LEXUS NX300h F Sport: a different way of driving

845289_230514lexus-2_3LEXUS’S first foray into this compact SUV sector of the market bears a body that has obviously been chopped and shaped by someone wielding a big Samurai sword.

Lots of sharp cuts and angles give it a distinctive, purposeful presence, and one you’re not going to miss as it glides past. Certainly the most aggressive and mean looking car we’ve had on the drive for some time.

Very angular, dramatic shapes at the front and rear – hugely distinctive indeed with its ‘get out of my way’ front grille.

830040_200414lexAnd there’s a touch of irony there, because in use the Lexus can be as docile as you like. In fact you have to drive it like a pensioner to get the best out of the available fuel and for the electric motor part of the equation to kick in. It’s really a case of knowing what you’ve bought into and adjusting your driving accordingly.

It’s not immune from road noise and the fuel consumption figures might prove a bit optimistic for everyday driving – my steady mid 50mph run across country to a business meeting in the Cotswolds saw a best of 38.1 on the readout. Mind you, that was a whole lot better than the hybrid I went there to drive, but that’s a story for another issue.

The electric CVT transmission is not one of my particular favourites. Attempt to coax any performance out of the car via your right foot and it sounds like it’s revving its Japanese (wheel) nuts off and you don’t get any sensation of it moving through gears. And it makes it annoyingly noisy at times.

830039_200414lex-aBut there’s instant response from the throttle which is appreciated at junctions and roundabouts, and the NX300h is available in the UK with front or all wheel drive.

E-Four is a second electric motor, in addition to the hybrid petrol and electric powertrain, which drives the rear wheels, giving a bit of extra torque where it’s needed in four wheel drive.

The F Sport version sampled here is a little sombre inside due to its black roof lining, but it’s a superbly comfortable machine with a near perfect driving position. More than your average cows worth of leather is used in there, and it’s well put together as you’d expect from Lexus, with neat red stitching picking out the leather panels inside and the rest of the cow giving the seats a smart red leather finish.

You’re probably guessing here that this is a very well equipped car, and you’d be right. All the usual suspects can be found in the spec list with innovative additions like a wireless smartphone charging tray, drive mode select and rear cross parking alert finding their way in there too. The latter scans right and left when you’re reversing out of a parking space, looking for other car park traffic and will warn you of potential collisions. Very handy bearing in mind the speed some fools drive at in confined car parks.

As a compact SUV it is a good height to get in and out of so those of us showing signs of dodgy hips will appreciate that.

830060_200414lex-fIt also comes with the hottest door handle I’ve encountered so far, as the drivers side dash vent is in direct line with it so while you’re pumping up the interior temperature, it’s also heating up the alloy handle.

Things like the automatic tailgate are marmite additions. Operated by the keyfob, it laboriously and slowly opens while you wait patiently for enough headroom to chuck your shopping inside. At least while it’s slowly shutting you can get back inside and out of the rain.

It has a precise steering feel with a decent amount of weight so you always feel fully in control. It also means the Lexus has a predictability about the way it does its job out on the road.

FASTFACTS: Lexus NX300h F Sport; £37,495; 2494cc four cylinder 16vDOHC with VVT-I; Hybrid Drive system output 195bhp; electric CVT, all wheel drive with E-Four; top speed 112mph, 0-62mph 9.2secs; fuel – urban 53.3, extra urban 55.4, combined 54.3; CO2 121g/km; will it fit the garage? 4630/1845/1645 (l/w/h); three year/60,000 mile warranty plus three years Lexus roadside assistance.

© Wheelwrite 2016 904329_LEXUS_NX_FSP_01_DPL_2014