Whistler, BC, Canada
A new turbocharged engine packed with tech versus the familiar, rather staid hybrid drivetrain that’s been proven to be efficient as anything, but won’t get your pulse racing. The choice should be straightforward, but it isn’t.
The NX is a crossover at the crossroads. It’s new, but Lexus itself isn’t entirely sure how things will take off – having a bold new design means attracting lots of ‘conquest’ customers, but it also throws a lot of things in the air. Lexus representatives reckon that most buyers, more than 75 percent, will plumb for the turbo engine, although it also depends on hybrid/green car incentives in each market which might skew things the other way as well.
Given torquey 2.0-litre turbo engines now power the key German rivals, it’s easy to see the appeal of the NX200t. What’s left for the NX300h, then?
READ MORE: Lexus NX200t F Sport Review
The ‘300h’ moniker means that the Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which also powers the IS and ES300h models is present here too, though with some modifications: The IS has the engine longitudinally mounted, while the ES has one less electric motor than the NX. Like the RX 450h, there’s an additional motor that powers the rear wheels, allowing for what Lexus terms ‘E-Four’ all-wheel drive capability.
Like the turbo model, the hybrid system is smooth, strong and largely silent (or should it be the other way around?). As one Lexus engineer mentions, both technologies boost the performance, one simply uses air, while the other uses electricity.
In fact, at low speeds, the NX300h has more gumption than the turbo model, thanks to its electric motors, although this tapers off as speeds and revs climb. The 2.5-litre ‘full’ Atkinson cycle engine (the 2.0 turbo is a ‘half’) makes a modest 155bhp, and total system output is 194bhp, some 41bhp less than the turbo.
But it’s a testament to the refinement of the vehicle, tyre noise aside, that the two cars actually feel quite equal in terms of straight-line speed. Lexus paid attention to the car’s aerodynamics, and it boasts the lowest cD in the segment, which helps account for the smoothness. Only well into triple figure speeds will you notice significant wind noise.
The 300h’s setup is significantly different, with the extra battery pack now residing under the rear seats. Like Audi’s A3 Sportback e-tron, this means it impinges less on boot space, losing only 25-litres in the hybridisation process.
It’s not even all bad news, either. Perhaps a result of the battery helping weight distribution, and a fancy setup of the adaptive suspension, the NX300h feels more planted and eager to corner in fun driving situations, while also handling cruising duties with equal aplomb. Lexus says the hybrid has a ‘sprung weight control’ system, which uses the rotation of the motor to counteract lift and dive of the body, minimising shaking of the body.
Whatever it is, it translates into a bit more enjoyment for the driver. The cool thing is, we aren’t even talking about an F Sport version of the hybrid, so the tarted-up one should do even better. But having said that, it should be noted that the hybrid was running on Bridgestone Dueler H/F tyres, compared to the eco-model Yokohamas on the NX200t.
If it remains true to its driving promise, the NX300h by our reckoning should easily come close to the efficiency of its nearest brother, the ES300h, which does a quoted 5.4L/100km. Sure, all the attention is taken by its forced-induction sibling, but that doesn’t mean the NX300h doesn’t have electrifying points of its own.
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 2,494cc, 16V, inline 4
Power 155bhp at 5700rpm
Torque 210Nm at 4200-4400rpm
Electric Motor 143bhp, 270Nm
Electric Motor (Rear) 68bhp, 139Nm
Battery 1.6 kWh, NiMh
System Total 197bhp
Top Speed 180km/h
0-100kmh 9.2 seconds
Fuel efficiency TBC
Availability Early 2015