Test Drive: Lexus NX350h: Strengthened assets

If you think the Toyota RAV4 is too popular, the new Lexus NX should be more appealing to you : it is a more luxurious and refined version of the aforementioned SUV. Built on the same TNGA-K platform as the RAV4, the Lexus NX is available as a plug-in hybrid or, as in the case of our test car, as a self-charging hybrid, a technology that Lexus masters perfectly.

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The NX 2022 design fits perfectly with the Japanese luxury brand ethos. Without being revolutionary, it has its own codes and we eventually got used to Lexus’ design language… that is now well integrated into the European culture. Its compact and streamlined lines make it stand out, while the interior uses quality materials with the usual Lexus perfect fit and finish. This Lexus NX is really good value for money, with its large central screen displaying information in a much more modern layout than what we have seen in a Lexus before.

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I like it

Inside the cabin, the driver’s seat is isolated from the passengers by an imposing central console that leads to the new entertainment screen. On the highest trim levels, it measures 14″ and is called Lexus Link Pro. It is even connected to the Cloud for continuously updated traffic information. The interface is now touch-sensitive and supports Apple CarPlay (wireless) and Android Auto (wired). The driving position is almost perfect, although we still feel a little short-changed when it comes to finding the perfect position… it seems a few centimetres more would be welcome to enhance comfort even more.

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Quite clever

Behind the wheel, you quickly forget the clumsy and boring Japanese cars of yesteryear. Of course, the handling is not sporty, but it shows an unexpected dynamism when you want to play and have fun on winding roads. Body movements are well controlled and the suspension does a remarkable job, even on the rough roads of our kingdom. We experienced higher driving positions in some other SUVs… which means one tends to take advantage of the powertrain and well-sorted chassis every time it’s possible.

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I don’t like it

Sporty drivers, don’t get carried away though. Despite a 25% increase in power (compared to the model it replaces), the NX350h’s 244 HP don’t change it into a sportscar. 0 to 100 km/h takes  8″7 and top speed barely reaches 200 km/h. Not to mention a transmission that isn’t the fastest in town… you almost inevitably end up going back to the comfort-oriented settings, which is why this SUV owners choose it in the first place…

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Why I buy it

Overall, this SUV’s second generation has improved handling and an upgraded multimedia system offering a large screen and functions you’ll probably never need. The excellent Mark Levinson audio system will delight music lovers. Last but not least, once inside, materials quality and the fresh and elegant interior are still stunning. They really stand out from the duller or more cautious, unimaginative European designs.

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Why I don’t buy it

Although it costs €17,000 less than its rechargeable counterpart (NX450h+), the NX350h is still €10,500 more than the equivalent Toyota RAV4. This is a hefty price to pay, even if the luxury and originality of the Lexus version amply justify it. We wanted more power and some bad ergonomics are hard to forget . However, these are triffle details that will not bother the brand’s fans… the ones that want to steer clear from the usual German trio and its overrated   reliability records. Lexus has been perfect on that for decades!

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