2017 Lexus NX Hybrid Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Lexus NX Hybrid was new.

Scorecard

Performance: 7.7

In the field of luxury compact SUVs, the 2017 Lexus NX Hybrid remains one of the most fuel-efficient in the class. However, that fuel economy comes at the expense of fast acceleration. Floor the gas pedal and responses improve, but you still need a bit of patience and planning. The transmission has a dull whine to it, but paddle shifters help break that up a bit. Handling is the NX Hybrid's strong suit, a compliment many hybrids never get. Ride quality is good, absorbing most bumps well. Brakes have a grabby, abrupt feel to them, which is a common complaint about regenerative brakes.

  • "You'll certainly like the NX 300h's best-in-class fuel economy. The EPA estimates it will achieve 31 mpg combined (33 city/30 highway). Only the diesel-powered BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace come close to that." -- Edmunds
  • "The shocks, springs, and tires conspire to deliver a comfortable ride over most surfaces." -- Car and Driver (2015)
  • "There's plenty of droning, rubber-band responsiveness from its continuously variable automatic transmission, along with a slow climb up the revs when you floor it; even at full bore, power feels adequate but never energetic, and the regenerative brakes have a degree of pedal vagueness that evokes earlier hybrids." -- Cars.com (2015)

Acceleration and Power

Powering the NX Hybrid is a combination of power plants: a 154-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a 40-horsepower electric motor. They combine to give this Lexus 194 horsepower. Fuel economy is outstanding, at 33 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, making the NX Hybrid one of the most fuel-efficient luxury compact SUVs. It is also has one of the best fuel economy ratings among hybrid SUVs. A continuously variable transmission (CVT), which functions like an automatic, comes standard.

What you get in fuel efficiency, you pay for in acceleration with the NX Hybrid. It is one of the slowest SUVs in its class, offering a whining hum from the transmission and little in the way of usable power. Initial throttle response improves when you stomp the gas pedal, thanks to a switch Lexus designed into the accelerator to deliver maximum torque off the line. To make things a bit more engaging, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters make the CVT simulate gears. While there is a fun-to-drive nature about the NX Hybrid, you'll find more fun behind the wheel of other SUVs.

  • "Instead of the NX 200t's punchy and impressively smooth turbocharged performance, the 2017 NX 300h has the sort of languid, droning hybrid driving experience that current owners of Toyota or Lexus hybrids should find familiar. Quick it's not." -- Edmunds
  • "The hybrid NX 300h doesn't feel quite as snappy, thanks to less power and more weight, but it still feels stronger than you might expect, and we like the quick response when you engage the kick-down switch when flooring the throttle for maximum power. Fuel economy from the hybrid was good, but don't expect Prius-levels of fuel sipping." -- Kelley Blue Book (2016)
  • "Still, driving the NX 300h can be fun. Lexus has included steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters that mimic the ratios of a standard automatic transmission, like that of the 200t. These allow drivers to hold the hybrid's engine at predetermined rev points, providing quicker response on curvy roads, uphill and downhill grades, or anywhere else its pilot deems their use desirable. We used them extensively, and they work fine." -- Autoblog (2015)

Handling and Braking

For 2017, the NX Hybrid gains standard all-wheel drive, making it more capable in inclement weather than the outgoing front-wheel drive base model. The rear wheels are powered solely by electric motor-made power, with no help from the gas engine. Other all-wheel-drive luxury compact SUVs feel more capable by comparison.

Handling is better than expected from a hybrid SUV, with quick steering responses. By switching into Sport mode, the NX Hybrid's ride becomes more dynamic, and cornering responses become sharper. Out of sport mode, the ride a bit softer.

Some hybrid owners complain about the regenerative braking systems in their cars, which capture energy usually wasted during braking and use that energy to charge the battery. The problem usually lies in the transition between the regenerative system and the car's traditional brakes. Sometimes, that transition can be abrupt, as is the case with the Lexus NX Hybrid.

  • "All-wheel drive is standard, though its reliance solely on one of the electric motors to drive the rear wheels ultimately makes it less capable than other all-wheel-drive SUVs in regard to maximum traction." -- Edmunds
  • "The steering is sharp, and an adjustable suspension includes a Sport mode, giving this compact-luxury-crossover SUV agility not normally associated with Lexus SUVs." -- Kelley Blue Book (2016)
  • "The biggest hybrid-related gripe is the brakes, which feel awkward in certain stopping situations due to the fight between regen and the standard disc brakes." -- Autoblog (2015)

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