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2022 Lexus NX 350h Review: The NeXt Generation

Ben Chia
12/01/2022

The second-generation Lexus NX gets all grown up with more space, tech and luxury, but it comes at a slightly hefty price


Photos: Leow Ju-Len and Clifford Chow

SINGAPORE

Lexus introduced the first NX almost a decade ago, in an attempt to get a foot into the hugely competitive small premium SUV market. It faced plenty of competition from the Big 3 German brands, as well as other contenders from the likes of Volvo and Jaguar, and thus the NX never truly captured the imagination of consumers, given that it was pretty much drowned out in a crowded market.



There was nothing significantly wrong with the first NX, but there was very little that stood out as well. Lexus is trying to rectify that though with the second-generation model, by promising more of everything. The car is bigger now, and therefore offering more interior space, while Lexus is also throwing in a whole lot of fancy tech to impress younger buyers.

More crucially, Lexus also wants to build upon its reputation for being a class leader in comfort and luxury, and the NX has been geared towards that, while also trying to keep up with the best in class in terms of driving involvement. Has it succeeded? Judging from Lexus’ recent offerings like the new IS, the signs certainly look promising…

Design and Appearance

The basic shape of the new NX looks broadly similar to the outgoing one, but there are of course fairly significant design changes. For starters, the large, dominating Lexus spindle grille is now more upright, and gives the car a much more imposing presence. The grille is flanked by new slimmer, one-piece headlights, instead of the two-piece items of the old car, and the result is a sleeker overall look when viewed from up front.

The rear end gets the now-trendy light bar that connects the taillights, while the ‘Lexus’ name is also spelt out in place of the brand’s traditional ‘L’ logo. It’s something we’re starting to notice appear on cars of late (Skoda and Volkswagen notably as well), so it’s probably the next design trend to look out for.

As mentioned earlier, the new NX is bigger than its predecessor, by some 20mm in length and width, and 5mm in height, with a 30mm increase in wheelbase. It’s not instantly obvious in pictures, but in the flesh the extra bulk is rather noticeable.

The car sits on Toyota’s TNGA-K platform, which underpins cars like the Toyota Harrier and Lexus ES, which are pretty sizeable cars to begin with, and the increased size is ostensibly meant to accommodate the associated hardware needed for the plug-in hybrid version that will arrive in Singapore soon.

Interior and Features

The interior of the new NX has been completely revamped, and the first impression is that Lexus has finally vaulted into the 21st century, or at least made its best attempt. The gigantic 14-inch touchscreen stares at you from the centre console, and looks suitably techy and modern.

The other significant thing is that the clunky and awkward trackpad has now been ditched, and most of the controls are now accessed via touchscreen. I say most, as there are still a few buttons sitting around the dashboard to access various functions, like the drive modes and the heated steering wheel and mirrors. But it appears that Lexus has decided to just randomly scatter these few buttons and controls all over the interior, and they are laid out in a none-too-logical fashion that aren’t the most intuitive to use.

Nevertheless, the overall ambience feels pretty classy and premium, and it does feel like a nice place to sit in. With the increased wheelbase, there’s plenty of room for front and rear passengers to lounge comfortably, and even very tall occupants would find the NX to be very accommodating.

Lexus has also loaded the NX pretty extensively on the tech and features front. Aside from the usual wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that is almost de rigueur for new cars these days, the NX also features Lexus’ new voice recognition system (“Hey Lexus”). It’s not quite as effective as, say, BMW’s Intelligent Personal Assistant, but it’s a decent first attempt for Lexus to help it keep up with the competition.

There are a couple of interesting small details too, such as the touch sensitive steering wheel controls that subsequently display the information on the head-up display, and the electric door latch, which frankly feels a bit gimmicky. But at least Lexus are making some attempt at innovation, even if they don’t always quite pull it off well.

The NX is also pretty well-stacked on safety too, with the car featuring the Lexus Safety System+ suite of driver assistance features. The suite includes functionalities such as pre-collision assist, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert and advanced park assist. Crucially though, the systems are fairly straightforward to use and understand, which is surprisingly not something that every car brand manages to achieve.

Driving Experience

At launch the NX 350h was the debut model, and it’s now joined by the NX 350 (petrol only) and the NX 450+ PHEV model. But the NX 350h is familiar territory: A 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine mated with a hybrid drivetrain. In this guise, the car develops 240hp and 239Nm of torque, allowing it to go from 0-100km/h in 7.7 seconds. A plug-in hybrid version is expected soon, and that should be a pretty intriguing prospect for punters.

In the meantime though, the NX 350h offers what I would call a typical Lexus driving experience, with a bias towards comfort rather than sportiness. The NX is remarkably refined, helped greatly by the silence of the hybrid drivetrain, and it’s probably one of the most comfortable-riding SUV in this segment, with the suspension soaking up most road bumps easily.

There are the usual switchable driving modes, namely Eco, Normal and Sport, but one gets the sense that the car works best in Normal mode. In Sport mode, the car’s Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) will tend to hold on to the revs for a tad too long, and while it’s not such a huge deal, it really doesn’t feel in keeping in nature of this car.

Stick it in Normal though and the NX will comfortably cruise around all day every day without a fuss. The transition between electric and petrol power is extremely seamless, as it should given that Lexus has had tonnes of experience with hybrids, and even without any particularly careful driving, one can get close to its quoted claimed fuel consumption figure of 5.0L/100km.

The trade-off for all that comfort is that the NX is not quite the sharpest SUV to drive, but it makes no pretence to be so. It makes a decent effort at least, with quite competent handling, and can cope with corners with reasonable composure. But push it too hard and you can sense the car trying to resist with understeer, while the car’s steering, although direct and sharp, is slightly lacking in feel.

Competitors and Conclusion 

As mentioned at the beginning, the NX faces a whole lot of competition in this segment. The main ones come from Germany, with the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC all vying for attention in the market. Even away from the Germans, there are the likes of the Volvo XC60, Range Rover Evoque and Jaguar E-Pace to contend with, while keener enthusiasts might even look towards the Porsche Macan.

In that sense, the NX does have its work cut out, and its prospects aren’t exactly helped by its high price tag. Even with a S$15,000 rebate under the Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES), the NX 350h retails for around S$300,000 including COE. To be fair, that could just be an outcome of high COE premiums of late, but it’s still a pretty remarkable price to swallow for this class of car.

Whether the NX is worth that outlay is subjective, but it does bring quite a lot to the table, namely its excellent interior packaging, innovative tech, remarkable refinement, excellent efficiency and comforting driving demeanour. If those are your key priorities in a premium small SUV, then the NX makes a pretty convincing case in this highly competitive class.

Lexus NX 350h

Engine2,487cc, inline 4
Power188hp at 5500rpm
Torque239Nm at 4300-4500rpm
GearboxContinuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
Electric Motor134kW (front), 40kW (rear)
BatteryLithium ion, 1.00kWh
System Power240hp
0-100km/h7.7 seconds
Top Speed200km/h
VES BandingA2 / -S$15,000 rebate
Fuel Efficiency5.0L/100km
AgentBorneo Motors
PriceS$299,800 with COE
AvailabilityNow
Verdict:Comfortable, well-appointed and nice to drive, the new NX’s competitiveness is only slightly hampered by its high asking price

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Hybrid Lexus NX nx 350h SUV

About the Author

Ben Chia

CarBuyer's senior staff writer went out to explore the Great Big World, including a stint working in China (despite his limited Mandarin). Now he's back, ready to foist upon you his takes on everything good and wonderful about the automotive world. Follow Ben on Instagram @carbuyer.ben

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