lexus, bringing new customers to the brand and boosting sales significantly. Now the marque hopes the second generation will mark another new chapter, bringing even greater success and tempting more buyers away from the big three German premium brands.
In designing the new NX, Lexus said it wanted to maintain the original car’s striking avant-garde look but with a more “sophisticated, mature and dynamic” spin. It’s safe to say it has managed that. Everything that made the NX so eye-catching - from the angular, almost wedge-shaped body to the massive spindle grille and slimline headlights - is still there but freshened and brought up to date with a more coherent look. The grille is more upright and bigger and the lights are adaptive LED units. In a field of largely identikit German SUVs, the new NX stands out just as much as the first generation did.
Although there’s a clear design thread, Lexus says 95% of the parts in the NX are new, from the bodywork and interior to the motor and technology.
Inside, the new NX brings a vastly improved design that, like the exterior, feels more coherent and modern. There’s a clear focus on the driver thanks to a single high-gloss panel that flows around the instruments and into the centre console but passengers are well catered for with a choice of a few high-grade materials, supportive seating and a simpler, neater style. Every touchpoint feels built to last a lifetime and, like the exterior, it’s clearly not another cookie-cutter German car.
At the heart of the cabin is an all-new infotainment system housed in a 14-inch touchscreen. Once again this sharp, responsive system is a massive improvement on what came before and is packed with connected features as well as killing off the hated trackpad.
Lexus is putting a lot of emphasis on the technology in the new NX, so as well as the touchscreen you get haptic “touch tracer” steering wheel buttons that call up information to the 10-inch head-up display, meaning you keep your eyes on the road more of the time. Depending on trim level, the NX also gets a digital rear view mirror, a 360-degree camera with “see through floor” system, voice control for key functions and safe open function that stops the door being opened into the path of oncoming traffic. All grades get the third generation of Lexus Safety System+, which incorporates the latest forward collision detection and mitigation and more advanced lane keep assist plus adaptive cruise control.
Engine and driving
Like the first generation, the new NX is an all-hybrid range but this new model brings new drivetrains. For the first time there’s an NX450h+ plug-in option with 305bhp and an all-electric range of up to 46 miles. There is also the fourth generation of Lexus’s full hybrid “self-charging” setup, which we’ve been driving. This still uses a 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor to drive all four wheels but brings a 24 per cent increase in power - to 241bhp - and a 22 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions compared with the last model.
That extra power gives the NX350h plenty of shove - 0-62mph takes 7.7 seconds - but as with most hybrids, the best rewards come when you’re treating it more gently. EV mode is only good for short distances but the system slides effortlessly between that and combustion mode and it’s only under heavy acceleration you’ll notice noise - sometimes quite a lot - from the engine and the e-CVT transmission. Stick to an easy cruise and the Lexus’s smooth drivetrain and impressive cabin comfort and refinement make this an easy long-distance companion.
That feeling is enhanced by the NX350’s hugely impressive ride. Our test route was beset by cracked surfaces, loose drain covers and unavoidable potholes and the Lexus skipped over them with unruffled calm thanks to its pliant, controlled suspension. Even F Sport models with adaptive damping aren’t exactly thrilling to drive but the NX350h goes where you point it when you point it without much drama, which is what you really want from a large SUV.
Price and spec
As well as adaptive damping the £57,760 F Sport brings unique styling touches which build on the Premium Pack Plus spec with its leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, keyless entry and ambient cabin lighting. In addition, buyers can add the Takumi Pack to the F Sport, bringing many of the luxury trim line’s features, including a 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo and extended safety pack.
In size and price, the NX350h is up against the likes of the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes GLC as well as the Volvo XC60 and newcomer the Genesis GV70. While it’s unlikely to steal huge numbers of buyers away from them, it once again does everything a Lexus buyer is looking for and does it better than before. It’s comfortable, refined and feels hewn from rock, while the styling and tech upgrades mark a real progression for the model.
Lexus NX350h F Sport Takumi Pack
Price: £57,760 (£58,680 as tested); Engine: 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, petrol with hybrid motor; Power: 241bhp; Torque: N/A; Transmission: E-CVT; Top speed: 124mph; 0-62mph: 7.7 seconds; Economy: 44.1-47.9mpg; CO2 emissions: 136g/km