We recently spent some time driving the new Lexus RX. Now, we’ve been behind the wheel of its smaller sibling, the Lexus NX – specifically, the NX 350h hybrid AWD. It’s not the quickest of the NX family, but it is the most fuel-efficient, offering a combined 39 mpg while enjoying an engaging drive in the lap of Lexus luxury.
The NX is on the smaller side of five-passenger vehicles, measuring 183.5 inches long. It shares the underpinnings of the Toyota RAV4, though it's significantly more luxurious inside and out. Its body styling is sharp and dynamic, with a large spindle grille in front, a pleasantly curvy profile, and a distinctive rear end with curved LED taillamps that continue onto the liftgate.
There are seven variants of the Lexus NX available, from the entry-level NX 250 with front-wheel drive and a 203 horsepower engine to the top-of-the-line NX 450h+ F SPORT Handling, which has a 304 horsepower plug-in hybrid drivetrain. The NX 350h sits in the middle of the line, with a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated, 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor connected to the rear axle for all-wheel drive, providing added confidence in slippery conditions. Combined, they produce 240 horsepower.
The hybrid drivetrain in the NX 350h is what you want and expect from a Toyota or Lexus vehicle, melding gas and electric power into a cohesive and linear response when you put your foot down. As you'd expect from a Lexus, the NX is quiet and smooth. As the brand continues to apply the "Lexus Driving Signature" to its vehicles, they feel more connected to the road than before. The NX does a pretty good job communicating to the driver - though we wouldn't exactly describe it as sporty. That said, there is an F SPORT Handling version of the gas-powered NX 350h with a more powerful turbocharged engine and a sport-tuned adaptive suspension.
The interior has a clean and modern aesthetic that isn't overworked. Our NX was equipped with the Luxury package, which bumps up the interior to premium perforated leather seats with a unique chevron quilted pattern. The seats offer good comfort on longer drives and provide a 4-way adjustable lumbar support on the driver's side. The heated and ventilated front seats offer comfort no matter the weather and did well keeping our backsides cool when the temperatures approached the triple digits outside. A panoramic moonroof floats overhead, bringing lots of light into the cabin.
The Luxury package also has a beautiful open-pore black wood trim, and the optional $2,125 Mark Levinson audio system has elegant black metal speaker grilles to complement the wood. This 17-speaker, 1800-watt audio system sounds fantastic - with excellent dynamic range, tremendous low end, and enveloping surround sound capabilities.
An expansive 14" touchscreen display runs the new Lexus Interface multimedia system, which is leaps and bounds better, faster, and more intuitive than the previous Lexus system. Frequently used controls are a button push away, and we like the hybrid temperature controls, which combine a digital numeric display with a tactile dial input. We still use Apple CarPlay most of the time, and we're happy that both CarPlay and Android Auto connect wirelessly. But if you choose to use the Lexus navigation system, you'll be pleased to find the POI data is updated in real-time using data from Google. The optional Panoramic View Monitor makes parking easy even in the tightest garage spaces, thanks to its crystal-clear images and intuitive radar markers.
The center console has a clean and purposeful design, with a modern automatic shift lever that cuts down on space and is reasonably intuitive after you use it a couple of times. We appreciate any car with a Brake Hold feature, which lets you push down firmly on the pedal at a traffic light or drive-thru and holds the brakes for you. Unlike the RX and its somewhat frustrating touchscreen drive mode selector, the NX retains a physical knob, making it easier to flick between Eco, Normal, and Sport modes.
Legroom in the back row of the NX is a little tight for taller passengers, but it's plenty for kids, and there are USB ports on the back of the center console for keeping mobile devices charged. Our NX came equipped with heated rear seats with a power-folding feature which lets you flip them down with the push of a button for loading cargo. By placing the hybrid battery under the rear seats, you don't lose any cargo space in the 350h. There's 22.7 cubic feet behind the back row and 46.9 cubic feet with the seats folded, the same as every other NX model.
Lexus continues to raise the bar across its entire line, and the latest NX upholds the brand's promise. It offers a more engaging drive experience than older Lexus vehicles while being quiet and comfortable. The NX 350h offers a great blend of comfort, luxury, and technology while sipping fuel. While gas prices have been falling recently, they're still over $4 in many parts of the U.S. The 2022 NX 350h AWD starts at $42,700. The Luxury package shown in the vehicle here adds another $7,450 to the price.