Plug and Play Lexus

by Petrol Mum
Lexus RX450h+ F Sport at service station

For over 15 years, Lexus has offered hybrid powertrain options across their vehicle range. Now the luxury car brand has now taken the next step in their electrification journey with Lexus NX 450h+. This medium SUV is the first Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) Lexus model ever.

PHEVs use a conventional petrol engine and an electric motor powered by a battery that can be recharged through the hybrid system or by plugging into an electricity supply. In the NX 450h+ you can select between driving in pure EV mode, hybrid mode, Auto EV/HV mode or to charge the battery from the vehicle’s 2.5-litre inline 4-cylinder petrol engine. When the electric battery is running low, the vehicle automatically switches to its Hybrid drive mode where the charge level can be restored by regenerative braking. The petrol engine is also assisted by the electric motors to power the vehicle and maintain the battery’s charge level using the onboard charging system with a 6.6kW maximum output. The engine is paired with an electronic Continuously Variable Transmission and all-wheel drive.

Lexus claims up to 87km of all-electric driving range from the 18.1kWh high-capacity lithium-ion battery cells, but I found this was more like 70km of range. The NX 450h+ does use the electric motor for a larger portion of the journey than a regular Hybrid does, reducing reliance on petrol. The claimed combined fuel economy of plug-in hybrids is always very low, for the NX 450h+ it is 1.3L/100km. In reality though fuel use is greater than this and for my week driving the NX 450h+ I used 5.4L/100km. The last hybrid Toyota RAV4 I drove, which has the same hybrid powertrain as the NX 450h+ without the plug-in ability, I used 7.8L/100km.

The Lexus PHEV has Alternating Current (AC) Type 2 charging capability so you can charge at home or at a public charging station. Lexus claim charging the NX 450h+ from a completely empty battery will take 7.5 hours on an AC charger (Type 2) and 2.5 hours with a maximum charging current 32A (public charging). I found that I able to achieve a full battery charge overnight using the standard AC plug at home.

The Sonic Titanium NX 450h+ I drove had the F SPORT trim giving it a sportier look with 20-inch aluminium wheels, lower bumper spoilers, and front side garnish. Under the skin this Lexus also has F SPORT front and rear performance dampers that enhance ride comfort and quietness. Drive modes available include Sport S, Sport S+, Eco, Normal or Custom. Under the Custom mode you can personalise settings for the Powertrain, Suspension, Steering and A/C, but I was happy just driving in Normal mode for my week with the NX 450h+.

Befitting its sporting nature, the NX450h+ F Sport incorporates many unique interior features, including F Sport shift lever and knob, aluminium ornamentation, sports pedals and F Sport leather-accented front seats, here in the Flare Red colour. The seats are comfortable, but there is no aroma like you would get from a full leather interior. Both front seats have power adjustment for recline, forward/back, seat height front and rear with the driver’s seat also getting 2-way lumbar support and three seat setting memory positions. The front seats are also heated and cooled, but I felt neither of these operations were up to the Lexus standard. The floor mats on the other hand are Lexus quality being lovely and thick and even cover the transmission tunnel on the rear floor.   

The newly developed F Sport steering wheel includes exclusive stitching, the F Sport emblem, a snug-fitting thumb rest, dimpled leather accented trim with plastic wheel-mounted paddle shifters and electric steering column adjustment. My NX 450h+ also had the Enhancement Pack 2 fitted and this includes a steering wheel heater, digital rear view mirror, a panoramic sunroof, and the excellent 17-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound System.

The other new steering wheel feature that Lexus has introduced on the F Sport and Sports Luxury grades of the NX 450h is touch tracing operation, which detects where the driver is touching the steering wheel and displays operational guidance on the colour head-up display (HUD). Once you get used to the system it is quite easy to navigate and it reduces the number of buttons on the steering wheel. Voice control is one of the operations that can be activated using the touch trace operation and I was a bit disappointed that the icon that projects in the HUD is still a masculine looking silhouette. On the upside the voice control works well for making calls, changing the radio station, and setting a destination on the sat nav.

Lexus have ditched the fiddly touchpad controller for the infotainment system and in the NX450h+ you now get a 14″ modern looking touchscreen display that unfortunately does get bad fingermarks on it. The other feature that is gone is the CD player with media source options now being AM/FM, DAB, Bluetooth, Apps, USB, and Miracast. Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is combined with a wireless charging pad at the front of the centre console. My children were amused that you can push this pad back into the dash to make your phone ‘disappear’. In the cubby under this sliding lid there one 12V outlet and above the charge pad there is one USB-C port and one USB-A port.

