A mainstay of the Lexus range, the NX has a strong following in New Zealand. Each update has only made the car better, and 2022 saw Lexus New Zealand release their first-ever plugin hybrid (PHEV), the NX450h.

We’ll be reviewing the top-spec NX450h+ F Sport (say that after a few wines) with a view to it being in the top ten for the 2022 New Zealand Car Of the Year award. Does the NX450h+ F Sport have what it takes to take out New Zealand’s longest-running and most prestigious Car Of The Year award? Time to clock up the miles and find out.

What We Like and Dislike About The Lexus NX450h+ F Sport

What we likeWhat we don’t like
Superb fuel economy, range
Overall build quality
Interior materials
Performance
Smoothness
Ride quality
360-degree camera
Seat comfort
AC charging only
Engine can be noisy at times

What’s In The Lexus NX Range?

You get to choose from 3 models of NX hybrid:

  • NX350h $95,400
  • NX350h Limited $104,900
  • NX450h+ F Sport (tested) $111,100

The base model is a front-wheel drive, while the two upper models are all-wheel drive. All run the same petrol engine, a 2.5-litre, 4-cylinder, mated to an E-CVT transmission. The NX hybrids require a minimum of 95 octane fuel.

The NX350h is not a plug-in hybrid, so the maximum power on that model is 179kW with torque at 239Nm.

Both NX450h models are plug-in hybrids, with a WLTP range of 87km on a full charge using its 18.1kWh battery pack. The total power output in these models is 227kW. The plug-hybrid NX models have an electric motor at each end of the vehicle.

The letters ‘NX’ stands for ‘Nimble Crossover’.

Lexus NX Standard Equipment Highlights

EXTERIOR

  • Bi-beam LED low & high beam headlights
  • Static auto-levelling system
  • LED Daytime Running Lights
  • Auto lights-off system
  • Tinted acoustic windshield glass
  • Front door water-repellent glass
  • Rear door, side glass and rear hatch privacy glass – all with UV reduction

INTERIOR

  • 8.0” colour TFT LCD meter with Multi-Information Display
  • Synthetic leather 10-way power adjustable driver seat with power lumbar support; 8-way power adjustable front passenger seat, heated front seats; 60/40 manual folding rear seat
  • Centre console box; vanity mirrors and lights (front seats); front and outer rear seat cupholders; front and rear door bottle holders
  • Climate Control automatic dual-zone air conditioning; Nanoe clean air filter with pollen and odour removal
  • Interior door handle E-latch system

OPERATION

  • Smart key system with remote central door locking and panic function; power back door release function
  • Alarm system with siren, glass-break, tilt and intrusion sensors; immobiliser
  • Steering wheel controls for audio, phone, voice, and multi-information display; paddle shifters. Touch-sensitive steering wheel controls in NX 350h Limited and NX 450h+
  • Power tilt and telescopic steering column
  • Power back door with memory function and hands-free operation (kick type)

AUDIO & NAVIGATION

  • Lexus audio system with 14” wide touch screen display, AM/FM radio, Satellite Navigation, 10 speakers, Apple CarPlay® and Android™ Auto, voice recognition
  • Qi wireless device charging

SAFETY

  • Lexus Safety System +: Pre-Collision System with Autonomous Emergency Braking for vehicles, motorcyclists, cyclist and pedestrians; Intersection Assistance – turn left/right and Crossing Vehicles; All-speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with indicator linked control (over 80km/h), Curve Speed Reduction, Lane Tracing Assist with Lane Departure Alert and steering assist, Vehicle Sway Warning: Automatic High Beam (entry-level variant), Adaptive High-beam System (Limited & F SPORT); Road Sign Assist
  • 8 airbags: Driver and front passenger front, driver and front passenger seat side, driver knee, front passenger cushion and front and rear curtain shield airbags
  • Anti-lock Brake System; Brake Assist system
  • Traction Control System; Trailer Sway Control; Vehicle Stability Control; Hill-start Assist Control
  • Blind Spot Monitor System; Rear Cross Traffic Auto Brake
  • Front and rear parking assist sensors with Parking Support Brake; reversing camera with dynamic guidelines
  • 3-point ELR seatbelts on all seats with pretensioners and force limiters on front and outer rear seats
  • ISOFIX-compliant child seat anchor points on outer rear seats; top tether anchors on all rear seats
  • Tyre pressure warning system

Moving to the NX350h Limited will add:

