The missing link: 2022 Lexus NX450h+ road test review

A Lexus NX450h parked in a laneway.

Craig Duff

Posted July 12, 2022


Lexus has led the prestige pack in terms of hybrids, but hasn’t had a plug-in model... until now. The NX450h+ mid-sized SUV fills the slot nicely.

Plug-in SUVs are a niche market compared to the more conventional hybrids but make sense for those with access to a garage and a power point and the disciple to regularly recharge the battery.

The Lexus NX450h+ F Sport is a case in point.

This medium-sized SUV is loaded with luxurious touches that will quite happily engage in the weekday commute for most metropolitan dwellers as an electric-only proposition, even at 100km/h.

Range anxiety isn’t an issue on weekend trips away either, given the conventional petrol engine will kick in once the battery isn’t depleted.

As the flagship version in the NX range, the plug-in hybrid has enough character in terms of interior looks and performance to match it with the best Europe has to offer.

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The Lexus LX450h+ is the first plug-in hybrid from Toyota's prestige division.
Sharper styling and a class-leading 520-litre cargo area give the NX450h+ a competitive edge.
The signature spindle grille dominates the front of the NX medium-sized SUV.

How much does the Lexus NX450h+ cost?

A sticker price of $89,900 will work out to be around $96,644 on the road for Melbourne buyers.

Red and black are the default paint colours; any other hue will add $1,750 to the bill.

Owners will also receive a three-year complimentary Lexus Encore Platinum membership. This means they have four opportunities to access free Lexus vehicles when travelling interstate.

It also entitles owners to a free 7kW wallbox and installation.

Of course, there’s always the premium charger at an extra cost, which adds a touch-display, Wi-Fi and Ethernet compatibility, a smartphone app, and dynamic load management, which Lexus says “can avoid blackouts and surprise energy bills, measuring a home's live energy usage and automatically adjusting the charge to the NX 450h+ in harmony with the local grid”.

As you’d expect from the flagship version, the equipment list is extensive, with a sunroof, digital rear-view mirror, adaptive air suspension, leather upholstery, LED lighting and the deeper F Sport front bumper, though you’ll hardly notice it given how dominant the signature spindle grille is on the NX range.

The warranty covers five years and unlimited kilometres, and service intervals are 12 months/15,000km.

Lexus quotes a price of $495 for the first three trips to the dealership.

The opposition extends to the Mercedes-Benz GLC300e at $95,700 plus on-road costs; Volvo’s XC60 plug-in hybrid XC60 from $97,990 and BMW’s X3 30e at $104,900.

Is the Lexus NX450h+ safe?

Spend this money and you expect to buy a safe car. The Lexus NX doesn’t disappoint.

ANCAP tested it earlier this year and awarded the mid-sized SUV a high five-star rating.

Adult occupant protection was deemed to be 91 per cent and child occupant safety was set at 89 per cent.

Cyclists or pedestrians wandering in front of the NX have a better-than-average chance of survival, though the Lexus doesn’t detect them when reversing, which limited its overall score to 83 per cent

Finally, the safety assist systems were rated at 92 per cent.

The usual suspects are included here, with blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, safe-exit assist and eight airbags.

 

The Lexus NX450h+ can run for up to 76km on electric power.
Seating comfort is a highlight in the NX range, though taller back seat passengers may wish for more headroom.
The Lexus NX range spans a $30,000 band, with the 450h+ topping out at 89,900 plus on-road costs.

What’s the Lexus NX450h+ like inside?

The NX is the first Lexus to adopt the “Tazuna” design philosophy of minimising the number of physical controls in the interior.

In this case the number of buttons has been seriously depressed: from 78 to 45. Just as significantly, the fiddly trackpad infotainment controller has been deleted. It was a tedious thing to operate and its removal won’t see too many tears shed.

Key controls, such as setting the temperature and adjusting the volume on the 17-speaker sound system, are still physical dials, but a 14-inch touchscreen replaces many conventional switches.

