2018 Lexus NX 300h Review

2018 Lexus NX 300h - The 2018 Lexus NX 300h hybrid combines luxury with economy.

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Buyers of compact SUV hybrids once had to accept ho-hum styling, lazy performance and mediocre handling. The 2018 Lexus NX 300h erases all those drawbacks.

This rakishly styled $38,335 four-door hatchback provides snazzy styling, better fuel economy than the gas-engine NX and has standard all-wheel drive.

Improvements to the 2018 rakish-looking NX 300h include a new grille, revised rear bumper and updated headlights and tail lights. There's also a retuned suspension and a larger infotainment screen.

Entering the NX 300h calls for a little extra effort, but there's plenty of room for four tall adults. The power front seats are supportive, and the rear seat provides good support, especially in the often-neglected thigh area. The center of the backseat is stiff and best occupied by a large fold-down armrest with sturdy cupholders. The front doors have huge handles and open very widely but rear doors have a somewhat narrow opening.

Rear seat backs can be folded down 60/40 to open up the reasonably large cargo area, which I found can handle, for instance, a week's worth of groceries. The NX 300h has a large, heavy hatch, so the optional ($550) power liftgate with a kick sensor is a handy option.

The electric/gas NX 300h has 194 horsepower and a responsive continuously variable automatic transmission with a quick-acting manual-shift feature with steering wheel paddle shifters. City and highway performance is lively when passing on highways or entering fast freeway traffic. Estimated fuel economy is 33 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on highways. Not bad for an approximately 4,000-pound vehicle.

A driver can select "Eco," "Normal" or "Sport" driving modes. Sport mode livens acceleration and causes one of the large gauges facing the driver to turn into a tachometer from one that shows hybrid system output in Eco or Normal mode. Eco mode results in better fuel economy but slows acceleration and air conditioning operation. I found Normal to be the best mode for daily driving unless you're pushing for maximum fuel economy.

A thick, easily gripped steering wheel has a nice feel, and the quiet interior has high-quality materials, including attractive synthetic leather, soft-touch areas and nifty stitching throughout. Standard are a push button start/stop, automatic dual-zone climate control system with rear-seat vents, an 8-speaker Lexus Display audio system and a 4.2-inch full color multi-information display with driving information and audio and outside temperature display.

There's a remote touch interface, but the infotainment controller is cumbersome and irksome to operate. Thankfully, there are small but clearly marked redundant manual dashboard area controls for various functions.

The NX 300h's steering is quick and accurate and its ride is supple. This is no sports-sedan-style SUV, but handling is secure even when rushing through curves at above-average speeds, helped by the clever all-wheel-drive system. Slightly more brake pedal action is needed because of the hybrid system's regenerative braking action. The anti-lock brakes have electronic brake force distribution and brake assist features.

There are lots of air bags, and the NX 300h has the "Lexus Safety System." It features a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist and "intelligent" high-beam headlights. Power folding outside mirrors help prevent parking-area damage.

Shell out $4,705 for the Luxury page and you get items including wood trim, a heated leather steering wheel, the above-mentioned power hatchback, heated/ventilated front seats, leather seats, power tilt-and-slide moonroof, power tilt/telescopic steering column and a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert. Other options include a navigation package,10-speaker Lexus premium sound system and body side moldings.

However, options raised the price of my test NX 300h from $38,335 to $46,173, not including a $995 freight charge.

The NX 300h looks like a real fireball, but does its job admirably without tearing up the pavement and creating high gas bills.

2018 Lexus HX300h
Price: $38,335

Pros - Bold styling. Fuel-thrifty. Luxurious. Lively performance. Supple ride. Sure handling. Roomy. All-wheel drive.

Cons - Distracting infotainment controller. Rather high step-in. Narrow rear-door openings.

Bottom Line-Rakish, luxurious and fuel-stingy compact hybrid.



Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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