This Japanese brand has launched a petrol-electric SUV that delivers excellent performance and will cut your fuel bills dramatically, but there’s a catch.
The Japanese brand has been at the forefront of hybrid vehicles, but this is the first plug-in hybrid it has sold in Australia. We find out what it’s all about.
Here are five things you need to know about the Lexus NX450h+.
IT’S A HYBRID YOU PLUG IN
Until now, Lexus has focused on self-charging hybrids that offer very limited electric-only range. The brand claims the new NX 450h+ plug-in hybrid can travel for up to 87km on electric power only. That’s significantly more than most PHEVs, which typically deliver between 30 and 50km of EV range. It’s enough to do about three average round-trip commutes before recharging. The NX 450h+ combines the 2.5-litre petrol engine of the standard NX with an electric motor on each axle, powered by a 18.1kW lithium ion battery. The electric assistance bumps power up from 136kW to a beefy 227kW. Lexus says it’s capable of reaching 100km/h in just 6.3 seconds.
THE EV SET-UP IS BETTER THAN MOST
A lot of plug-in hybrid vehicles require the driver to go light on the throttle to keep the car in EV-only mode but the NX is different. It has four different drive modes offering various combinations of electric and petrol power. In EV Priority mode, the car works on electric power alone until the battery’s charge drops to a level where electric assistance is needed. Auto EV/HV Mode will provide petrol assistance when the accelerator is pushed to the floor or the EV motors reach maximum output. When the battery is depleted, the car reverts to the same set-up as the standard NX hybrid, providing assistance to the petrol engine and recovering charge under braking. The final mode uses the petrol engine as a generator to replenish the battery on the move.
OFFICIAL FUEL USE IS MINUSCULE
Car makers like plug-in hybrids because they produce phenomenal results during official laboratory fuel consumption tests. That allows them to meet stringent emission test targets in the European Union and elsewhere. The NX 450+ PHEV is no exception, claiming consumption of just 1.3 litres per 100km. In reality it takes a huge amount of discipline to get anywhere near that number in real world driving. On a long freeway trip, we averaged mid 7L/100km with four adults and four heavy suitcases. The standard hybrid would use less but wouldn’t be able to match the PHEV’s performance.
THIS TECH ISN’T CHEAP
The NX450+ is the most expensive NX by a considerable margin. At $89,900 it’s almost $30,000 more than the cheapest model in the range and roughly $25,000 more than the conventional hybrid model. Compared to luxury rivals of the same size, though, it’s sharply priced, especially when you take into account the equipment levels in this flagship model. The cabin is impeccably finished and the technology is easy to use. Highlights include a big head-up display that allows you to navigate infotainment menus without taking your eyes off the road and an awesome 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. The driver assist technology is comprehensive and works seamlessly without intruding too much. Cabin surfaces and materials are high quality, there are plenty of USB outlets and the boot is above average, which is rare for a PHEV.
IT’S A GREAT TOURER
There are few SUVs that will do the family road trip in the style and comfort of the NX. The engine and electric motors work seamlessly to provide serene yet suitably rapid progress, while the suspension does a deft job of balancing comfort with cornering ability. Sharp steering and the extra grip and poise of all-wheel-drive – especially in the wet – deliver an enjoyable driving experience. The seats are comfortable, with plenty of thigh and back support for long journeys, while the driver interfaces are clear and easy to navigate.