The 2018 Lexus NX300h Hybrid Group Review: Heated Opinions of a Tiny, Fancy Crossover

How does Lexus's smallest gas/electric SUV hold up against the judgmental eyes of our ever-critical staff?

Lexus

Three of The Drive’s staffers—Mike Spinelli, Will Sabel Courtney, and Cait Knollrecently spent time with the 2018 Lexus NX300h AWD. They discussed the finer merits and detractors of this hybrid crossover via Slack, an instant message program with a fun ability to summon random gifs based on what users type. The following is a partial transcript of that conversation.

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willscourtney:
Well, hello there, everyone. Let's talk about the Lexus NX Hybrid. Which we all drove recently.

Now, admittedly, you guys both drive SUVs more than I do, since you each own one, so I'm particularly curious to know what you thought.

caitknoll:
Spinelli basically owns the LESS FANCY version (the RAV4)...

willscourtney:
Spinelli actually owns TWO RAV4s, IIRC. But maybe we shouldn't tell that to the Internet.

caitknoll

GIPHY

called out


mikespin:
Yeah, actually the new RAV4's interior is better than a Lexus interior from five years ago, so the intense competition with Hyundai is bearing fruit. What I like most about Lexus is that they build cars to who the user is, not who he or she thinks they want to be in some alternate universe. Like, 65-series tires are standard. In the city, sidewall deflection is a good thing. Potholes are the death of sexy tires. 

And now the Jag's jealous. THANKS GUYS.

caitknoll:
I will agree that the interior on the NX Hybrid left A LOT to be desired.

willscourtney:
Agreed. It's oddly dated for such a futuristic-looking car.

caitknoll:
ALL THE ANGLES.

mikespin:
With Infiniti and Audi crushing the interior game in that space, Lexus has to refocus on interior luxury.

Random fact: Turns out the NX300h doesn't want you to rev it up at a light. 
Will Sabel Courtney



caitknoll:
I can't say I hated how it drove, though. And the fiancée said, "This feels very safe and comfortable." But she also hated the infotainment. She is now even judgier (is that a word?) than I am when it comes to these cars.

willscourtney:
I'll allow that word.

mikespin:
It's interesting that design aggression is a reverse function of how desperate a brand is for market share in the compact SUV market.

willscourtney:

GIPHY

deep thoughts


mikespin:
Lexus is killing it, and is the most aggro. Infiniti really needs the QX50 to pick up sales, so they went kind of halfway in. Audi REALLY needs to match BMW, so it's the most conservative.

caitknoll:
Right, though... because that thing ain't cheap.

willscourtney
No, it's not. Especially for such a small SUV.

willscourtney:
The NX Hybrid starts at $39,330, but ours was up close to $50K.



caitknoll:
How pricey do you think this car would be if you had the Infiniti interior...and everything else it already comes with?

mikespin:
Good question. Lexus already has everything else wired up. The sales and after-sales experience is tremendously good. So even if the interior is sub-par, or even par, for a $50K car, Lexus has less to win through interior design. But to actually answer the question, I'd say $65K.

caitknoll:
Yikes...that's...a lot. I would not pay $65K for that car, even if it had a nicer interior. I actually felt like it was too small for my life. But again, I DID like how it drove. But since we factor all kinds of other things in these days (e.g. would I like this car for [INSERT ACTIVITY HERE]?), I'm a little torn.

Will, you're quiet. But also tall. You said earlier "such a small SUV." How did you do in that thing?

willscourtney:
Not great, Bob. Especially when I got into it right after Spinelli and the seat powered back to his driving position. Nearly crushed my legs.

But it actually wasn't too bad once I got situated. I doubt there was much room behind me, though.

caitknoll:
Right...so a full family car, this is not.

Lexus



willscourtney:
But I generally liked the size of it overall. Easy to park, easy to maneuver.

caitknoll:
Agree, and agree on park/maneuver.

willscourtney:
Makes a lot of sense for urban life. I can see why people like these compact crossovers. And the hybrid powertrain makes it almost zippy around town. (Though the 0-60 time is quoted as 9.1 seconds, so it's not really quick in real-world terms.)

caitknoll:
It did feel zippy! But I did mostly drive it in the confines of the city...

...and to beat someone to an Ikea parking spot.

willscourtney:

GIPHY

ikea

That is me every time I've bought Ikea furniture, BTW.

mikespin:
It's definitely more responsive than I'd expected. We tend to think of hybrid systems staying the same, but they've really advanced the driving experience with the ICE and the rear-driven electric system. Even the CVT doesn't feel as much like driving a run-on sentence as it once did.

willscourtney:
Yeah, but it still kinda sucks. It's not bad, but I do think a regular transmission would improve the drive.

mikespin:
It only sucks if you care, Will.

willscourtney:
Truth.

mikespin:
But yes, it's not a dynamic driving experience.

