Drive

Hybrid features pack Toyota's 2015 Lexus NX 300h

Toyota was the first automaker to launch a hybrid, and over the years, it has used that technology in a number of Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Many of them are very good, but it falls a little short in the Lexus NX 300h, its all-new compact SUV.

You can get the NX with a conventional turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, while the 300h uses a 2.5-litre four-cylinder with electric motor and storage battery. The system automatically runs on gasoline, electricity, or a combination of the two, depending on what’s needed. The system recharges the battery itself, and you don’t plug it in.

The regular NX 200t starts at $41,450 and has five trim levels, but the 300h hybrid comes in a single, fully loaded, all-wheel-drive model for $59,450.

The styling is edgy, and Lexus says it’s the company’s first hybrid with a kick-down function when you want a burst of acceleration. But while I went in expecting at least some sporty performance because of that, I was disappointed. The steering is mushy, the brakes are grabby, and the engine drones. The only real payoff was an average of 6.6 L/100 kilometres in combined driving, which turned out to be better than the published numbers, and on regular-grade fuel.

The interior is all quality materials and stitched leather, but I had some issues here, as well. You use a touchscreen on the centre console to operate the infotainment system, but it’s too sensitive and I had trouble hitting the icons, especially on uneven roads. There’s a storage cover behind the wrist support that’s topped with a removable cover. Flip it over, and it’s a mirror. It’s a nice idea in theory, I suppose, but I’m just seeing something that’s easily broken or lost.

The NX 300h does include a lot of features, such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, power tilt and telescopic wheel, power-folding rear seats, ventilated front seats, head-up display, and wireless phone charging. But for the money, I expected something that would be a lot more fun to drive. The company may be known for hybrids, but even the leaders don’t always get it right.

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