Home / Reviews / First Drive / Lexus NX 350h – Hybrid SUV India Review, Specs, Performance

 

Brought to India as a completely built-up unit (CBU), the new Lexus NX 350h has an uphill task of outdoing the sought-after European offerings such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Volvo XC60. But the biggest difference is that the Lexus brings a strong hybrid to this class, which will catch the eyes of those who are conscious about climate change and conserving the golden fuel.

  • Lexus NX 350h hybrid SUV review in India

Story: Sarmad Kadiri
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

 

Lexus NX 350h: Design
Visually, the new NX looks a bit like the model it replaces with smooth lines and sharp angles on the bumpers, headlamps, and tail-lamps. Up close, the various changes reveal themselves, including new sleeker headlamps with integrated DRL which replace the older split unit. The highlight remains the massive spindle grille with intricate detailing, which has become Lexus’ identity. Larger and more stylish fog-lamp housings add a touch of sportiness to the face. The side profile is also quite attractive with smooth flowing lines and a split shoulder-line. The wheels are new, too, with the Exquisite and Luxury variants sporting trendy 20-inch dual-tone alloys while the F-Sport gets an all-black set. The new all-LED tail-lamp looks more attractive, especially with its matte finish and the new light bar which stretches across the width of the boot-lid. Just under it is the prominent “LEXUS” lettering instead of the brand logo, which looks quite nice.

Lexus NX 350h: Cabin
Lexus have introduced e-latch door handles on the NX (both outside and inside) which come with push buttons. So, one doesn’t have to yank the handle but a gentle push by the fingers releases the door effortlessly. Get into the NX and you’ll notice a completely new cabin design that manages to look more conventional and yet modern. The front seats are spacious enough, though taller individuals would desire more room in the back seats, while the all-black cabin theme doesn’t improve the sense of space much either. The 520-litre luggage space is fairly large but not the best in the segment.

Lexus NX 350h: Dashboard
The dashboard layout has been toned down with simpler lines and soft edges and now boasts of a large display. The massive 14-inch touchscreen is a welcome change as it replaces the touchpad-controlled system seen in the previous model. The new high-quality touchscreen is much more intuitive and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, taking the entry user experience up a couple of notches. The other likeable thing here are the high-grade physical buttons for the dual-zone air-conditioning and audio control which give instant access to these frequently used features.

Lexus NX 350h: Features
Speaking of which, the Luxury and F-Sport versions come with a booming 17-speaker Mark Levinson music system, 360-degree view camera, powered boot-lid which also operates with leg gestures, powered front seats with memory function for the driver, sliding wireless charging dock, and ambient lighting. What’s also cool is that the steering-mounted buttons are touch-sensitive and the functions also display on the heads-up display. Passengers on the rear seat get a couple of Type-C USB ports and a-c vents but without temperature or speed controls. At least, there’s a panoramic sunroof to brighten things up. There are a host of ADAS features which include lane-departure alert, lane-keeping assist, rear crossing traffic alert, along with blind-spot alerts, adaptive cruise control, adaptive high beam, and pre-collision alarm. These make the NX quite a safe car to be in.

Lexus NX 350h: Hybrid Powertrain
The talking point of the NX is that we get the hybrid model. So, apart from the 190-hp, 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine that powers the front wheels, the car comes with a 182-hp electric motor on the front axle and a 54-hp motor at the rear. This means a fairly large battery assists the conventional internal combustion engine and can also power the car in pure electric mode. Since it’s not a plug-in, the battery gets charged on the go but the EV mode is restricted to just about five kilometres. What’s interesting is that re-generation happens mainly during coasting or braking. This means that the 350h doesn’t depend on the electrical grid or the car’s fuel, conserving crucial fossil fuel. This helps stretch a litre of fuel to almost 17 km, which is pretty impressive for a car of this size.

Lexus NX 350h: Hybrid Performance
Together, the hybrid system’s output has been limited to 243 hp, but that doesn’t really translate into a riveting performance as the NX is tuned more for comfort and efficiency. Though it claims to go from zero to 100 km/h in a pretty decent time of 7.7 seconds, its competitors are quicker still. But what the Lexus excels in is the smooth transition from pure electric to ICE and hybrid. As it switches from the motor to the engine, it keeps the drive seamless and extremely comfortable and that’s exactly what the target audience is looking for. The CVT feels quicker than before with a limited rubber-band-like feel. It’s smooth and linear but never really quick. Yes, there is the option of engaging the Sport mode, but that barely improves matters. The harder it is revved, the noisier the powertrain gets, disrupting the otherwise quiet cabin, which goes completely against the relaxed character of the NX. Those seeking a more thrilling drive can consider other options in the segment; the Lexus is all about a soothing and somewhat soporific experience.

Lexus NX 350h: Ride and Handling
This is further complemented by the well-damped suspension, which prevents practically every road undulation from filtering through the cabin. Even in Sport mode, the ride never gets too firm or bouncy and the NX soaks it all in effortlessly. The handling is equally impressive, with restrained body movement and all-around traction which keeps the Lexus well composed during fast cornering. We didn’t get to experience the F-Sport version which also gets variable dampers that enhance the handling further, but even without the additional feature, our test car remained planted and vastly manageable.

Conclusion
The Lexus NX 350h is made for those who are looking for luxury and comfort, with a refined powertrain that squeezes the most out of every ounce of fuel. It can even be driven in pure EV mode for short distances and never needs to be plugged into a charging point. Moreover, it’s priced well, ranging between Rs 65 lakh and Rs 71.60 lakh (ex-showroom), bringing this hybrid very close to its ICE rivals.

 

About the author: Sarmad Kadiri

 

 

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