Lexus
Lexus

willscourtney:
That said, for a smaller hybrid, 33 city / 30 highway doesn't seem all that great. The 4,180-pound curb weight probably doesn't help in that regard.

mikespin:
True. Also, as far as hybrid systems go, this one is more of a mild hybrid, with less emphasis on utter economy.

caitknoll:
"mild hybrid"

mikespin:
Ha. Sounds quaint now, but that what we called those old "toe in the water" hybrids like the Saturn Vue.

willscourtney:

GIPHY

old man



mikespin:

GIPHY

eat a dick


willscourtney:
For Average Joe and Jane Consumer, the whole "mild hybrid" setup makes a ton of sense. It improves gas mileage around town, but doesn't force people to change their driving habits one iota. But when you market a car as the "hybrid" version of a regular one, you create the expectation of way better gas mileage. And a lot of times, it doesn't deliver.

caitknoll:
What kind of mileage does the non-hybrid version get?

willscourtney:
22 city, 28 highway.

mikespin:
I'd really like test out this hybrid AWD system in the snow.

willscourtney:
Ooh, me too.

mikespin:
To see if the rear-driven electric gear really improves traction in really low mu conditions.

willscourtney:

GIPHY

nerd alert


caitknoll:
He's got a point, though...

willscourtney:
He does. And I bet it would.

mikespin:
µ (Mu) – Greek letter for the coefficient of friction.

willscourtney:
I repeat:

GIPHY

nerd alert

Can we blast through the requisite discussion of Lexus's infotainment system really quickly? Since it is terrible, and everyone should be reminded of that.

caitknoll:
Ugh. The trackpad thing. No.

mikespin:
I'm really surprised they're not further out ahead in that area. They've doubled-down on their walled-garden system and that's holding them back compared with VW Group.

willscourtney:
And everyone else, really. Have you seen the new system in the latest Hondas, like the Accord?

mikespin:
Infiniti's in the same spot, though.

willscourtney:
At least Infiniti doesn't make you use a cursor at 60 mph.

mikespin:
haha

GIPHY

truth


caitknoll:
I really can't believe the cursor thing...The sensitivity seems a little more calibrated. But it still hurts my head that that is a thing in a modern car.

Lexus

willscourtney:
It's honestly a big enough ergonomic flaw that it keeps me from recommending Lexuses to people.I think they make a ton of sense for a lot of people; they're reliable, a lot of them get decent fuel economy, and I actually dig the looks. But I can't tell people to buy a car that makes them take their eyes off the road that much just to fiddle with the radio or work the nav.

GIPHY

that's a dealbreaker

But other than that...yeah, I kinda dig this l'il Lexus. 

All right, let's wrap things up. Final thoughts?

caitknoll:
I did enjoy it in a city setting, as I said, but I don't love the price tag. And I'm not sure I'd ever want this over the Toyota version...I don't know if that's helpful. But that's just how I feel. SORRY

GIPHY

SORRY


willscourtney:
I hear ya. Especially since the RAV4 hybrid gets better mileage...and starts at 11 grand less.

caitknoll:
Exactly.

mikespin:
The luxury compact SUV market is a strange space. Car companies are sometimes unsure of the luxury/utility balance. I think the NX gets a lot of the tradeoffs right, except in tech. I'm not so bothered by the lack of interior plushness. As far as the hybrid vs. ICE decision, I feel like Lexus found a strange positioning equilibrium by offering the hybrid for only $1,000 more than the regular version—if you drive mostly in cities, 11 extra mpg is a solid benefit—but if you drive on highways, even part of the time, you don't feel like you're getting screwed completely.

caitknoll:
If I were in the market (and had the money) for a compact luxury SUV, I'd get a Volvo XC60.

mikespin:
Good point @caitknoll. There are some much cooler players entering this space, like the Volvo and the Jaguar E-Pace, that will compete with this Lexus for leases. Still, that Lexus sales experience is going to crush those guys for a while.

willscourtney:
True. And that's one aspect we never get to experience as journalists.

caitknoll:
Very good point.

willscourtney:
All right. Good review, everyone.

GIPHY

good game good game


caitknoll:

GIPHY

obv

The 2018 Lexus NX300h AWD, By the Numbers:

Base Price (Price as Tested): $40,695 ($51,187)

Powertrain: 2.5-liter inline-four and permanent-magnet electric motor, 194 horsepower; continuously-variable automatic transmission; all-wheel-drive

Fuel Economy: 33 mpg city, 30 mpg highway (EPA)

0-60 MPH: 9.1 seconds (manufacturer figures)

Top Speed: 112 mph (manufacturer figures)

Number of Laps of Manhattan You Could Do on One 14.8-gallon Tank of Fuel, Given the City Mileage Rating: 18.4