Alternate fuels have been hogging the headlines and why not? With a series of record-shattering temperatures, heat waves and ecological imbalance, the time has come to look beyond the traditional automobile powertrains. On paper, hybrid vehicles come across as the middle path between EVs and internal combustion engines, but with the lack of tax benefits and concessions, most automobile manufacturers are shying away from this technology. Lexus, though, believes that hybrid vehicles make practical sense as they drive away range anxiety stress. Hence, we are going to find out what makes the all-new NX 350h very special, apart from being the only hybrid in the segment.
How practical is the hybrid way?
Under the hood of the NX 350h lies a 2.5-litre inline 4-cylinder engine with an output of 188bhp, but that’s not the entire story. As it is a hybrid it gets two electric motors — on each axle. The front motor makes 180bhp and the rear 54bhp, which in total power is limited to 240bhp and 239 Nm of torque. It accelerates from 0-100kmph in 7.7 seconds according to Lexus and keeping its size in mind, that’s not too bad, though not class-leading as its German rivals have an advantage in this department.
The Lexus SUV is all about a smooth and comfortable driving experience and the engine builds up speed in a linear manner. The NX 350h comes with three driving modes — Eco, Normal, and Sport. No doubt, the last mode makes the SUV more alert and responsive. Even though the engine is fairly refined, if you put the pedal to the metal and force it to come out of its comfort zone, then it tends to become noisy.
The NX 350h is mated to a CVT transmission, which is focused on ensuring class-leading efficiency and Lexus claims it returns a fuel economy of over 16 kmpl, which is very impressive. The CVT gearbox is not known to be lightning-fast while upshifting and downshifting and it remains the same with the Lexus SUV.
Press the ignition start button, and the SUV goes automatically into EV mode and maintains this within a 30-40kmph range. Beyond that brings the petrol engine into play. The switch from EV to petrol is a smooth transition. Sticking to its comfort mantra, the NX 350h insulates the passengers with sublime ride quality as it sails over bumps and the undulations. What surprised us was how well the body roll is controlled as it doesn’t bounce around while taking corners. With an all-wheel-drive system, the NX 350h showed its road-holding qualities by offering plenty of tarmac grip as the tyres and suspension work in sync.
A cabin full of affluence
No doubt, the NX always looked great, but the same couldn’t be said about the interiors, but now Lexus has radically changed it. The gigantic 14-inch infotainment unit staring back at you. The display has crisp high-quality resolution and is intuitive like a premium personal device. It is synced with the usual tech like wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The multimedia unit now comes with over the air updates or OTA.
Lexus has given the boot to the fidgety touchpad that used to be on the centre console and in comes the wireless phone charger. For better accessibility, a rotary dial is placed below the centre air condition vents that let you change the driving modes. The SUV has a crystal clear colour head-up display on the windscreen that has three types of layout themes.
There’s plenty more equipment like a 17-speaker Mark Levinson system, a digital driver’s console, a 3D surround camera, ventilated seats and an additional storage compartment between the two front seats. The NX 350h sports a brand new steering wheel with touch response buttons.
Both the outside and in-cabin door handles in the NX 350h are electric-powered. Hold the outside handles and press the button and the door opens. The cabin door handle, on the other hand, is unique, to say the least. Push the handle or as Lexus calls e-latch once and it opens, but if a pedestrian, cyclist or vehicle is passing by then the door won’t open in one go and will give a warning alert.
Like its competition, the NX 350h has an array of safety features thanks to the ADAS system like lane departure alert, lane tracking assist, and pre-collision warning.
Looks could kill
The NX 350h has retained most of its stylish elements from the previous generation and why not as it is one of the most stunning looking SUVs in the business. Don’t be fooled by the familiar looks, the NX 350h has a new longer platform and 95 per cent of its components are new. The signature spindle front grille is now bigger and has a more imposing presence, while the swept-back LED headlamps are sharper and slimmer like a Katana blade. Lexus has reduced the character lines in the side panels giving it a cleaner look. The rear design could have been more innovative as the only addition is the rear LED light that runs across the tailgate.
If you are in the market for a sensible SUV that’s fuel-efficient, has a cushioned ride quality and offers decent driving dynamics then the Lexus NX 350h is the one you should consider. Sure, it has a limited-service network in India and being a CBU, it is more expensive than its competition, but none of them can beat Lexus when it comes to reliability. It starts from Rs 65 lakh to Rs 71.60 lakh, ex-showroom. The Luxury trim, the one we test drove, is available at Rs 69.50 lakh.
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