350h drive in Europe for Australian buyers

The things we love

  • Interior quality and driving comfort
  • Powertrain flexibility and efficiency
  • Generous equipment list

Not really

  • Awkward turns and sad steering
  • The responsiveness of the powertrain
  • Tire noise

Sget into the driver’s seat of the new 2022 Lexus NX350h is to arrive at the current heart of the Lexus universe. This gasoline-electric mid-size SUV is the brand’s most important model.

The NX accounts for a third of Lexus’ sales in Europe and Australia, slightly less in massive markets like North America and China. And more and more, everywhere, Lexus buyers are frequently choosing hybrid propulsion. In emissions and efficiency-conscious Western European countries, for example, over 90% of Lexus models purchased are gasoline-electric.

Scheduled to arrive in Australia in January, the slightly larger second-generation NX will replace the original which launched in 2014.

While the bestseller in the current lineup is the 300 variant with a turbo four, Lexus Australia expects the 350h hybrid to be the most popular of the new lineup.

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Its fourth-generation hybrid technology, again built around a 2.5-liter Atkinson four-cycle, brings great increases in power and performance as well as improved fuel efficiency. The NX350h will be sold in three equipment classes – Luxury, F Sport, Sports Luxury – and as front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.

The effective replacement for the existing NX300, the new NX350, packs an all-new 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mated to an eight-speed car under its hood. It is a bit more powerful than the hybrid but uses a lot more fuel. The NX350 will be sold only in F Sport trim and with all-wheel drive.

Under these two versions will be the NX250. It will have a 2.5-liter non-turbo four-cylinder and the same eight-speed car as the NX350, but will only be offered as a front driver with the entry-level Luxury equipment class.

While the launch lineup has largely been finalized, pricing has not. Expect the single-variant 250 to cost around $ 60,000 before the roads, the top-of-the-line 350h to around $ 80,000 and everything else to be in between those two numbers.

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The massive grille, which wouldn’t look out of place on an ocean krill catcher, instantly identifies it as a Lexus.

Lexus’ very first plug-in hybrid, the 450h +, may be added to the lineup with the local launch of the new NX. It uses a slightly modified version of the hybrid powertrain in the 350h and adds a much larger lithium-ion battery for an electric range of around 70 km. It is equipped with the same 40 kW rear-axle electric motor as the all-wheel-drive version of the 350h.

With easily the highest combined power output of the new NX lineup and all-wheel drive, 450h + is the best performing of them all. If it’s Australia, and we’re told it’s a near certainty, it’ll be the halo pattern. As a result, it’s likely to carry a price tag of around $ 90,000.

The exterior of the new NX isn’t bad, if you prefer a chunky build over a sleek elegance. And the massive grille, which wouldn’t look out of place on an ocean krill catcher, instantly identifies it as a Lexus.

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As is often the case with Lexus, beauty is mostly found inside and the NX is the first model to adopt the brand’s new cockpit concept. Obviously, it has a Japanese name: Tazuna. It aims to minimize hand and eye movement while driving.

Concretely, this means a new steering wheel design with customizable touchpads on the left and right spokes, a customizable display of essential information in the meter cluster (and the head-up display that will be standard in top-of-the-range models in Australia. ), plus a reduction in the number of physical switches.

The central, landscape-oriented touchscreen tilts towards the driver. There’s a 9.8-inch screen for the base qualities and a delightfully crisp 14.0-inch high-definition unit for the high-end variants. All versions will come with voice assistant, DAB +, satellite navigation system and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The appearance and layout of the cockpit is excellent. It is user-friendly and the quality of materials and craftsmanship is pretty much flawless. The comfort of the front seats is superb, although very tall drivers may find a lack of headroom. The rear seat is spacious and offers good support, and the luggage compartment is usefully large.

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The list of standard safety and driver assistance technologies is as long as it should be in something with high-end aspirations. And the NX launches a first security system for Lexus. Using the same sensors as for blind spot monitoring and new power door latches, it can prevent the door from opening when approaching a vehicle or cyclist. Cyclists of the world, rejoice!

Anyone who has driven a Toyota hybrid in the two decades since the first Prius will find the sounds and feels of the NX350h. Engine noise is more subdued than before – this is a new Lexus, after all – but the 350h’s low sound from the Atkinson four cycle remains charmless.

The mysteries of hybrid technology mean that the front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions of the 350h have the same combined total maximum power output of 179 kW. That’s 24% more than the current 300 hours, enough to cut acceleration times from 0-100 km / h to 8.7 seconds for the front driver and 7.7 seconds for all-wheel drive. (The NX450h + plug-in, by the way, does it in 6.3 seconds much faster).

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During the recent presentation to the European press on the Spanish island of Mallorca, the NX350h frequently cut its ICE to operate electrically. Despite the enthusiastic spanking, including on some steep and winding roads, the on-board computer showed fuel consumption of just 7.0 L / 100 km.

While undoubtedly highly efficient, the 350h never feels particularly crisp, perhaps because hybrid technology means there is no precise relationship between engine noise and acceleration.

Still, the 350h is a smarter choice, at least for comfort lovers, than the 300. Its turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder sounds a bit like a classy household appliance, which is not a major problem. but the behavior of its eight-speed auto is. The drivetrain is prone to low-speed shunt shifts, which the eCVT-equipped 350h never does, flawlessly. And although the 350 feels slightly livelier, it uses around 30 percent more fuel than the 350h according to official test numbers.

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Dynamically, the NX350h’s great asset is its handling. Even on the 20-inch tires worn by all vehicles available for road testing in Spain, the Lexus’ suspension offered a gentle blend of control and comfort. The rumble of the road on rough surfaces was the only thing disturbing the calm of the straight road.

The handling of the hybrid is quite competent. It understeers when pushed, but the numb steering, synthetic feel brakes, and clear chassis comfort bias do nothing at all to encourage ambitious cornering. The E-Four all-wheel drive system is so smooth, it’s hard to say what it’s contributing to, if any.

The average SUV is the size and shape everyone seems to want today, which means the new Lexus NX is sure to find an audience among the multitudes who desire a little more luxury and can afford to pay for it. .

With its distinctive Japanese flavor, it’s a welcome alternative to obvious European rivals like the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60. Where most of them – the Volvo is the exception – aim for spurious sportiness, the NX is more for calm, comfort and quality. And these are virtues of universal appeal.

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Lexus NX 350h 2022 specifications

Model Lexus NX350h E-Four AWD
Motor 2487cc 4cyl dohc 16v Atkinson-cycle
Engines

134 kW permanent magnet synchronous front, 40 kW permanent magnet synchronous rear

Maximum system power 179kW
Max engine torque 239 Nm at 4300 to 4500 rpm
Maximum engine torques

270 Nm at the front, 121 Nm at the rear (Lexus does not mention the total torque of the combined system, only the power)

Transmission eCVT
Weight 1790 to 1870kg
0-100km / h 7.7sec
Economy 5.6 L / 100 km (low WLTP)
Price From $ 75,000 (estimated) + ORC
On sale January 2022
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The things we love

  • Interior quality and driving comfort
  • Power train flexibility and efficiency
  • Generous equipment list

Not really

  • Awkward turns and sad steering
  • The responsiveness of the powertrain
  • Tire noise

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