Plug-in hybrids is a great compromise for people who still want the convenience of a gas car but want to experience the benefits of electrification. Most PHEVs have enough electric range to cover commuting and around-town needs, while the gas engine alleviates range anxiety. After years of making excellent hybrids, Lexus is finally getting into the plug-in hybrid game with the NX450h+. It combines the luxury and functionality of the second-generation NX with usable electric power. But it comes at a pretty hefty price.
Disclaimer: Lexus offered me the NX450h+ and I was actually surprised by how much I liked it. Filling up the tank just once a week is great.
What is it?
The NX is Lexus’ second smallest crossover, with track above UX and below RX. While it rides on a modular platform shared with everything from the Toyota Sienna minivan to the Lexus ES sedan, the NX is more mechanically related to the Toyota RAV4. This is an important point that I will come to later. And if you’ve always wondered what the hell NX stands for, a Lexus rep once told me it stands for “Nimble Crossover.” Okay.
Specifications that matter
Power comes from the same 2.5-liter naturally aspirated I4 engine that powers the base NX250 and NX350h hybrid, but the difference lies in the electrical setup. The 450h+ adds a pair of electric motors that drive the rear wheels, giving this SUV four-wheel drive. Add an 18.1 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack powering these motors, and the result is the most powerful and efficient NX you can buy. It produces a total of 304 system horsepower with 364 lb-ft of torque. It also gets 84 mpge — the mile-per-gallon equivalent of gasoline and electric driving — and can go 37 miles on electricity alone. Honestly, though, it’s actually pretty easy to beat the EPA’s estimated EV range. I often saw as much as 42 miles of electric range per charge.
How it runs
Lexus likes to show off the NX450h+’s low center of gravity, and this thing is actually surprisingly nimble. It’s also surprisingly quick, with plenty of acceleration for merging motorways. The advantage of having a battery and electric motors at your disposal is that in everyday driving it is like having a turbo that is always ready to give extra boost. The power comes on smoothly and quickly, and the transition between petrol and electric driving is one of the smoothest I’ve ever experienced. Unfortunately, when you rely on the 2.5-liter engine for power, it sounds surly and unrefined.
The good thing about crossovers this size is how easy they are to maneuver. It’s quite easy to park and get through tight spots. Parking the NX is made even better thanks to Lexus’ Advanced Park system, which is easier to operate than most other automatic parking systems I’ve used. I also have to give props to Lexus for putting a physical button on the dash to turn on the Advanced Park technology. It is not necessary to line up in a specific location for the system to engage itself. You simply find the place you want, press start on the screen and let the parking itself park. The system can pull forward, back in or perform parallel parking manoeuvres.
It’s just as easy to drive in different drivetrain modes. A button on the center console allows drivers to choose between full-on EV mode, Hybrid or Charge mode, the latter of which uses the gas engine to recharge the battery while driving. In EV mode, the NX450+ is predictably quiet. In hybrid mode, the powertrain works like any other hybrid, using electric power as often as possible with the gas engine running as needed.
Charging at home is easy. The NX has an optional 6.6-kilowatt onboard charger ($800) that you simply plug into a standard home outlet. Charging this way takes about 4 to 5 hours to fully charge the battery. It’s easy to do overnight. Unfortunately, public charging at a Level 2 outlet is a hit-or-miss affair, but that’s a product of the country’s problematic charging network, not Lexus.
A few notable pros and cons of the NX450h+
The NX has many useful security systems, but some of them are super sensitive. For example, the pre-collision brake will sometimes be activated when there is no danger ahead. On the other hand, I like things like Safe Exit Assist, which will alert you to passing cars when you try to exit a parallel parking space. I just wish all the systems were more cohesive in their integration.
The wireless charging pad does not work well. It often doesn’t detect when a device is placed on top, and when it does work, the smooth surface means your phone moves a lot while you’re driving, which can cause it to stop charging.
The interior door handles are also unnecessarily complicated. The NX uses a dual electronic/standard door handle. At the front end, you’ll find a braille-like surface that indicates where to press to exit the car. Next to it, labeling shows how the handle works manually, in case of a power outage or an emergency. This is confusing and takes some getting used to, and seems like the answer to a question no one asked.
The NX450h+ is an impressive plug-in effort from a company known for its hybrid excellence. But that could end up being a tough sell for some. First, the NX450h+ isn’t cheap. While a regular NX250 starts at a fairly reasonable $38,850, you’re looking at well-equipped RX money for the 450h Plus: $57,705. With nearly every option checked, including a $1,075 destination charge, my orange NX450h Plus costs $62,090.
Now remember when I said the NX is mechanically related to the RAV4? The NX450h+ uses the same drivetrain setup as the Toyota RAV4 Prime, which is over $15,000 cheaper. Yes, the Lexus is a bit nicer inside, but it’s a big jump in price for practically the same experience.
None of this is to say that the NX450h Plus is bad. It’s actually very good. But having to drop nearly $60,000 on a compact crossover just for the ability to drive 40 miles on electricity alone is a tough sell, especially when the exact same setup can be had for less money.
2022 Lexus NX NX 450h+ Luxury AWD Specs