  • LED 3-eye projector-type headlights; dynamic auto-levelling system; LED Daytime Running Lights; LED front fog lights; wide-angle cornering lights; auto lights off system; headlight cleaners
  • 10” colour head-up display showing vehicle speed, road sign assist, shift position, message display, navigation, driving assist and tyre pressure
  • Leather accented 12-way power adjustable driver seat with 4-way power lumbar support and 3 position memory function; 8-way power adjustable front passenger seat, heated front seats with ventilation; heated outer rear seats; 60/40 power fold and recline rear seats
  • Interior illumination colour with 14 pre-set options & 64 possible colours
  • Mark Levinson Premium audio system with 14” wide touch display, AM/FM radio, Satellite Navigation, 17 speakers, Clari-Fi music restoration technology, Apple CarPlay® and Android™ Auto, voice recognition
  • Panoramic view monitor – four high-resolution cameras mounted on the front, sides and rear of the vehicle for drivers a bird’s-eye view of the near environment

At the top of the model range is the NX450h+ F Sport, which adds:

  • F SPORT front mesh grille, front fender emblems; body-coloured wheel arch mouldings; black exterior mirror covers; black alloy wheels
  • F SPORT leather accented 10-way power adjustable driver seat, driver seat power lumbar support and 3 position memory function; 8-way power adjustable front passenger seat, heated front seats with ventilation; 60/40 manual folding rear seat; Aluminium pedals

There’s a great selection of colours to choose from for your NX:

  • Sonic Quartz (n/a F Sport)
  • Titanium
  • Sonic Shade
  • Celestial Blue
  • Graphite Black
  • Caliente
  • Blazing Carnelian
  • Terrane Khaki
  • White Nova (F Sport only)
  • Cobalt (F Sport only)

For a full list of specs and options available for the Lexus NX450h+ F Sport PHEV head on over to the Lexus New Zealand website.

How Does The Lexus NX450h+ F Sport PHEV Compare To Its Competition?

All prices below exclude the refund or additional cost of the New Zealand Clean Car Programme.

Make/ ModelEnginePower/
Torque
kW/Nm
PHEV
range,
km
SeatsFuel L/100kmTowing
Capacity
Boot
Space,
litres
Price
(excl CCP)
BMW X5 xDrive 45e PHEV3.0-litre, 6-cylinder plug-in hybrid290/6007752.5750/2,700500$161,000
Jaguar F-Pace R-Dynamic HSE PHEV2.0-litre, 4-cylinder plug-in hybrid297/6405952.7750/2,400509$149,900
Lexus NX450h+ F Sport (AWD)2.5-litre, 4-cylinder petrol with plug-in hybrid assistance227/2278751.4750/1,500545$111,100
Kia Sorento Premium PHEV1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol/plug-in hybrid195/3505771.6750/1,350608$89,990
Mitsubishi Outlander VRX PHEV2.4-litre, 4-cylinder petrol/plugin hybrid185/4508471.6750/1,600472$79,990

First Impressions Of The Lexus NX450h+ F Sport PHEV SUV

Are we all getting used to the enormous grille on Lexus cars? You know, I believe we are. With BMW going even more hard-out on grille sizes, the Lexus NX looks almost normal. There’s no doubt the grille is still huge, but it does blend in nicely with the rest of the frontal design. 

New for 2022 are the adaptive LED headlights, so these take up less space than standard headlights and look quite sexy too. Around the rear of the car, that full-width light bar looks excellent at night.

I think the biggest impact for me was the Cobalt our test car was finished in. It is stunning, and I even got comments from people simply walking past. I doubt photos do it justice and expect that most NXs sold will be grey or silver, but boy, does it look amazing in this colour.

The NX can look heavy on the sides with its high waistline and nothing to break it up but some creases on the body, but overall it’s top marks for first impressions.

What’s The Interior Like In The Lexus NX450h+ F Sport PHEV SUV?

Getting inside the new 2022 Lexus NX means using the electronic door handles (Lexus calls them the “E-latch”), so from the outside, it’s just a touch of the inside of the handle itself, and pull. It might feel a little strange to start with but quickly becomes second nature. 

First impressions of the interior? It’s so dark, everything is black inside. The roof feels low with all the blackness. I got used to it, but a bit of ivory or even beige would lift the interior no end. Thankfully, there’s a range of options for interior colours on your NX.

Compared to the last NX, Lexus has really lifted the interior quality and finish. While the last NX had a great interior, the new NX really wows your passengers, including those who have been in Lexus vehicles before. It looks like Lexus have gone hard out to lift the bar, and they’ve achieved it.

