plug-in hybrids They’re a great compromise for people who still want the convenience of a gas-powered car but want to experience the benefits of electrification. Most PHEVs have enough electric driving range to cover daily commutes and needs around town, while the gasoline engine alleviates any range anxiety. After years of building great hybrids, Lexus is finally entering 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 at a pretty high price.
Disclaimer: Lexus offered me the NX450h+ and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Filling the tank just once a week is great.
The NX is the second smallest crossover from Lexus and ranks above the user experience and under the 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 heck NX stands for, a Lexus rep once told me it stands for “Nimble Crossover.” It’s okay.
Specs that matter
Power comes from the same 2.5-liter naturally aspirated 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 in an 18.1 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack powering those motors, and the result is the most powerful and efficient NX you can buy. It generates 304 total system horsepower with 364 lb-ft of torque. It also gets 84 mpge, the equivalent miles per gallon of gas and electric driving, and can go 37 miles on electric alone. Honestly though, it’s actually quite easy to exceed the EPA-estimated EV range. I frequently saw up to 42 miles of electric range per charge.
how it drives
Lexus likes to tout the NX450h+’s low center of gravity, and indeed, this thing is surprisingly nimble. It’s surprisingly quick, too, with plenty of power to pull off the freeway. The advantage of having a battery and electric motors at your disposal is that, in everyday driving, it’s like having a turbo that’s always ready to provide that extra boost. Power comes on smooth and quick, and the transition between gas 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 loud and unrefined.
The nice thing about crossovers this size is how easy they are to maneuver. Parking and getting through tight spots is quite easy. Parking the NX is made even better by Lexus’ Advanced Parking System, which is easier to operate than most other automated parking systems I’ve used. I also have to give Lexus a thumbs up for putting a physical button on the dash to turn on Advanced Park technology. There is no need to line up in a specific spot for the system to automatically activate. You just find the place you want, press start on the screen and let the car park itself. The system can move forward, backward or perform parallel parking maneuvers.
Driving in different powertrain modes is just as easy. A button on the center console allows drivers to choose between full EV mode, hybrid or charging configuration, the latter of which uses the gasoline engine to recharge the battery while driving. In EV mode, the NX450+ is predictably quiet. In Hybrid mode, the powertrain runs like any other hybrid would, defaulting to electric power as often as possible with the gas engine cranking as needed.
Charging at home is easy. The NX has an optional built-in 6.6 kilowatt charger ($800) that you simply plug into a standard household outlet. Charging in this way, it takes about 4 to 5 hours to fully recharge the battery. It is very easy to do overnight. Unfortunately, public charging at a Tier 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+
The NX has many useful security systems, but some of them are very sensitive. Pre-collision braking, for example, sometimes kicks in 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 back out of 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 of it, and when it does work, the slippery surface means the phone moves around a lot while driving, which can cause it to stop charging.
The interior door handles are also unnecessarily complicated. The NX uses a standard/electronic dual door handle. At the front end, you’ll find a braille-like surface indicating where to press to get out of the car. Also, the labeling shows how the handle works manually, in case of power outage or emergency. This is confusing and takes some getting used to, and seems to be the answer to a question that no one asked.
The NX450h+ is an impressive plug-in effort from a company known for its hybrid excellence. But it may end up being a hard sell for some. For starters, the NX450h+ isn’t cheap. While a regular NX250 starts at a fairly reasonable $38,850, you’re looking at money on a well-equipped RX for the 450h Plus: $57,705. With almost all options checked, including a $1,075 destination charge, 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 setup as the Toyota RAV4 first, which is over $15,000 cheaper. Yes, the Lexus is a bit nicer inside, but that’s a big jump in price for the same experience.
None of this is to say that the NX450h Plus is bad. It’s actually very good. But having to spend nearly $60,000 on a compact crossover just for the ability to drive 40 miles on electric alone is a hard sell, especially when you can get the exact same setup for less money.
2022 Lexus NX NX 450h+ Luxury AWD Specs
Type of motor
CVT with outside diameter