2022 Lexus NX450h+ is a great plug-in hybrid before it goes full EV

TECHNOLOGY
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2022 Lexus NX450h+

Photograph🇧🇷 Lawrence Hodge

plug-in hybrids are a great compromise for anyone who still wants the convenience of a gas car but wants to experience the benefits of electrification. Most PHEVs have enough electric range to cover commutes and needs around town, while the gas engine alleviates any 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 electrical power. But it comes with a price.

Disclaimer: Lexus offered me the NX450h+ and I was really surprised at how much I liked it. Filling the tank just once a week is fine.

What is that?

2022 Lexus NX450h+ rear

Photograph🇧🇷 Lawrence Hodge

The NX is Lexus’ second smallest crossover, ranking above the user experience and below the RX🇧🇷 While it runs on a modular platform that’s 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 address later. And if you ever wondered what the hell NX stands for, a Lexus rep once told me it stands for “Nimble Crossover”. Well.

specs that matter

Lexus NX450h+ engine

Photograph🇧🇷 Lawrence Hodge

Power comes from the same naturally aspirated 2.5 liter I4 engine that powers the base NX250 and the hybrid NX350h, but the difference is in the electrical configuration. The 450h+ adds a pair of electric motors that drive the rear wheels, giving this SUV all-wheel drive. Add an 18.1 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery powering these motors and the result is the most powerful and efficient NX you can buy. It produces 304 total system horsepower with 364 lb-ft of torque. It also gets 84 mpge – the equivalent of a mile per gallon on gas and electric steering – and can go 37 miles on electricity alone. Honestly, though, it’s actually pretty easy to beat the EPA’s estimated EV range. I frequently saw up to 42 miles of electrical range per charge.

how he drives

Lexus likes to tout the NX450h+’s low center of gravity, and indeed, this thing is surprisingly agile. It’s also surprisingly fast, with plenty of accelerating power for highway crossings. The advantage of having a battery and electric motors at your disposal is that in everyday driving it’s like having a turbo always ready to give you an extra boost. The power turns on smoothly and quickly, and the transition between petrol and electric driving is one of the smoothest I’ve ever experienced. Unfortunately, when you’re relying on the 2.5-litre engine for power, it sounds muddled and unrefined.

Lexus Advanced Park Assist Demo

What’s great about crossovers this size is how easy they are to maneuver. Parking and getting through tight spots is a breeze. The NX’s parking just got better thanks to Lexus’ Advanced Park system, which is easier to operate than most other automated parking systems I’ve used. I also have to give Lexus credit for putting a physical button on the dash to activate the Advanced Park technology. There is no need to line up in a specific location for the system to activate automatically. You simply find the location you want, press start on the screen and let the car park itself. The system can move forward, backward or perform parallel parking maneuvers.

Image for article titled The 2022 Lexus NX450h+ is a good but expensive bridge to electrification

Photograph🇧🇷 Lawrence Hodge

Driving in different powertrain modes is just as easy. A button on the center console lets drivers choose between full EV mode, Hybrid or Charge configuration, the latter of which uses the gasoline engine to recharge the battery as you drive. In EV mode, the NX450+ is predictably quiet. In hybrid mode, the powertrain operates like any other hybrid, switching to electric power whenever possible, with the gasoline engine running as needed.

Charging at home is easy. The NX has an optional 6.6-kilowatt internal charger ($800) that you simply plug into a standard household outlet. Charging this way takes about 4 to 5 hours to fully replenish the battery. It’s an easy thing 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 troubled charging network, not Lexus.

Some Notable Pros and Cons of the NX450h+

Image for article titled The 2022 Lexus NX450h+ is a good but expensive bridge to electrification

Photograph🇧🇷 Lawrence Hodge

NX has many useful security systems, but some of them are oversensitive. Pre-Collision Braking, for example, will sometimes activate when there is no danger ahead of you. On the other hand, I like things like Safe Exit Assist, which will alert you to passing cars when you try to exit parallel parking. I just wish all the systems were more cohesive in their integration.

The wireless charging pad doesn’t work well. It often doesn’t detect when a device is placed on top, and when it does work, the slippery surface means your phone moves around a lot when driving, which can cause it to stop charging.

Image for article titled The 2022 Lexus NX450h+ is a good but expensive bridge to electrification

Photograph🇧🇷 Lawrence Hodge

The interior door handles are also unnecessarily complicated. The NX uses an electronic/standard dual handle. At the front end, you’ll find a braille-like surface that tells you where to press to exit the car. Next to this, the label shows how the handle operates manually, in case of power failure or emergency. This is confusing and takes some getting used to, and seems to be the answer to a question no one has asked.

Verdict

Image for article titled The 2022 Lexus NX450h+ is a good but expensive bridge to electrification

Photograph🇧🇷 Lawrence Hodge

The NX450h+ is an impressive plug-in effort from a company known for its hybrid excellence. But it might end up being a tough sell for some. For starters, the NX450h+ isn’t cheap. While a regular NX250 starts at a very reasonable $38,850, you’re looking at the well-equipped RX money for the 450h Plus: $57,705. With almost all options checked, including a $1,075 destination fee, my orange NX450h Plus is $62,090.

Now, remember when I said that the NX is mechanically related to the RAV4? The NX450h+ uses the same transmission configuration as the Toyota RAV4 Prime, which is over $15,000 cheaper. Yes, the Lexus is a little nicer inside, but it’s a big jump in price for effectively the same experience.

None of this is to say that the NX450h Plus is bad. It’s really very good. But having to spend nearly $60,000 on a compact crossover just for the ability to drive 40 miles on electricity alone is a hard sell, especially when the exact same configuration can be had for less money.

Specifications Lexus NX NX 450h+ Luxury AWD 2022

Engine type

Gas/Electric I-4

Transmission/Drive

CVT with OD

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