The other option is to ask the car to do many of the functions for you.

Saying “Hey Lexus” activates the feature, which can then be requested to navigate to a destination, open and close the windows, make phone calls (Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both supported) and set the climate control.

The seats are fantastically contoured and the front pair are heated and ventilated, while the outboard rear pews have heating.

Leg room won’t be an issue in the second row, but taller passengers may find the sloping roof limits headspace if they lean back. The slim rear window also limits visibility (though the camera and parking sensors compensate when reversing).

A USB and USB-C port provide power and Bluetooth connectivity up front, with a pair of USB-C ports for those down the back.

Boot space is a segment-leading 520 litres and the rear seats can be electrically folded.

What’s under the Lexus 450h+’s bonnet?

There’s a regular 2.5-litre petrol engine sitting under the hood, complemented by a pair of electric motors and an 18.1kWh battery nestled under the floor.

The engine delivers 136kW and 227Nm and powers the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission.

In electric-only mode, a 124kW/270Nm motor powers the front wheels, with a 40kW/121Nm motor turning the rear wheels.

Lexus quotes a combined power output of 227Nm but doesn’t specify maximum torque.

Is the Lexus NX50h+ efficient?

The quoted combined fuel use is 1.3 litres over 100km. Testing showed that’s about right, but only for the first 100km, given most of that travel is achieved using the battery, after which the engine kicks in.

In engine-only operation, expect to see 6.-something litres/100km, depending on driving conditions.

The WLTP assesses the LX450h+ to have an electric only range of 69-76km. I easily managed 60km, despite the first 30km being freeway driving which doesn’t provide any scope for energy recuperation like urban running does.

A button to the left of the gear lever lets drivers toggle between electric and fossil fuel modes of conveyance, with a third mode using the engine to both power the car and recharge the battery.

Fully deplete the charge and it will take around two and a half hours to replenish the electrons using the supplied 7kW home charger, or about nine hours if you connect to a standard 240-volt plug.

The Lexus 450h+ doesn't pretend to be a sports SUV but can still hit 100km/h in a rapid 6.3 seconds.
Comfort is a priority for the Lexus 450h+, from the interior amenities to the ride.

What’s the Lexus NX450h+ like to drive?

Once you adjust to getting into the Lexus NX450h+ (the door handles house a pressure-sensitive electronic control rather than a mechanical mechanism, which is hugely entertaining when watching people try to access the car for the first time), the drive is impressive.

Despite a brisk 100km/h time of 6.3 seconds, Lexus hasn’t set out to build an overtly sporty vehicle in this case.

Instead, the Lexus 450h+ is an effortless family conveyance.

The run-flat tyres can be a touch noisy on rougher surfaces due to their stiffer sidewalls (and the absence of engine noise to mask it) but the air suspension has been tuned to smother the larger, more disturbing undulations in the road and it does that with aplomb.

The steering isn’t vague but isn’t going to challenge a Mercedes or BMW in terms of feedback. It’s a criticism often made of many brands by motoring journalists and often considered irrelevant by owners, who point out they didn’t buy a sports car.

The colour head-up display is one of the best in the business, with your speed and the posted speed limit (courtesy of a camera, rather than relying on potentially outdated satnav data), projected in a clear manner in all manner of light conditions, providing you’re not wearing polarized sunglasses.

Overtaking performance is impressive, with the petrol engine kicking in to help.

Once the battery is discharged, that engine and continuously variable transmission can drone when under acceleration but is much more composed under light throttle or when cruising on the highway.

Should I buy a Lexus NX450h+?

The Lexus NX450h+ F Sport makes its mark both as a plug-in hybrid and as a luxurious mid-sized SUV.

It packs more cargo space than its competitors and is as well-built as anything rolling off a European production line.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but that spindle grille is a sight to behold. If you can look past that (and BMW’s new kidney grille design elicits similarly diverse opinions), the rest of the NX package is pretty convincing.

The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.


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