A luxury experience with hybrid sensibility in a well-priced package
With the popularity of crossovers and SUVs in the Philippines and worldwide, the Lexus NX has steadily been one of the brand's sought-after models. So much so that we couldn't even get a demo unit to test locally; Lexus even halted orders in mid-2022 over concerns that they would not meet delivery schedules. A recent trip to Canada presented an opportunity to stroke my curiosity about the new-generation NX crossover.
On its second generation, the Lexus NX sits on the Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA-K) which underpins sedans like the Avalon, Camry, and ES; and crossovers such as the Crown Crossover, Harrier, Highlander, RAV4, RX, and even the Sienna minivan. While you might say it's just a more expensive Toyota since they share the same platform, the Lexus division actually puts more detail, tech, and refinement into their cars to justify the premium; akin to a martial artist that mastered his art in a dojo.
In terms of styling, the overall look can be considered as the subtle evolution of the L-finesse design language. From a rebellious deconstructed style from its predecessor, it seems that designers decided to make components look like more cohesive units; made very apparent in the headlights and rear combination lamps which they started applying in the UX.
The shoulders look more pronounced giving it a wider stance and giving it more character. Towards the back, the most drastic change would be the removal of the L logo badge in favor of the Lexus brand name spelled out along with a light bar that seems to tie in both taillights together.
While the exterior may seem like a subtle evolution, the change inside can be considered significant. It now feels more driver-focused and engaging when you hold the steering wheel and look at the instrument cluster. The touchscreen is now integrated into the center stack and actually angled towards the driver. However, it does feel like they could have done a lot more to the negative black space around it, a wider screen perhaps?
Controls are ergonomic, well thought out, and tactile just like I prefer with cars, thankfully no more trackpad or mouse that was really a pain to use. What I liked was that climate control was not completely integrated into the touchscreen like many new cars; call me old school, but I prefer a car with an independent climate control function.
The door handles both inside and out are now just handles, no longer functioning as actual levers with electronics taking on the responsibilities of opening and closing the door. It takes a bit of getting used to but it's pretty clever once you warm up to it.
Since Lexus decided to make it bigger, it is now longer, wider, and taller; it can now fit three adult occupants at the back comfortably. You can fold down the rear seats in a 60/40 split in case you need to move your stuff away from prying eyes while parked, or if you need to stow longer items. The red tone interior in this particular vehicle we reviewed helped show a lot of the contrast inside.
The rear cargo space does not look quite generous for a vehicle in its class on paper at 520 liters. Since they decided to delete the spare tire in favor of an inflator kit, it also gets more storage underneath the cargo cover that's quite abundant and gives extra security for more valuable items that you might need to put in the boot. We did manage to put in two carry-on suitcases and several shopping bags after a stop at the outlet mall.
Under the hood is a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine that puts out 190 PS and 239 Nm of torque. Since this is a hybrid, a pair of electric motors (182 PS front, 54 PS rear) bump up performance to 240 PS. That's a nearly 50 horsepower bump from its predecessor that was badged as a '300'. It is mated to an eCVT for an all-wheel drive configuration that works with the electric motors to deliver power to the wheels.
With the significant bump in power and torque, it definitely feels livelier than its predecessor while still keeping the frugality of a hybrid. I was able to squeeze out a little over 660 kilometers from its 55-liter tank. That's an average of 12 kilometers/liter with mostly freeway speeds and mixed traffic conditions where the engine was doing most of the work. I wasn't trying to be frugal either. It's rated to go 17.5 km/liter in the city in ideal conditions where the electric motors do most of the work.
Handling feels more engaging now but still has that delicate Japanese feel compared to its European competitors. Ride comfort was a bit on the stable side, it handled uneven roads and pavements well enough despite being fitted with 235/60R18 run-flat tires.
In terms of safety, the NX range comes standard with Lexus Safety Suite (LSS) that offers advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) features such as Pre-collision System, Adaptive High Beam, Automatic High Beam, Lane Tracing Assist, Lane Departure Warning, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control; all of which made my cross-country drive easier and less tiring.
The specification for the Lexus NX 350h I drove was more or less similar to the local base variant which retails for PHP 3,438,000. It's one of the more affordable entry points to a premium compact crossover where most competitors are priced at above 4 million Pesos and are either petrol or diesel. Overall I think it offers a good proposition if you're in the market for something premium, it offers luxury, premium safety, hybrid sensibility, and a number coding exemption benefit (if you're based in Metro Manila).
Lexus offers a more beefed-up 'Premier' version for PHP 4,628,000, but I find it difficult to justify paying one-third more from this handsomely priced "base variant".