2018 Lexus NX Hybrid Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.6

The 2018 Lexus NX Hybrid gets outstanding fuel economy estimates and is one of the few hybrid-powered vehicles of this size on the market. However, it ranks toward the bottom of its class when it comes to performance. The NX 300h is timid when accelerating, and it isn't very engaging to drive.

  • Less thrilling but every bit as reliable is the NX 300h hybrid. With a less powerful drivetrain and the added weight of standard all-wheel drive, the NX 300h can't quite keep pace with its gasoline-only counterpart, but its excellent mileage and equally impressive ride and handling are definitely something to consider." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • The NX handles quite nimbly. It's willing and able to change directions eagerly, and turn-in response is prompt. Through all maneuvers, the body stays rather flat and unperturbed. But that doesn't make the Lexus as rewarding to drive as a BMW X3 or Audi Q5. Those German competitors have more controlled suspensions and sharper steering." -- Consumer Reports
  • "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

The hybrid powertrain of the NX 300h has an overall output of 194 horsepower. It is made up of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, an electric motor, and a type of automatic transmission called a CVT. Alongside most competitors, the NX 300h feels slow. It struggles to quickly pull up a steep hill or reach highway speeds. It can also emit an unpleasant droning sound. For a hybrid, however, this performance is typical.

The biggest achievement of this powertrain is its fuel economy. The NX 300h gets an EPA-estimated 33 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, which is the best in our luxury compact SUV rankings.

  • With the hybrid, things are less pleasant. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor, mated to a CVT, is virtually the same setup as in the Toyota Camry hybrid and Lexus ES 300h. However, it feels strained in this heavier AWD SUV. The CVT makes climbing hills a noisy, unpleasant affair. Acceleration from 0-60 mph is a leisurely 9 seconds – somewhat at odds with the NX's sporty styling and ride – and steep price tag. That said, as long as there are no inclines the hybrid can drive on electric power alone at speeds up to around 35 mph. But the 300h's trump card is its fuel consumption – at 29 mpg overall it is the most fuel efficient luxury SUV we've ever tested." -- Consumer Reports
  • "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 (2017)
  • "Total power output is 194 horsepower, and at highway speeds or under heavy acceleration, the NX 300h just feels out of breath. There's hardly any passing power when you really need it, and while the smart all-wheel-drive system puts power to all four wheels instead of just the front two, it doesn't have the same torque that you'd find from most hybrids when you put your pedal to the... carpet." -- New York Daily News (2017)

Handling and Braking

The NX 300h comes standard with all-wheel drive – a system that gives it extra grip for slippery roads, but isn't suitable for major off-roading. Handling is respectable for the most part, though there are a few quirks to be aware of. The extra weight of the NX 300h’s hybrid-related components results in noticeable body movements when driving through corners. For some, the hybrid SUV’s regenerative brakes feel grabbier than expected.

  • The crossover's steering is lively and holds the road well, giving it confident handling. Both variants of the NX, however, are a bit heavy, so regardless of the engine choice, neither will be a rocket in a straight line compared to the competition." -- Motor Trend
  • The NX's ride is firm, but not over-the-top punishing. Ride motions tend to be short and quick, and impacts are fairly pronounced but not to the point of being overly stiff. Ride comfort is roughly on par with the NX's German competitors. But don't expect Lexus RX levels of plushness." -- Consumer Reports
  • "Turn to the twisties, though, and you're likely to be disappointed. Body roll is extremely prominent, with the extra 200 pounds of the hybrid system taxing the NX's otherwise capable suspension further when pushed. The steering rack is light on center, too, but firms up a bit in the corners. Also, at the very least, the thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel is one of the better ones these hands have held in an SUV." -- New York Daily News (2017)

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