Part of this is down to the (at last!) upgraded infotainment system. The screen is a decent size at 14”, and the clarity is excellent. Finally, Lexus gets the infotainment system it should have. It’s quick too with very little lag between screens and actual usage is a doddle. Anyone will pick it up very quickly. To keep things simple, on the right-hand side of the screen there are shortcuts for SatNav, Phone, Media, and Vehicle Settings. One touch is all it takes to get to where you want to go. Great stuff.

All AC controls are now via the touchscreen, with physical temperature dials for the driver or passenger. You can also use the car’s Climate Concierge service, where you select a temperature and the car will automatically adjust seat cooling/heating and the aircon. There is also an S-Flow setting and this will direct air only onto occupied seats – a very nice feature.

Another point of quality of the new NX is the types of materials used in the cabin. Every touch point is soft or simply has a nice feel. You can easily tell that Lexus has focused on the touchpoints in this new model. Part of that experience is finally getting rid of the horrible touchpad that was used to drive the old, clunky infotainment system. Everything is done by the touchscreen now, and I doubt any owners will mourn the loss of the touchpad. They have no place in a car.

You’ll find contrasting stitching on the doors, steering wheel, centre console and seats, all beautifully done in true Lexus style.

Another item that is missing is the CD player. This was my first Lexus ever that didn’t have a CD player. On the music side of things, there’s a sliding Qi phone charger; stick your phone on it and let it charge, and if you want to, slide the cover back to get your phone out of sight (and temptation) and this also reveals a small, felt-lined cubby with a 12-volt power socket. It’s not huge – it would fit a wallet – but handy all the same. On the right-hand side of the steering wheel is a small cubby with a cover, and the centre console has a large and deep cubby of course, and it’s fitted with an ingenuous cover that can be opened from either front seat. There’s a double-latch arrangement that means it opens from the side, on either side. Small tech but very cool.

Up above the Qi charger is another shelf, easily large enough for a cellphone. Front seat passengers also get USB-A and USB-C ports. If you need yet more storage there is a medium-sized glovebox. The driver gets alloy pedals and probably the biggest alloy footrest I’ve ever seen. It’s huge and appreciated.

There’s still that feeling of luxury in the rear seat, and access to two more USB-C ports, a 12-volt socket and a couple of AC vents. Surprisingly for such a luxurious car, there are no AC controls for rear seat passengers. Legroom and headroom in the rear is average to good, but the one-piece front seats can make it feel a bit more claustrophobic back there.

The boot is generous at 545 litres with another smallish storage area under the floor. This holds the 230-volt home charger, but there’s more space in there if you need it. There’s a 12-volt socket in the boot, along with some bag hooks. There is no spare wheel in the NX hybrid, so you’ll see a tyre repair kit instead.

The parcel tray cover is a soft fabric design, and it can be folded in half to easily store under the floor. Such a simple idea that makes ‘hard’ parcel tray covers seem antiquated.

What’s The Lexus NX450h+ F Sport PHEV SUV Like To Drive?

On picking up our test car, with a full tank of fuel the range was showing as 733km to empty, with an EV-only range of 73km. I’m keen to see just how far I can go on that tank of gas.

Instantly, the performance of this model shines through. It’s so damn peppy off the line, getting away from other traffic quickly and easily. Unsurprisingly, the car will get to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds.

Wending my way through city streets, there’s not a lot of visibility on the three-quarters due to that massive C pillar, but the same can be said for so many SUVs. There is blind spot monitoring to back you up, and at least the view out from the back window is excellent. After a few too many test cars with tiny back windows, I could see clearly out of the NX in the rearview mirror.

I do like that even simply slowing down to a walking pace will kick the 360-degree camera in. Other cars with a 360-degree camera will wait until another car or object (for example, a wall) gets close and then will turn on. In the NX, it just comes on anyway. Love it. The other trick with this camera system in the NX is that as you roll to a stop, the car on the screen goes transparent. After a few seconds, it turns the same colour as the car you are driving, but when it’s transparent, you can see under the car too. What use is this? Not really sure, but it’s a cool party trick to show your passengers.

Ride quality around town is a highlight, too. It’s very smooth and I’d say near the top of the class for ride comfort. 

After two days in the car, it was time to plug it in overnight to charge up. I managed to get 70km out of a single charge, the most I’ve had from any plugin hybrid, at a rate of 22.8kWh/100km. That’s pretty high consumption, but the NX45-h + F Sport is a heavy vehicle at 2,050kg.

