Plug-in hybrids are a great compromise for people who still want the convenience of a gas car but want to experience the benefits of electrification. Most PHEVs have enough electric range to cover commuting and urban needs, while a gas engine eases range anxiety. After years of making excellent hybrids, Lexus is finally getting into the plug-in hybrid game with the NX450h+. It combines the luxury and functionality of the second generation NX with usable electric power. But it will be quite expensive.
Disclaimer: Lexus offered me the NX450h+ and I was actually surprised by how much I liked it. Filling the tank only once a week is great.
What is it?
The NX is Lexus’ second smallest crossover, which is notched on top UX and below RX. Although it rides on a modular platform shared with everything from the Toyota Sienna minivan to the Lexus ES sedan, the NX is mechanically more closely related to the Toyota RAV4. This is an important point to which I will return later. And if you’ve always wondered what the hell NX means, a Lexus rep once told me it stands for “agile crossover.” Alright.
Specifications that matter
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Power comes from the same 2.5L naturally aspirated I4 engine that powers the base NX250 and NX350h hybrid, but the difference is in the electrical installations. The 450h+ adds a pair of electric motors that drive the rear wheels, giving this SUV four-wheel drive. When you add the 18.1 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery that powers those motors, the result is the most efficient and powerful NX you can buy. That makes the system a total of 304 horsepower with 364 lb-ft of torque. It also gets 84 mpge — the miles per gallon equivalent of gasoline and electricity — and can go 37 miles on electricity alone. Honestly, though, it’s pretty easy to beat the EPA’s estimated EV range. I often saw up to 42 miles of electricity on a single charge.
How It Drives
Lexus likes to tout the NX450h+’s low center of gravity, and it’s surprisingly nimble indeed. It’s also surprisingly quick, with plenty of acceleration for merging highways. The advantage of the battery and electric motors is that everyday driving is like a turbo, which is always ready to provide additional power. The power comes on smoothly and quickly, and the transition between petrol and electric is one of the smoothest I’ve ever experienced. Unfortunately, when you rely on the 2.5-liter engine for power, it sounds buzzy and unrefined.
The great thing about crossovers of this size is that they are easy to control. Parking and passing through tight spaces is quite easy. Parking in the NX is made even better by Lexus’ Advanced Park system, which is easier to use than most other automated parking systems I’ve used. I also have to give props to Lexus for putting a physical button on the dash to activate the Advanced Park technology. The system does not need to be in a specific location to activate itself. You just find the spot you want, press start on the screen and let the parking lot park itself. The system can pull forwards, backwards or perform parallel parking maneuvers.
Driving with different transmission modes is just as easy. A button on the center console allows drivers to choose between a full-on EV mode, a hybrid, or a charging setting, the latter of which uses the gas engine to charge the battery while driving. In EV mode, the NX450+ is predictably quiet. In hybrid mode, the drivetrain works like any other hybrid, by default electric as often as possible with the gas engine kicking in as needed.
Charging at home is easy. The NX has an optional 6.6-kilowatt internal charger ($800) that you simply plug into a standard home outlet. When charging in this way, it takes about 4-5 hours to fully charge the battery. It’s smart to do it overnight. Unfortunately, public charging at Level 2 outlets is hit-or-miss, but that’s a product of the country’s troubled charging network, not Lexus.
Some notable pros and cons of the NX450h+
The NX has a lot of useful security systems, but some of them are very sensitive. For example, pre-collision braking is sometimes activated when there is no danger in front of you. On the other hand, I like things like Safe Exit Assist, which warns you of passing cars when you’re trying to exit a parallel parking space. I just wish all the systems were more unified in their integration.
The wireless charging pad is not working properly. It often doesn’t detect when the device is turned on, and when it does, the slippery surface means the phone moves a lot while driving, which can cause it to stop charging.
The interior door handles are also unnecessarily complicated. The NX uses two electronic/standard grips. The front end has a braille-like surface that indicates where you should press to exit the car. Next to it is a marking that shows how the handle operates manually in the event of a power outage or emergency. This is confusing and takes some getting used to, and seems like an answer to a question no one asked.
The NX450h+ is an impressive plug-in project from a company known for its top hybrids. But that may end up being a tough sell for some. First, the NX450h+ isn’t cheap. While the standard NX250 starts at a fairly reasonable $38,850, you’re looking at well-equipped RX money for the 450h Plus: $57,705. With nearly all options selected, including the $1,075 destination charge, the orange NX450h Plus costs $62,090.
Remember when I said the NX is mechanically related to the RAV4? The NX450h+ uses the same drivetrain setup as the Toyota RAV4 Prime, which is over $15,000 cheaper. Yes, the Lexus is slightly nicer inside, but that’s a big jump in price for essentially the same experience.
That’s not to say the NX450h Plus is bad. It’s actually very good. But dropping nearly $60,000 on a compact crossover just to be able to drive 40 miles on electric power alone is a tough sell, especially when the exact same setup can be had for less money.
2022 Lexus NX NX 450h+ Luxury AWD Specifications
Transmission / drive
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