I found the new infotainment system was just a little slow to start up, but more concerning was that on more than one occasion the sat nav lost it’s way and would only reset to your current location when you stopped the vehicle and turned it on and off. This is not something I would expect from a Lexus vehicle with over 11,000km on the odometer. The other feature missing from the sat nav was public charger locations as an option under the Point of Interest menu.

The rear seats have ample head and leg room for two adult passengers to comfortably sit back there or for younger passengers there are two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points. The centre seat can be folded down as an arm rest with two cup holders in it and there are good-sized drink bottle storage cubbies in both the front and rear doors. Rear passengers get two central air vents with individual direction control and one central on/off control. Below the air vents there are two USB-C ports and one 12V outlet.   

Luxury on the NX450h+ extends all the way to the rear of the vehicle with a gesture open/close tailgate that works by simply sweeping your leg under the rear of the vehicle. You can also open/close the tailgate using the button under the boot lid, on the key fob, and in the cabin. The boot is a good size for the weekly shop or a pram and a small shop and there is storage under the boot floor for the charging cords to save space in the boot area. If more space is needed the rear seats have 40:60 split folding mechanism with a manual release on the seat shoulders. There are four substantial tie down points in the boot, two hooks, two lights and one 12V outlet in the boot, but no spare tyre as the NX450h+ is fitted with run-flat tyres.

By far the most annoying feature on the NX450h+ is the new e-Latch technology, which is meant to offer ‘intuitive and easy door operation with a smooth operation feel and replaces the conventional door handle.’ When you get out of the vehicle it should be as simple as pushing the button where the door handle is located, but it felt like this didn’t actually work as intended resulting in frustration with the system by everyone that used it. The new e-Latch system also works within the Lexus Safety System+ and is designed to alert occupants within the vehicle to when a frontal collision is likely, if they are about to open their door. This feature called Safe Exit Assist and is available on all models and grades.

Other Lexus Safety System+ features include Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian/Cyclist Detection & Daytime Motorcycle Detection, Intersection Turning Assist, Emergency Steering Assist, Lane Departure Alert, Lane Tracing Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Road Sign Assist, and Blind Spot Monitor System. ANCAP tests of the autonomous emergency braking (AEB) (Car-to-Car) system showed GOOD performance with collisions avoided or mitigated in most test scenarios, including AEB Junction Assist where the test vehicle can autonomously brake to avoid crashes when turning across the path of an oncoming vehicle or pedestrian. Overall, effectiveness of the AEB (Car-to-Car) system performance was rated as GOOD. ANCAP tests of lane keep assist functionality showed some GOOD performance, including in some of the more critical emergency lane keeping test scenarios, and overall performance of the lane support system was classified as GOOD, with the overall ANCAP Safety Assist score being 92%.

Lexus RX450h+ F Sport rear view camera

The new Lexus NX range has a 5-star ANCAP (2022) safety rating with an Adult Occupant Protection score of 91% (34.59 out of 38) and a Child Occupant Protection score of 89% (43.87 out of 49). Dual frontal, side chest-protecting and side head-protecting (curtain) airbags, as well as a driver knee airbag, are standard. A centre airbag which provides added protection to front seat occupants in side impact crashes is also standard on all variants. For convenience you also get a 3D rear view camera system with front and rear parking sensors, auto dusk-sensing headlights and auto rain-sensing wipers.

All new Lexus vehicles now come with a 5 Year/Unlimited Kilometre warranty and you also have access to the Lexus Encore program for three years when you purchase a NX SUV. The service interval for the NX450h+ is every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first, and under Lexus Capped Price Servicing the first three services will cost $495 each.

Lexus RX450h+ F Sport side

Unprecedented global demand and other factors are impacting the production and delivery time of the Lexus NX 450h+. This may result in a different specification and/or price point at the time of delivery. As such you may now only express your interest in the Lexus NX 450h+. For more information, please contact your preferred Lexus Dealer. The NX450h+ F Sport + EP2 Sonic Titanium I tested was priced at $91,423 plus on-road costs.

The efficient powertrainThe e-Latch technology
The F SPORT embellishments The wayward sat nav
The 17-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound SystemThe heated and cooled seat operation is not up to the Lexus standard

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.

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