While there are still so many people that think you need to have a ‘wallbox’ or some other fancy and expensive charger at home, you don’t. I plugged the NX450h + F Sport in each night into a standard 230-volt power outlet and walked away. Next morning, you’ll find the battery at 100% charged. It’s only 18.1kWh in capacity, so charging overnight is easy. It was excellent to see that the 230-volt charger that comes with the car has a very long lead, making it easier to park just that little further away from your power point, if you need to.

On the ‘but’ side of things, the NX doesn’t do DC charging so you can’t use a public fast charger. Your options here are to charge it at home with the 230-volt charger (and take it away with you when on holiday etc) or simply drive it and let the petrol engine charge the battery as you drive, as it needs it.

When you get in the NX to drive it, it defaults to EV (only) mode, to make use of battery power. If you leave it in this mode (there’s an indicator on the dash to show you what mode you are in) then once the battery is flat or close to it, the car will start its petrol engine. This will assist in driving the car and charging the battery.

You can also hit that EV button to put it into Auto EV/HV mode, where the car will start the petrol engine when it’s needed at any time, for example on heavy acceleration. You can also hold down that button and it will go into Charge mode, starting the engine and charging the battery. You might use this on the open road to save sucking up all your battery power. 

Behind that EV/HV button is another for HV mode. Honestly, Lexus, you could do it all with one button to save confusion, making it simple for drivers who are not used to a PHEV. But never fear, if you don’t want to play with buttons just get in and drive and let the NX450h+ F Sport do its own thing. It does just fine on its own, and after a few days, I ignored both buttons.

If you feel the need to play with some other settings, there are 4 drive modes to choose from: Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport +. With an abundance of power and torque, Eco mode is just fine for the Daily Drive. The difference is almost imperceptible, so it’s an easy choice to make. Pushing the knob returns the car to Normal drive mode while turning it to the right selects Sport or Sport+. I’m in two minds about either Sport mode; yes, the car can accelerate more quickly and it does handle better (the F Sport models have adaptive variable suspension and performance dampers) but is that what you want in a plug-in hybrid? We’ve said it before; unless it’s a dedicated high-performance SUV, Sport modes are a bit pointless. 

In saying that, for the size and weight of this high-riding SUV, it handles reasonably well in Sport or Sport +. You can really feel the change in the car’s behaviour when using either of those modes. Still, I tried it a couple of times and then stuck the car back into Normal, but it is there for the twisty stuff if that’s your preference. I’m not sure I’d call the NX450h+ F Sport “nimble” as its name suggests, but it does well overall.

There’s no control of brake regeneration in this model, and surprisingly little engine braking (when it’s running) or seemingly any regeneration when running in EV mode. Not the end of the world, but it would have been nice at least some to reduce the need to move your foot to the brake pedal as much. After jumping out of the Polestar 2 (admittedly a full EV), it felt like the NX450h+ would just keep on rolling forward with no resistance.

During the commute, the engine can be pretty quiet on the whole, only kicking in when needed. Up steeper hills, it makes itself more known to the passengers. The drive up to the saddle on Transmission Gully is a great test for this, and like many others, the NX450h + F Sport can get a bit vocal. In general driving, it’s a thing of civility with almost no engine, road or tyre noise.

At this point, I had driven 250km in the NX450h, and the fuel gauge had yet to move at all. That total range was looking pretty good, although I had been charging up the car every night (as most owners would).

Back on the commute the next day, this time using SatNav to get about. With that new screen, SatNav in the Lexus is a far better experience than previous models, and I love that when getting close to a roundabout or intersection, an exploded view of it automatically pops up on the centre screen. Great stuff.

Steering in the NX450h is on the heavier side of things, while feedback (understandably for an SUV) is pretty lacking. The steering wheel itself feels fantastic. I freaked out initially when I saw the steering wheel controls – they looked haptic. Memories of the Golf R and Mercedes-Benz S Class came flooding back….bad memories. I’ll be honest and say it took me a few days to get a hang of the buttons on the wheel, and they work ok. They are touch buttons so moving your finger over one will bring up a display on the HUD, showing you what you are selecting. For instance, the left buttons control audio and phone. Touching the 4-way haptic control will bring up the media controls on the HUD, and then you can click the right button to forward a track, or left to go back. There is also a ‘page’ button on the same side of the wheel, touching this will change the controls from audio to phone. It feels a bit overly complicated (and it is) but essentially I worked out in the end that I needed to click the right button twice to forward a track, etc. Again, a bit complicated and perhaps needlessly so, but it sort of works. 

