While the Indian government may be indifferent toward hybrids, they still are the most suitable option for the Indian market. We drive the new NX 350h to find out what it has to offer to the Indian customer.
Let’s begin with a question – what’s the future of automobiles? Well, for most people, the answer is simple – EVs. But herein lies the rub – we, in India, lack the natural resources to make batteries, and not to mention we are lagging behind in terms of technology too. In such a scenario, I think hybrid vehicles still hold tremendous promise in the Indian market. This brings me to the car at hand – the Lexus NX 350h. And it seems that Lexus, as a brand, also thinks that hybrids are quite relevant. While it already has EVs and is developing more of them, hybrids are still the mainstay of its product range.
Lexus has been very successful worldwide and also has a small presence in India, which is growing fast – if sales figures for 2022 are anything to go by. And now, with the latest crossover from its range, the brand is hoping to attract more customers. The NX is one of Lexus’ best-selling products worldwide, but the question is – can it make an impact in India? Well, we aim to answer exactly that in our review.
Part of the reason for Lexus’ success worldwide is that it likes to do things its own way and bring in some quirky elements into its cars. Naturally, then, Lexus products look like nothing else on the road, and the NX is not an exception. The NX’s bold design starts at the front, which features the latest version of the brand’s spindle grille – something you’ll get to see on more Lexus products in the near future. Flanking the grille are large LED headlights, giving the front a very aggressive look. In profile, you notice the large 20-inch wheels, which fill the arches rather nicely, and the sharp lines and flared surfaces, adding a lot of character to the car.
The C-pillar haunches also get the flared treatment, which gives the car a very good stance. The rear of the NX features a full-width taillight, which is actually divided into two layers – a rather neat design touch, I must add. And with its big wheels, the NX has a butch, stocky look to it, which, I think, is quite striking.
With its brilliant fit-and-finish and quality levels, the interior of the NX is quite impressive and feels class-leading. From the use of soft leather and comfortable seats to the 14-inch multimedia display, every bit of the NX’s interior feels plush and luxurious. Thankfully, Lexus cars now feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And the presence of physical air-con controls is another plus; it means that you don’t have to look at the touchscreen while driving. Also, the 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system on the NX sounds amazing – in fact, it’s one of the best car audio systems I’ve heard in a while.
Coming to the quirky bits of the NX, the exterior door handles don’t move physically – you need to press a switch behind the handle to open the doors. Similarly, the interior door handles also have a switch, which needs to be pressed to open the doors. While these features don’t seem radical, they do affect your interaction with the car and feel quite intuitive. Likewise, the gear lever also has its own pattern – you need to move the lever to the right before shifting gears, which becomes quite instinctive very quickly.
Power with Efficiency
The highlight of the NX, though, is its hybrid powerplant. The combination of a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine, which supplies power to the front wheels, and an electric motor, which drives the rear wheels, gives the NX its AWD capability. While Lexus hasn’t released the total torque output of the hybrid unit, the engine alone produces 239Nm, and I think an estimate of the combined output would be close to 350Nm. Add to that the peak power of 240bhp, and the NX feels quite adequate in terms of both power and torque. Its widespread torque band gives the car ample pace, allowing it to clock a 0 – 100km/h time of 7.7 seconds.
However, it’s the efficiency of the car that really shocks you – even during our test, it returned around 15km/l. And with sedate driving, I think it would be possible to get around the 18 – 19km/l. This translates into a running cost of around ₹6 per kilometre, which is ridiculously low. Also, with a hybrid, you don’t have to worry about charging stations, which is a big convenience. Lastly, despite my reservations about the ride quality of the car, given its 20-inch wheels, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was indeed very good, although a bit stiff.
Overall, the NX offers a very compelling package, with its low running costs, terrific build quality, and good-looking design. Sure, it’s priced higher than its competitors, but the high levels of standard equipment and absurdly low running costs make it one of the strongest contenders in the compact luxury SUV segment. I feel a comparison test is imminent.
- Lexus NX 350h
Engine: 2,487cc / Four-Cylinder / Hybrid
Transmission: eCVT / All-Wheel Drive
Torque: 239Nm – Engine; 270Nm – Motor
Price: ₹64.90 – 71.6 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: Absurdly low running costs and terrific luxury make the NX a very compelling SUV in the segment.