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2015 Lexus NX 300h: Around the Block

Patrick M. HoeyphotographerEric Weinerwriter

Lexus knows a thing or two about building a luxury crossover, since it virtually defined the market in 1998 with the Lexus RX, which has been the brand's most popular model ever since. And given that Toyota is almost synonymous with hybrid technology thanks to the ubiquity of the Prius, the hybrid-powered 2015 Lexus NX 300h is the natural offspring of proven formulae.

Risk is only skin deep

The 2015 Lexus NX brings a familiar combination of premium materials and hybrid technology, and the only risky element is its extroverted styling. Recent efforts like the Lexus NX and RC coupe show that the Japanese automaker is making an effort to design a vehicle that actually flies above the radar. This design shift is part of a larger attempt to lure younger buyers and liven up the Lexus brand, but nowhere else in the Japanese automaker's lineup have we seen something as dramatic or polarizing as the NX.

For all of the 2015 Lexus NX 300h's heavily wrought lines, gaping grille, and sharp roofline, the interior is traditional Lexus. Perfectly padded leather seating surfaces, handsome stitching, and an attractive instrument design are sure to keep customers happy. The only notable departure is the introduction of a touchpad for the infotainment system, which is unfortunately less precise than the mouse-like joystick it replaces.

Slow, but not totally boring

Neither the Toyota Prius nor the tarted-up Lexus CT 200h are particularly enjoyable to drive, but the preproduction example of the 2015 Lexus NX 300h we sampled shows that driving a hybrid doesn't have to be a chore.

The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor combine for a useful 194 hp in the NX 300h, and the kick-down feature for the continuously variable transmission does a good job of keeping NX's power at the ready. This 4,055-pound crossover might be relatively slow compared to an Audi Q3 or BMW X3, taking a claimed 9.1 seconds from 0 to 60, but sluggish or unresponsive it surely is not.

Worth the extra coin, if fuel economy is your thing

The 2015 Lexus NX 300h starts at $5,240 more than the 2015 Lexus NX 200t with its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but the premium might just be worth it for frequent city drivers and fuel savers. EPA ratings of 35/31/33 mpg city/highway/combined for the front-wheel-drive model we tested are among the most competitive in the segment, and the money you save at the fuel pump won't come at the expense of poor driving dynamics or significantly reduced interior volume.

Standing on its own in a luxury crossover segment in which the closest competitors are highway-friendly German diesels, the NX hybrid plays to Lexus' strengths. Love it or hate it, expect to see plenty of the 2015 Lexus NX 300h on a suburban street or city block near you.

2015 Lexus NX 300h Specifications

  • On Sale: Late 2014
  • Base Price: $40,065
  • Engine: 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle DOHC 16-valve I-4/154 hp @ 5,700 rpm, 152 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm-4,900 plus 141-hp front and (opt) rear electric motor(s); 194 hp combined hp
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic
  • Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD crossover
  • EPA Mileage: 35/31/33 (city/highway/combined)
  • L x W x H: 182.3 x 73.6 x 64.8 in
  • Wheelbase: 104.7 in
  • Weight: 4,055 lb