If you don’t want to use the steering wheel controls, you can call out ‘Hey Lexus’ and your digital slave will carry out your commands. It’s mostly accurate.

In the wet, a full-throttle test will see the car get a bit squirrely, however, it’s not really dramatic and is easily controlled. Each drive, it’s still the performance of the car that shines through, even though it has a CVT transmission.

The heads-up display (HUD) has been improved too, nicely large with all the information it should have right there in front of your eyes, on the windscreen. Like other cars, wearing polarised sunglasses will see the HUD info almost disappear. 

I’ve got no complaints about the seats – they are near-on perfect. High levels of adjustability, and supremely comfortable. You can’t ask for more than that. The steering wheel in the F Sport is 4-way electrically adjustable as well, so you can really get that perfect driving position.

Naturally, the NX450h has adaptive cruise control, and this will bring you to a stop. It also has speed curve reduction, and it’s adjustable. This means you can pick from Off, Low, Medium or High and if using adaptive cruise and a corner comes up, the car will slow down for it. We’ve seen this on quite a few other test cars, and it was great to see Lexus making this adjustable (most others aren’t). When it is turned on and the system decides to slow for a curve, you do see a windy road sign appear on the dash, so you know it’s kicking in. It was a bit too nanny-like for me however, even on the lowest setting, the car will slow down to 85km/h for a curve that could very easily be taken at 110km/h. I left it off after that. 

There are numerous other safety features fitted to this model, and I can happily say that they aren’t intrusive at all. You still get the odd ‘false positive’ but on the whole, it looks like we’ve turned a corner with safety systems not going mental at the wrong times. Thank you, Lexus.

After another few days of driving, the trip meter hit 450km driven, and the fuel gauge finally moved down 1/8th. Was I impressed? Very much. In fact, over 800km of driving the NX450h + F Sport, I averaged 2.2L/100km. Lexus claims it should do 1.4l/100km, but around Wellington and its hills, 2.2 is outstanding. Yes, I did charge it up most nights to make the most of using EV mode, but honestly, if you buy a plug-in hybrid, that’s what you should be doing.

On the energy economy side of things, Lexus claims the NX hybrid should return 14.0kWh/100km, while Wellington’s hills meant we got a high 22.1kWh/100km from our test car.

Lexus NX450h+ F Sport PHEV SUV – Specifications

Vehicle Type5-door, medium plug-in hybrid SUV
Starting Price$111,100
Price as Tested$111,100
Engine2.5-litre, 4-cyl. in-line DOHC 16-valve with plug-in hybrid system
Power, Torque
kW/Nm
227/239
TransmissionElectronic constantly variable (CVT)
Spare WheelNone – pump only
Kerb Weight, Kg2,050
Length x Width x Height
mm
4660x1865x1670
Boot Space / Cargo Capacity,
Litres
(seats up/seats down)
545/1,436
Fuel tank capacity,
litres
55
Fuel Economy,
L/100km
Advertised Spec – Combined – 1.4
Real-World Test – Combined – 2.2
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Energy Economy,
kWh/100km
Advertised Spec – Combined – 14.0
Real-World Test – Combined – 22.1
Low Usage: 6-10 / Medium Usage 11-19 / High Usage 19+
Towing Capacity
Kg, unbraked/braked
750/1,500
Turning circle
metres
11.40
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty4 Years Unlimited KM (transferrable)
6 Years Corrosion Warranty
8 Years 160,000km Battery Warranty
Safety informationANCAP Rating – 5 stars – Link
Rightcar.govt.nz – # Stars – NYW168

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Driver Tech
8
Economy
10
Handling
7
Infotainment
8
Interior
9
Performance
8
Ride
9
Safety
9
Styling
8
Value
8
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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm a driving instructor and an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.
lexus-nx450h-f-sport-phev-suv-hybrid-car-reviewThe NX450h+ F Sport is far better than I had expected. Yes, it’s in that top ten for New Zealand Car of the Year, but the other 9 include some very tasty offerings.<br><br> But the NX450h+ F Sport can hold its head up high, as it achieves so much that it’s designed to achieve. It is extremely fuel efficient, looks great, has a fantastic interior and the ride/smoothness is top class. Add in some excellent performance and you have a luxury PHEV SUV that’s hit the mark. <br><br>Well done, Lexus.

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