We recently tested the all-new Lexus NX 350 and we very impressed. OK, so we know it’s heavily based on the new Toyota RAV4, but that’s fine with us, the updated RAV4 was a major step forward for one of the best-selling small SUVs of all time.
And our favorite RAV was the RAV4 Prime with over 300 horsepower and 0-60 in under 6 seconds. It’s one of the fastest vehicles in the Toyota fleet! So, while we loved the NX 350, we were really waiting for the NX 450h+ which would be using the same muscular running gear as the RAV4 prime.
And now that we have our hot little hands on one, let’s see how it compares!
Bold, Bold, Bold
Sharing underpinnings with the aggressive new RAV4 opens up the door for Lexus to add some eye candy to the NX. Like just about every Lexus on sale the front-end greats you with a massive spindle grille. Maybe we’re getting used to this trend in automotive design, but we like the NX’s mug. It certainly shows some attitude with signature L-shaped daytime running lamps that give a serious frown. Lower intakes that house small circular fogs and the overall impression is sporty and serious.
Come around to the side, and the NX looks like it’s added some serious muscle, with bulgy fender flares that give a wide-shouldered vibe, blacked out fender trim that gives a rugged look, and all finished off by massive blacked-out, 20-inch split-five spoke alloys that look beefy and capable.
The rear adds some luxury to the mix, with a full-width LED taillight, wraparound boomerang style taillights, and L E X U S spelled out in big block letters. It looks modern and very Range Rover like. A contrasting lower fascia adds more SUV cred., while rear side grilles echo the look of the front.
Speaking of bold, our tester was finished in a new color Lexus calls Cadmium Orange, and we love it. While it seems the world of SUV’s is one of black, white, gray and the very popular cement-tone trim, the rich orange metallic really pops on the NX!
Inside the NX is one great step for Lexus interiors, with a delightful mix of tech and luxury creating a special vibe.
Open the door, and the first thing that captures your eye is the massive 14-inch info-tainment screen that dominates the center of the dash. And yet, despite the size, Lexus angles it towards the driver, so it feels integrated to the design. It’s big and smart, with such goodies as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto combined with our tester’s wireless charger making for cordless enjoyment.
Lexus likes to be a connectivity leader, so the NX also enjoys an AT&T Hotspot, Integrated Streaming, Drive Connect with Cloud Navigation and Destination Assist as well. There’s even an off-line mode that detects when you’re entering an area with low connectivity, and downloads applicable maps and services in advance. Wow.
This is a new system, so we happily say goodbye to the Lexus mousepad touch control that was really fiddly. The new touch-screen system is better, but there is still some hunting around for features which is annoying.
Luckily there’s an excellent voice-first approach allowing front seat occupants an expanded and interactive experience to access navigation, media, phone and certain vehicle settings such as climate control and window opening/closing. Just say “Hey Lexus” and ask away. That is very cool.
Speaking of cool, we enjoyed the heated and cooled front seats, and were also appreciative that they are real leather – many hybrid vehicles seem to be steer-Ing away (we made a pun!) from natural hides with faux leather, but we like the real stuff, thanks.
The driver gets a nice 7-inch, multi-color display that supplies loads of info in a fresh format, and a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel makes getting comfortable easy. We like the sportiness of the fat leather wrapped steering wheel, and the small stubby shift lever that just takes a dedicated nudge to find your gear. So much better than the infuriating pushbuttons that are on the new Acura RDX.
While we prefer the front seat, the rear seats are full-size adult comfy, and with loads of cargo space even with the rear seat up. Drop them and you have an impressive cargo hold. There’s also a neat underfloor storage area that holds the adapter for charging the EV system, and best of all, you have no loss of storage space between the gas-powered models and a plug-in hybrid like our 450h+.
A Powerful Case for the Plug-in Hybrid
The best part of our tester – it’s Lexus first plug-in hybrid! This is the same powertrain in the RAV4 Prime, but they seem to have eeked out a couple more horsepower in the translation.
So, in the 450h+ you get a romping stomping 304 horsepower, courtesy of a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder gas engine, combined with two electric motors at the front adding 179 horsepower and 199 lb.-ft. of torque, plus an additional electric motor at the rear wheels adding 53 horses and 89 torques to the game.
The result gives you a few different driving experiences, fully charged, the plug-in hybrid will let you drive up to 36 miles in pure EV mode, and when you do so it’s impressively smooth and whisper quiets. Basically, a lovely EV SUV.
Once you use up that battery, or just need maximum power, the NX switches over to become a traditional Toyota-style hybrid with impressive power and efficiency, choosing between gas, gas plus EV and pure EV modes.
In the combined mode you get that impressive 304 horses when you need it, and the acceleration is powerful yet Lexus smooth. The CVT transmission combines to give you a seamless experience. You just whoosh up to speed with awesome ease and comfort. Lexus says 0-60 mph in 6 seconds. We think it’s quicker than that!
We actually like when the gas motor is running – it gives a little texture to the driving experience –pure EV mode is a little too silent for us! Charging up the NX takes between two and a half and four and a half hours based on the type of charger you’re using.
Helping to serve up all this power is an electronically controlled AWD system that puts the power down easily in the straights, the corners, and in slick conditions. The overall ride is Lexus smooth, and in this case, it’s biased more towards comfort than sport. Those wanting a more enthusiastic drive should opt for the 450h+ with the F SPORT Handling AWD model.
When you are not enjoying that satisfying rush, you’ll find the NX a wonderful partner for the daily drive. The seating position gives great visibility, the steering is quick and responsive. One of our favorite features was the optional Panoramic View Monitor, that gives a 360-degree overhead view that makes it a breeze to fit in parking spots, and the rear cross traffic monitor is a great help backing out.
While you’re cruising along, you can feel confident with the standard Lexus Safety System+ 3.0, which includes Risk Avoidance Emergency Steer Assist, Left Turn Oncoming Vehicle Detection/Braking, Right/Left Turn Oncoming Pedestrian Detection/Braking, Oncoming Vehicle Detection and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Curve Speed Management.
What’s the Charge for the Extra Charge?
This is a Lexus, so you get a premium vehicle, but we’d say it’s fairly priced to the competition. If you just love the NX, but don’t need the hybrid, you can get into a NX 250 for $39,500. That’s. ton of style, safety, and luxury for a very reasonable price.
The NX 450 h+ is at the very top of the NX line, and starts $55,650. Like the European competition, that’s a lovely vehicle, but there are a bunch of delightful options to tempt you.
Our tester added the Digital Inner Mirror ($200), Triple Beam Headlamps ($850), 6.6-Kilowatt on-board Charger ($800), Cadmium Orange Paint ($595), Panoramic View Monitor with Lane Change Assist and Front Cross Traffic Alert ($1,070), Advanced Park ($480), Smart Phone Convenience Package ($450), Activity Mount ($390), Puddle Lamps ($325), Rear Seat Entertainment Holder ($110) and Wheel Locks ($95). Add in $1,075 for destination and we rang the bell at $62,090.
Competition would include the Audi Q5 55 TFSI at $60,740. If you love the European driving experience, it’s hard not to love the Audi. If you’re more of luxury type, the Lexus would be our choice. The Volvo XC60 Recharge is a newer entrant, and looks to have that lovely Swedishness, and comes in at a comparable $62,745.
Finally if you love the Lexus, but it’s too dear, the RAV4 Prime at $50,305 is an excellent choice. It’s not nearly as luxurious, but the driving experience is similar and excellent.
Stylish, powerful and efficient, the 2022 Lexus 450h+ is the perfect luxury SUV for the way we live today!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.