Lexus, initially built its reputation by building quiet, poised sedans that effortlessly eased the owners into the lap of luxury. Customers raved about its sophisticated crossover that set the pace for competitors that scrambled to keep pace.
Throughout the years, Lexus also has built some very successful hybrid models. For example, LS 600h with its V8 engine and hybrid powertrain was truly an awesome vehicle with an ultra-quiet cabin helped some wealthy customers get used to paying more than $100,000 for plush sedan.
Currently, Toyota’s luxury brands have no fewer than six hybrids in its model line and the NX 300h is trying to live up to the brand’s rich history.
It comes to the market with an impressive array of technology in a practical five-door package that includes plenty of power when its needed most, smooth operation and balanced proportions so it looks handsome sitting by the curb.
The NX 300 also comes in a sport package and a conventional package. With the sport styling on the NX 300h gets augmented by 18-inch wheels to dress up the corners while the front grille, one of most distinctive elements features horizontal piping, slender headlights.
The NX 300h also features a raised driving position with excellent visibility.
This includes the Lexus Safety System+ 2.0 as standard equipment, Lexus Enform Wi-Fi and a power liftgate with kick sensor available as a standalone option. The vehicle I drove came with a full array of driver assistance features, including parking assist, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert. The model I had a chance to drive also was equipped with Lane Tracking Assist and Road Sign Assist, which offers a look at the road signs ahead in the multi-information display in the center of the gauge cluster.
The information is available at a glance and a comfort package with driver and passenger heated and ventilated seats as well as a leather wrapped steering wheel.
I admit I found the front seat a bit cluttered – the track or width is only 73.6 inches – but the NX 300h comes with sculptured, metal-faced, four-dial gauge cluster with 3D speedometer and tachometer displays. A 4.2-inch Thin Film Transistor LCD in the center of the instrument cluster prov
ides a full-color display of information that lets you know when at lower speeds the NX 300h is running on battery power alone, which I found kicked in without any fuss.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality is available on vehicles with Lexus Multimedia system built after Oct. 1, 2019, and a Mark Levinson/Navigation as well as voice recognition with Alexa and a satellite radio connection. The NX 300h I drove had intelligent high beams, which are something of an underrated feature, particularly if you live in the suburbs.
The Lexus Hybrid Drive system has been around for a while and it has been massaged so the variety of shifts that come with hybrid operation are invisible while the overall performance is quite good. The powertrain matches up nicely with the vehicle’s overall size – the wheelbase is only 104.6 inches.
The NX 300h’s system combines output from a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and a small high-torque electric motor through
its unique transmission. The system varies power between the gas engine and electric motor or combines both as needed. The result is a combined 194 system horsepower that gets 33 mpg in city driving and 31 mpg overall.
Regenerative braking changes the electric motor to a generator that captures the kinetic energy of the wheels when the brake is applied, storing it in the nickel-metal-hydride battery pack.
In EV drive mode, the NX 300h can run solely on the electric motor for up to 1 mile at lower speeds, which happens more often than you might. A Hybrid System Indicator and fuel consumption indicator, located in the 4.2-inch TFT screen, helps coach the driver to squeeze a bit more out of the battery.
The 2020 NX 300h offers the Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel-Drive System with intelligence standard. Instead of transfer gears and a driveshaft sending power to the rear wheels, the system employs a second, independent electric motor to drive the rear wheels when needed to help maintain optimal traction.
In addition, the NX’s 18-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires feature a darker finish for a more dimensional look on the road. An active cornering assist feature also is available on the NX 300h, bolsters the vehicle’s overall handling.
I usually don’t comment on the colors since I usually don’t get to see the full array, but I did think the Cadmium Orange color available on 2020 NX 300h made a very good impression.
The Lexus brand hasn’t lost its touched but the 2020 Lexus NX 300h suggests it has to work harder than ever before to keep up with the competition in ever changing market, particularly when the manufacturers suggested retail price top $50,000. The list of impressive vehicles at that kind of price point is lengthy.