2016 Lexus NX 300h review: Unique combination of luxury, practicality and frugality

2016 Lexus NX 300h

2016 Lexus NX 300h

If your needs require a small crossover utility vehicle and your desires call for luxury and hybrid power to return the best possible fuel economy, then you should check out the 2016 Lexus NX 300h. Nobody else combines those features better than this Japanese manufacturer.

True, the similarly sized, German-made Audi Q5 also comes with a gasoline/electric powerplant, but it is less fuel efficient and more expensive. Some may find its extra power and German engineered driving dynamics to be more engaging, but its EPA-estimated 26 miles per gallon of premium fuel in combined city/highway driving cannot come close to the 33 mpg of regular unleaded gasoline predicted for the Lexus.

For the record, I averaged 34 mpg on the open road and 28 mpg around town.

The 2016 Lexus NX 300h I tested came with front-wheel drive and if that is what you want you better hustle down to the closest Lexus dealer. In the 2017 model year only all-wheel-drive NX 300h models will be offered. The Audi Q5 comes only with all-wheel-drive, too.

Lexus instrument panel

2016 Lexus NX 300h instrument panel

So, the good news is that you won’t have to agonize over your decision. It has already been made for you. And, importantly, there really is no bad news.

The 2016 Lexus NX 300h proved not only to be luxurious, but it offers driving dynamics that are adequate for easy maneuvering on urban, suburban and rural roads and flexible enough to provide a quite comfortable ride for up to 5 passengers (preferably 4) on the open road.

Power for the front-wheel-drive NX 300h combines a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine with two electric motors, one for starting and battery charging during braking, one to drive the front wheels. All-wheel-drive models add an additional motor for driving the rear wheels as needed and battery charging during braking. Either way, the system generates 194 horsepower.

The hybrid powerplant is teamed with a continuously variable automatic transmission and together they can propel the Lexus from a stop to 60 mph in a bit under 9 seconds and on to a top speed of 112 miles an hour. I’m betting very few of these vehicles will ever get near the track-tested top speed.

Lexus front seats

Lexus front seats

The Lexus suspension employs MacPherson struts up front and double wishbones at the rear. The electric power steering has the usual numbness generally associated with utility vehicles and pickup trucks. The brakes, ventilated discs up front and solid discs at the back wheels, are plenty strong enough to bring the 4,055-pound vehicle to a quick stop.

Now in its second year, the NX 300h reportedly is selling well, but you probably won’t see a lot of these niche vehicles on the road. I have seen only two. If you do see one, though, you will likely remember it even if you can’t instantly identify it. The weird (to me) spindle grille and combination of sharp creases and soft surfaces gives the Lexus a look that definitely stands out from the crowd. Overall, it comes across mostly as refreshing and even a bit exciting.

Inside, this Lexus has an upscale ambience with premium trim and comfortable leather seats. Excellent sound damping smothers mechanical and tire noises and isolates the passengers from the harsh realities of the outside world.

Lexus rear seat

Lexus rear seat

Behind the rear seats, there are 16.8 cubic feet of storage space. Fold the rear seats forward and there is a total of 53.7 cubic feet available.

Standard safety features include a full complement of seat belts and airbags, antilock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist, traction control, stability control, rearview camera and Lexus Enform Safety Connect system that provides automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle location, an emergency assist button and one year of enhanced roadside assistance.

An optional package ($660) included auto-dimming outside mirrors, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.

Among the comfort and convenience features included in the $39,720 base price were a premium 8-speaker sound system with Ipod/mp3 ports and available satellite radio; 10-way power driver’s seat and 8-way power front-passenger seat; keyless lock and ignition; 4.2-inch color display with driving information, audio and outside temperature display; and dual-zone climate control with rear vents.

Lexus spindle grille

Lexus spindle grille

Options included a Luxury Package ($4,505) that included 18-inch wheels, heated leather steering wheel, power liftgate, heated and ventilated front seats, linear black shadow wood trim, and a sunroof.

Among other extra price features were a Navigation Package ($1,875), which included a remote touch interface, an app suite, an upgraded 10-speaker sound system; wireless smart-phone charger ($220); and an intuitive parking assistant ($500).

Add all of the options and a $940 delivery charge to the base price and the total comes to $48,545.

A final note: The Lexus NX 300h has a near twin sibling, the NX 200T, that costs about $3,500 less and is powered by a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that generates 235 horsepower and 258-pound feet of torque. It can get from a stop 60 mph in about 7 seconds and will return an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in town, 28 mpg on the open road, and a combined 24 mpg.

In addition, the all-wheel-drive Lexus NX 200t can tow up to 2,000 pounds, while the AWD Lexus NX 300h can pull only 1,500 pounds.

If your money concerns outweigh your environmental concerns, you need to consider carefully which of these premium Lexus utility vehicles would serve your automotive needs the best. To learn more about the choices, you can read a review of the gasoline powered 2015 NX 200T F Sport by clicking here.

Turn page for complete specifications of hybrid Lexus.