Anthony's Analysis: 2021 Lexus NX300h Luxury




There are so many different compact SUVs out on the market, you really need a compelling reason to buy! Moving from something like a sedan or a hatchback means you're sacrificing ride comfort and fuel economy. As more and more automakers make vehicles with some type of hi-tech battery system, the most "traditional" way to make something more fuel-efficient is to make it a hybrid. Now then, which automaker is known for their hybrids…? Toyota! What does Toyota own? Lexus! I think you can see where I’m going with this.

There is no doubt that Lexus has an extensive range of hybrid vehicles, from small SUVs to their flagship LC500h. Yes, Lexus likes to look like the most fuel-efficient manufacturer in the United States. Speaking of, let us talk about the car I had this week. This vehicle is the 2021 Lexus NX300h Luxury. For now, I can only say that is it was quite an interesting week. Driving it on certain types of roads, accelerating as hard as I can and keeping that little charge needle into “Eco” brought a lot of this hybrid NX.

At first glance, you would not really know that the NX is a hybrid. It is the typical Toyota/Lexus “let’s make all the badges blue to showcase you’re better than everyone else.” Even so, I love the design of the NX300h. It is just so…angular. It is like Lexus figured out that they needed a compact crossover and just went mad with the styling. When you look at the humongous grille, it’s instantly Lexus. You either love it or hate it. I love it. Not only does it give it presence, but it makes people complain to you. On the side, you will see “HYBRID” in large letters on the rear passenger doors but hey it is a hybrid. If people do not know you own one, why even bother?

Combining the 18-inch wheels along with the Nori Green Paint make it stand out ever-more. Plus, this particular model had the hands-free tailgate which worked pretty much 100% of the time. Excellent system, but we must get to a story of the room inside that tailgate a little later. For now, I like angles and swooping lines. For better or worse, the NX300h is totally fine with being a stand-out in the premium class compact SUVs. Is the interior as bold and kind-of quirky as the exterior? Yes and no, and that’s where some of my qualms come to light.

You hop into the interior of the NX300h. “Wow”, you think “that’s a CD player!” I know that the NX model was created back in 2017, but who still has an exposed CD player!? Surprise surprise, I never used it because I am a millennial who grew out of my CD phase. Thankfully, the Mack Levinson sound system is great. Lexus has stuck with this sound system for years and I don’t see why they would ever change that. Moving a little bit down, you see a traditional gear-shifter with an option to “shift your own gears”. I’ll explain why later why that is really confusing. You also have some nobs and buttons for the adjustable drive settings of Eco, Normal, and Sport. Like anyone is ever going to put their hybrid into sport.

I’m going to stay positive for now because my biggest complaint is, well big. This particular model had heated and ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel, good for -20 degree weather. The steering wheel is nice and small which gives off a sporty look, although some of the buttons took a little time to get used to. In front of you, you get some Lexus-like dials. The layout for the climate control is excellent. Really easy to use and right at your finger-tips. In all but Sport mode, the left dials show a Power, Eco, and Charge mode. Try your hardest not to constantly be in Power mode but when you decelerate, it pops straight into Eco mode. Switching it into Sport mode shows a tachometer which is cool but completely unnecessary.

Infotainment systems are important to me. The easier they are to use, the less frustrated I and others will get. Lexus…does things differently. They use a little touchpad with physical buttons for the Home screen. Lexus. Stop it! I have to say that this is probably one of the WORST infotainment systems I’ve used in a few years. It’s clunky, hard to use, and the screen is so far away, the backup camera can become extremely difficult to use. Please, Lexus, I beg you to change this for the 2022+ redesign. Got that bug in the ointment done, so let’s take this sucker for a drive.

First things first, it makes the traditional “woosh” sound in EV mode so people in the town over can hear it. I guess it’s better than hearing the hybrid engine? Speaking of, Lexus states that the hybrid uses a complex hybrid engine, all-wheel-drive, and my dreaded CVT transmission. 0-60 MPH takes around 9 seconds, but you don’t really feel it. You feel some instant torque due to the hybrid engine, followed by a very loud inline-four that tries to keep its “gears” right where it thinks you want it. Otherwise, the Lexus is quiet and really comfortable. It can easily keep up with what is currently traffic and has some punch off-the-line. This is a hybrid and even posting a 0-60 MPH time is silly.

Come on, you want to know the fuel economy! It’s estimated at around 33 city, 30 highway, and I got around 28-30 MPG. That’s not too shabby. What is weird is how the EV mode goes in and out of driving every few minutes. At least it has some hybrid “stop-start” system. Handling is a little more relaxed than those looks make it feel. It isn’t made to go really fast on a highway. It’s more of a cruiser with safety features such as lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control on a stalk on the steering wheel, and automatic headlights. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want the adaptive-cruise control on constantly, but those automatic high-beams are way too optimistic. If there’s a 100-foot gap, it’ll flash the lights on. Try doing that when a cop is pulling out of a stoplight just for you to blind them for a second.

What’s the verdict? Well first, this top-of-the-line NX300h was about $50,000. Is this surprising with some of the standard kit? Not really. Would I recommend one? That depends. If you can overlook that terrible infotainment system, take a look at it. It’s comfortable, powerful enough, gets great gas mileage, and has an upmarket sound-system. While you can wait for the redesign, try it out. It’s definitely a love-or-hate SUV.

 

Some Nerdalicious Stats

Engine

Combined 2.5-liter i4 with hybrid power

Power: 194 hp

Torque: ~154 lb-ft

0-60 MPH

~8.8 seconds

Eh, it’s slow.

Top Speed

116 MPH

Fastest I went: the speed limit.

Transmission

CVT

Another hybrid with a CVT…

Price

Around $50,000

“Hybrid premium”

Drivetrain

All-wheel-drive

Needed in Chicagoland winters.

Did I like it?

Mostly, yes.

7.5/10

 

 


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