2018 Lexus NX 300h Review

2018 Lexus NX 300h - Lexus champions gas-electric hybrids

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Selecting the quintessential compact five-door crossover in
2018 involves extensive scrutiny as just about all automakers offer one (and
sometimes more) tempting choices.

But not all offer
versions sporting a fuel-extending gas-electric hybrid engine.  The
Lexus NX does, as it teams up with six additional gas-electric hybrid models,
throughout the luxury automaker's lineup.

The gas-electric
hybrid version of the five-door 2018 NX (dubbed the NX 300h) self charges,
never requiring a nightly wall socket plug-in, a technology Lexus and parent
company Toyota have perfected during the past 18 years.

While
classified as a 'compact,' NX 300h doesn't equate with 'cramped.' Size wise,
compacts of today could easily qualify as mid-sizers from the not-so-distant
past. It's pleasantly maneuverable, easy to park and very garage-able.

Updates
for the five-passenger NX 300h in 2018 include new front and rear-end visual
tweaks and a suite of standard, radar-based safety features including forward
collision mitigation.  Side-view mirrors now power in when the key fob
locks up the vehicle. The Lexus NX 300h strictly sells as an all-wheel-drive
product.  The non-hybrid 'classic' version (NX 300) offers the choice
of front-wheel as well as all-wheel drive.

Lexus arrived in
1989 as the new-fangled luxury division of Toyota. Early generations of LS and
ES sedans found a quick niche, featuring buttoned-down conservative sheet
metal.  NX 300 arrived in the 2015 model year with harder-edged styling
starting up front with a forward-pointing spindle grille, a relatively new
signature for all vehicles within the Lexus brand. Bejeweled LED golden
turn-signal blinker lights follow a check-mark-like form under headlight
housing.

While exterior cues nearly mimic the
gas-only-propelled NX 300, one visual element hides in plain sight. 
All Lexus hybrids shade the circular 'L' logo with a blue
background.   Another clue reflecting fuel extending
technology: the word 'hybrid' adorning the lower portion of rear side doors.

Pricing
checks in at $38,335, a mere $1,050 more than a non-hybrid 2918 NX 300 with
all-wheel drive. The NX 300h is marketed in one, well-equipped trim with a
smattering of options. Our tester's bottom line fell to $47,168 with extras and
$995 destination charge.

A $4,705 Luxury Package included
power moon roof and lift back, heated steering wheel and power tilt/telescoping
steering column. A $1,800 Navigation package includes in-dash nav and upgraded
premium sound system.  Stand-alone features were a $125 auto dimming
rear-view mirror, $550 kick-sensor power hatch, $199 body side molding and $459
illuminated interior door sills.

As with just about every
gas-electric hybrid (and a growing number of non-hybrids), NX 300h takes
advantage of regenerative braking, capturing energy and storing it for reuse
later to extend fuel numbers. Also during prolonged stops, such as at a traffic
light, the gas engine gently shuts down to conserve fuel, restarting quietly
when summoning the gas pedal.

Propulsion combines a
2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine (capable of generating 154
horsepower) and a series of electric motor generators.  One generator
acts as an engine starter and charges the 290-cell hybrid battery pack. Other
generators drive front and rear wheels. Combined system horsepower reaches 194.


The hybrid powertrain connects to a continuously variable
transmission (CVT) built to enhance fuel economy not necessarily performance
statistics.

Comparing fuel economy between the hybrid NX
and turbo NX, expect 33 miles per gallon city and 30 mph highway from the NX
300h. The conventional gas engine NX 300 generates 22 mpg city and 28 mpg
highway in all-wheel-drive, so maximum NX 300h benefits achieve from
around-town cruising. Another factoid, the turbocharged NX 300 requires 91 or
higher octane fuel for optimal performance, while the hybrid NX 300h recommends
lower-priced regular 87 octane to satisfy the 14.8-gallon tank.

For
newbies taking a maiden voyage with a self-charging gas-electric hybrid, muscle
memory remains nearly identical to traditional gas-powered engines. 
Hop in, push the electronic start button, slide the transmission selector to
drive, step on the gas pedal and go.  From an audible perspective, the
silent electric propulsion when starting takes some time for adjustment.

Tail
lamps boast a three-dimension theme as red-tinted housing bulges out from the
sheet metal  with long, facing, beak-like noses pointing towards each
other and the tail gate's blue Lexus logo with a bird-crest-like silhouette
wrapped to rear fenders.  The smallish rear window slants at a 45
degree angle with a shading spoiler atop. Narrow side windows frame with chrome
striping contributing to a high belt line while round wheel wells and door
bottoms include plastic composite-like protective cladding.

Inside,
the prominent dashboard includes elements of length, width and depth with a
nose-like center column/section housing an elevated, flat, rectangular,
multi-function screen a bit larger in size for 2018.  To the left, a
conveniently-placed circular electronic push-start button, elevated with direct
driver access not impaired by the steering column or turn-signal stalk.

The
non-touch color monitor interacts via "remote touch interface"
technology.  Selecting options and scrolling involves a fingertip
dancing up, down and around a flat square ballroom surface located aft of the
transmission shifter between well-padded buckets seats.

Push
down on the square surface (larger in 2018) with minimal finger pressure to
select a screen-highlighted category or option.  Techies may geek out
joyfully, but those who find Smartphones confounding may cringe with RTI as
eyes spend too much time away from monitoring the road.

Below
the flat screen, the dual-zone ventilation system includes large, digital
temperature readout for both sides.  An elegant, old-school
illuminated analog clock separates temperature designations.  
Diminutive, chrome-enhanced wheel-like inboard rotary dials monitor
temperatures, control fan speed and fan speed.  All HVAC functions may
also adjust via RTI when drilling down through the screen tutorial.

To
the left of the transmission shifter, a large dial summoning three drive modes:
Normal, Eco and Sport. The electronic parking brake button resides nearby.

Second-row
seats include a manual reclining function allowing several inches of
personalized back attention through outboard lower levers.  Three
adults fit in a pinch, but two travel with optimal comfort and can take
advantage of a center fold-down center armrest with dual beverage holders.
Backrests also fold flat, increasing cargo carrying capacity to a comparably
small 53.7 cubic feet.

The hybrid system's sealed nickel
metal hydride battery pack stows out-of-sight under second-row seats. The
instrument cluster features two large analog dials with the left orb
illustrating three states of the hybrid engine; charge, power and
eco.  The right orb retains speedometer info.  The 4.2-inch
full color multi-information digital center window includes scrollable panels
selected via a steering wheel button pad at 3 o'clock. As with many Toyota and
Lexus products, a small rectangle appendage darts out of the steering wheel's 5
o'clock underside to monitor cruise control.

2018 Lexus NX
300h


Price as tested:  $47,168

Wheelbase:
104.7 inches

Overall Length: 182.3 inches

Overall
Width: 73.6 inches

Gas Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder

Total
system horsepower: 194

Curb Weight:  4,180 pounds

Fuel
Economy: 33 mpg city, 30 mpg highway

Assembly: Japan










Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.