SAN PEDRO, California — During Super Bowl weekend I was given the honors of hosting a well-equipped 2017 Lexus NX 300h in fabulous Matador Red priced at $51,782. The hybrid crossover was a good fit for my unusual plan, which required me to go the extra mile for various errands.
First, I needed to be in South Orange County on Saturday morning to photograph the annual San Juan Capistrano Car Show, nearly 60 miles away from my apartment in San Pedro. After the show, I returned home to update my appearance before driving 130 miles north to Bakersfield for a friend’s birthday, a meeting with my realtor, and the Super Bowl fiesta my family was hosting. We were all rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles—sorry New England Patriots fans, it’s nothing personal.
Given the several hundred miles of driving that awaited me, the NX 300h’s 31 mpg combined EPA rating was quite welcome. Over the roughly 400 miles that I covered in the the NX 300h, I only needed to make a single stop in the mountain pass town of Gorman (plus a courtesy fill prior to returning the sharp looking hybrid to our headquarters in El Segundo.)
Power comes from a hybrid powertrain comprised of three electric motors—one serves as generator/starter, one powers the front wheels with up to 141 hp, and the third drives the rears with up to 67 hp—and a modest 2.5-liter I-4 engine that makes 154 hp and 152 lb-ft of torque. Combined system power peaks at 194 hp and Lexus does not publish a combined torque output.
The NX 300h definitely lags in acceleration especially in ECO mode and its lack of pace is clear from the 9.1 seconds it needs to hit 60 mph. However, after testing the Normal and Sport modes, I found Sport to be the sweet spot that lets the NX 300h show its true cojones. It provides an increase in throttle response and gives the luxury hybrid a bit of extra push, improving performance. I underestimated the capable NX 300h during the usual I-405 rat race but on the way to Bakersfield through the Tejon Pass, left lane campers unfamiliar with the concept of “keep right except to pass” quickly diminished in my rearview mirror.
Inside is where the Lexus NX 300h does its best work, however, its strongest assets being the front center console and comfortable seats. I thought I would struggle with the multimedia remote touchpad, as during a previous encounter with the setup in a Lexus LC 500, the sensitivity annoyed me because of how quickly the selection jumped from one menu feature to another. I found that the key to the proper function of the touch interface was to be gentle, using your fingertips in conjunction with the infotainment display as a sort of magic wand.
Another ingenious interior design touch is the location of the climate controls. Lexus built the NX 300h’s into the top of the center stack at a protruding angle. The upright position of the buttons makes it easy to change settings while driving in contrast to most flat surface climate units.
Other standard equipment and features that won me over: the automatic parking brake, driver position memory, touchpad wrist rest, first aid kit, and the concealed pullout makeup mirror. Lastly and most importantly the fully power-adjustable and deeply bolstered driver seat that made driving long distances more enjoyable.
There was one interior detail that disappointed me, however: the audio system. The cargo area rattled whenever I turned up the volume, forcing me to reduce the bass and treble to create a more euphonic experience. Considering this Lexus came equipped with the 10-speaker premium sound system that’s part of the $1,815 navigation package, I was expecting better.
Thanks to its seductive appearance, the 2017 Lexus NX 300h out performed my preconceived notions and, thanks to its responsiveness in Sport Mode during Super Bowl weekend, convinced me that driving a hybrid does not have to suck.
2017 Lexus NX 300h AWD Specifications
|ENGINE||2.5L DOHC 16-valve inline-4/154 hp @ 5,700 rpm, 152 lb-ft plus two electric motors/141 hp and 67 hp; combined/194 hp|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||33/30 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||182.6 x 73.6 x 64.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.1 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||112 mph (est)|