Lexus just entered India few months ago, but hasn’t really been able to make its mark in the sub continent as yet. They got the ES300h, RX450h and the LX450d initially, and planned to bring in its flagship LS sedan into India. But the company seems to have changed its plans and is set to launch its entry level crossover, the NX300h, in the beginning of 2018. We got a chance to drive this baby Lexus in Goa for a brief period. This is what we feel about it.
The NX in the name NX300h stands for Nimble Crossover, while the ‘h’ stands for Hybrid. Yes, its a hybrid! It will be available in two variants – Luxury and F-Sport, the latter getting some sporty and geeky features like a G-sensor. This one like all other Lexus’ will be imported into India as a completely built up unit. The fact that this is a CBU and what with the high GST rates on hybrids in India, means that you are looking at a price tag of Rs. 60 lakhs at least. At this price, the Lexus NX300h will compete with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5, Jaguar F-Type and BMW X3.
Well, if looks was the basic parameter here, the Lexus NX300h blows away its rivals. This car looks futuristic from any angle, and will continue to impress even after a decade of ownership (and we have said this before too with the RX). The sharp 3-eye LED projector headlights along with the razor sharp LED DRLs gives this car a road presence of its own. The oversized spindle grille adds to the show, giving this car a stylish front end. The sides are again characterised by sharp creases, while the 18-inch bronze alloy wheels fill up the squared wheel arches well. The rear of the car gets the equally striking LED taillights and a blacked out lower section. The F-Sport version gets some sporty bits like a more aggressive-looking spindle grille, machined 18-inch alloy wheels and redesigned bumpers. There is no doubt that the Lexus NX300h is the best-looking SUV you can buy in its price range. There is a certain charm about it that none of its competitors can match.
On the insides, there is a familiar looking dashboard layout. The sporty steering wheel is great to hold, and comes with paddle shifters and a heater built into it. The instrument cluster is fully digital, while the large 10.2 inches infotainment screen now also supports satellite navigation. The system though, is not compatible with Apple Car Play, nor Android Auto. There is a touch pad on the central console that can be used to control the infotainment system that also provides haptic feedback. There is a classy analogue clock in the centre that gives the dashboard a luxurious touch. The rest of the central dashboard looks a bit cluttered, nevertheless will be appreciated by geeks. The dashboard on the luxury variant can be got with a wooden trim, but the F-Sport variant gets sporty Aluminium trims. The front armrest hides away a Qi wireless charging pad that helps charge your Qi compatible phone. The infotainment screen also doubles up as the display for the 360-degree camera and gets good quality graphics. There is also a heads-up display that provides a ton of information including that G-sensor on the F-Sport variant.
The seats are made up of synthetic leather and frankly feel nice to the touch. They are ventilated as well as heated on the Luxury variant (both at the front and rear), while the F-Sport gets only heated seats (only upfront) that is basically useless in our kind of climate conditions (unless you stay up North). There is a three zone climate control that works efficiently. There is a large glass roof that is fixed and gives you a panoramic view of the skies. The headliner on the Luxury variant gets a beige shade, while the F-Sport gets a black one. Coming to the rear seats, there is enough space available here for two. The roof is pretty low too, but the glass roof saves the day and gives you an impression of having much more space than there actually is. The F-Sport variant gets sporty Aluminium pedals. The powered tailgate opens a puny boot, thanks to the full size alloy spare wheel.
The Lexus NX300h gets its hybrid powertrain from the Lexus ES300h. It is powered by a 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine that develops 156 HP. There are two electric motors on the front and rear axle that develop some extra power with the help of battery packs, taking the total output to 197 HP and 210 Nm. This powertrain is connected to an e-CVT gearbox that efficiently powers the front two wheels. The Lexus NX300h can also act as an AWD SUV thanks to the rear electric motor. There are various drive modes to choose from too (Eco, Normal, Sport/Sport+), that alter the steering responses and also alter the suspension.
The initial responsiveness of this drivetrain is very impressive. This is especially true when the gearbox is engaged in S mode. But try to work it hard, and the CVT gearbox will show its ugly head. This car does not encourage enthusiastic driving due to this gearbox alone. But on the contrary while heading back from the drive, we encountered some serious traffic. In such situations, the Lexus NX300h can be a real gem. The interior feels properly luxurious along with the rather comfortable cabin. The ride quality isn’t that bad either, having a comfortable (soft) edge to it. Straightline stability is fantastic, but don’t try to push it into a corner. The NX does not like corners and will make you realise its bulk. This is a 1.9-ton SUV and you definitely feel it. That said steering feel and brake pedal feel is decent enough. It gets safety features like 8 airbags, ABS and anti-theft system with a tilt and glass sensor. The car delivers a rated fuel economy of 18.32 kmpl.
The Lexus NX300h is a damn neat car. It has a good quality interior, is comfortable and is ought to save on some emissions as well. At the price that it is expected to launch, there are many other more capable and even more spacious cars. The Lexus NX300h is a car that you will love to have as a 2nd, or even a 3rd luxury car at home. This is a car than can be used for daily city runabouts (like school drops, grocery shopping) for the crorepati. It will do all of it in style too, thanks to its striking design and comfortable interior. We do hope though that Lexus India offered up more engine options, something like a more conventional diesel engine option. After all, India still isn’t a hybrid crazy Japan!
Story: Siddhant Nagvekar; Photography: Amogh Taware