Plug-in hybrids haven’t found much success in Australia yet, but could Lexus’ new mid-sizer change all that? We find out.
Here are five things you need to know about the Lexus NX450h+.
It’s a hybrid but not as you know it
The NX450h+ has two electric motors fed by an 18.1kWh battery that can drive for a claimed 87km on electricity alone.
As the average roundtrip commute in Australia is less than 60km, it’s quite possible to drive it exclusively as an EV, only using the 2.5-litre petrol engine for longer trips.
Having said that, we could only squeeze 65km out of the battery before the petrol engine kicked in. Once the battery is depleted beyond a certain point, the car becomes a conventional hybrid, using the electric motor to supplement the petrol engine. Lexus says the range of the NX450+ is 1140 kilometres.
The official fuel consumption figure is 1.3L/100km but that’s a lab result that can’t be replicated in open-road driving. When the battery is depleted, you can expect between 5.5L/100km and 6L/100km, which is still pretty impressive.
There are some great inclusions
German luxury brands are notorious for their long lists of expensive options, but Lexus takes a refreshingly different approach.
The circa-$100,000 drive-away price includes installation of a complimentary home wall charger that reduces the recharging time from seven and a half hours (using a standard household power point) to just two and a half hours.
There’s also a three-year subscription to “Lexus connected services”, which allows you to remotely lock and open the car, activate the climate control and check on the state of the battery charge.
If you have a teenager who borrows the car, you can set thresholds for speeds and impose curfews. If they’re broken, you’ll get a notification.
Other handy features include an automatic SOS call in the case of an accident and stolen vehicle tracking.
You can potentially recharge for free
The NX allows you to schedule charging for off-peak periods when electricity is cheaper, or potentially free, depending on which energy provider you have.
Origin Energy, for example, has an EV Energy Plan that provides five hours of free electricity between 10am and 3pm to customers who subscribe to an Origin EV plan.
If you don’t work from home the provider also offers discounted rates between 1am and 6am. The plug-in hybrid might be cheap to run, but the up-front cost is substantial.
The NX450h+ is $89,900 plus on-roads, $24,000 more than the standard hybrid.
The cabin is a mixed bag
The NX450+ is a comfortable, quiet and classy environment, with supportive front seats and quality materials throughout.
Lexus has tried to reduce the clutter of the previous model, cutting the number of switches from 78 to just 45.
Some functions can be controlled via the 14-inch centre screen or by using touchpads on the steering wheel that allow you to toggle through a menu in the head-up display. Presumably this gets easier with practice, but it proved fiddly at first. The door handles fall into the same category; you push a button to open them rather than pull a handle.
Our test vehicle had instructions how to open the door, which hardly suggests it’s an intuitive design.
The driving experience is serene
Electric propulsion suits the Lexus brand, which has always been about refinement and whisper-quiet cabins.
On most plug-in hybrids the petrol engine kicks in at the slightest provocation but drive the Lexus in EV mode and it feels like a proper electric car.
When the electric motors and petrol engine are working in tandem, there’s plenty of grunt on tap. Lexus doesn’t quote combined torque figures, but the two motors and engine put out a healthy 227kW, enough to propel the NX to 100km/h in just 6.3 seconds.
The NX rides on the same platform as the award-winning Toyota RAV4, so it’s more engaging than the average SUV to pilot through the corners.