Lexus NX 350h review: luxury for a little less?

David Linklater
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Photos / David Linklater


Base price
Fuel Consumption (l/100km)
Towing (Tonnes)
0-100 km/h
  • So smooth in city driving
  • Best ride of any NX
  • Quality cabin, still lavishly equipped
  • Four-pot drones at speed
  • 18-inch wheels look quite modest
  • Full second slower to 100km/h than NX AWD

Given the shared platform, it’s somewhat strange that the new entry-level Lexus NX 350h is front-drive, when every Toyota RAV4 hybrid has the E-Four all-wheel drive system.

Or are we just going out of our way to pick holes in Toyota/Lexus platform-sharing strategies and specification? Fact is, an NX is very far from a RAV4 despite the shared architecture. And FWD does make a lot of sense for an urban crossover/SUV.

Even the hybrid system is different between the two: same base petrol engine, but while the RAV4 hybrid sticks with an old-school nickel-metal hydride battery, the NX has newer, lighter and more efficient lithium-ion technology. Combined powerout of the Lexus is also a bit more substantial than the Toyota: 179kW versus 163kW.

We’re devoted quite a bit of copy already to the halo model for the NX range, the $107,900 450h+ F Sport: it’s a plug-in performance hybrid with 227kW on tap and 87km pure-electric range.

The NX 350h you see here is the opposite end of the range: a petrol-electric hybrid (no plug-in component) that marks the entry point to NX. Although even this cheapest NX is just shy of $93k, so it’s still very much a premium product; while the fuel consumption figure of 5.5/100km is very Clean Car friendly, that price is well beyond the $80k cap to get a discount.

So the challenge for the NX 350h is to provide a properly luxurious driver and occupant experience, while giving maximum value for money in NX world.

The hybrid powertrain certainly delivers. It runs silently in city traffic for much of the time; the battery is tiny (1.1kWh), but the system is eager to charge when decelerating or braking, so you don’t have to worry too much about selecting the standalone EV Mode. In normal driving the powertrain defaults to battery little and often, so it’s best to just let the car do its own thing.

It’s less impressive when you’re aggressive with the throttle. The four-cylinder engine drones under load though the continuously variable transmisison, although it’s not intrusive: noise, vibration and harshness levels of the NX are impressively low.

The ride is cosseting and the chassis nicely composed, but there’s not a lot of joy in hustling the NX along. Nor is there supposed to be: it’s an SUV that prioritises comfort above all else, so if you’re chasing coupes down country roads you might have chosen the wrong SUV. It’s all about luxury and refinement.

Lexus is legendary for its high-quality interior fit and finish, and sometimes for its idiosyncratic ergonomics. The former is as impressive as ever: lots of touchy feely surfaces, nice textures and incredible attention to detail (check out the gorgeous inlays on the doors).

The latter has made a generational leap. The fussy Lexus Remote Touch interface (that weird pad/joystick thingy for infotainment navigation) has been ditched in favour of  a massive 14-inch touch screen that absolutely dominates the dashboard.

The NX’s cabin party piece is the E-Latch system for the door releases. It essentially replaces the mechanical release with a pushbutton electric one, which is a nice novelty in itself (not new though, just ask Tesla) but also pairs up with the Blind Spot Monitor to prevent doors being opened when traffic is approaching from the rear.

In fact, the "basic" NX 350h misses out on nothing in terms of core safety equipment. The Lexus Safety System+ includes a comprehensive list of driver-assistance features, and then some new ones for this second-generation model: Intersection Turn Assist has been added to the Pre-Collision system and the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control has gained Lane Trace Assist. We could list the 30-plus individual active and passive safety features listed on the specification sheet for the 350h… but we won’t.

The question might be not what you're missing with the entry 350h, but what you really get for the near-$10k leap up to the 350h Limited?  The petrol and battery are the same, although they run though Toyota’s dual-motor E-Four AWD system in the Limited: the extra traction makes the NX quite a bit faster, taking a full second off the 0-100km/h time according to Lexus. 

The Limited also jumps from 18 to 20-inch wheels, although it doesn’t go all the way to the F Sport’s Adaptive Variable Suspension. It’s a matter of taste of course, but you could argue the base car boasts the most luxurious ride in the range.

Beyond that, the Limited picks up adaptive lights, panoramic cameras and self-parking, more fully featured seats, Mark Levinson audio, a 10-inch heads-up display that can be navigated using touch-sensitive steering wheel pads, customisable interior lighting and a few minor trim differences.

Al things considered, the Limited is still a good-value upgrade over the entry car; but if you don’t really need AWD, the base model remains a convincingly premium SUV for well under $100k.

ENGINE: 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid with 1.1kWh battery
POWER: 179kW (combined)/239Nm
GEARBOX: Electronic continuously variable transmission, FWD
0-100KM/H: 8.7 seconds
ECONOMY: 5.5l/100km, 125g/km (3P-WLTP)
PRICE: $92,700

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