The Sell: The hybrid compact crossover gets AWD and goes upscale.
The Test: Rolling through the foothills east of Seattle, we notched 36 miles per gallon—not a spectacular number for a hybrid, but it climbed to almost 40 while stuck in traffic on our return to the urban core. That’s thanks to the NX’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine ($40,645; 33 mpg city/30 hwy), which automatically shuts off at traffic lights, and the electric motor attached to the rear wheels to propel the vehicle from a stop. Prius owners have experienced this phenomenon for years, but no Prius comes with AWD and 6.7 inches of ground clearance (higher than a Toyota RAV4) and 54.6 cubic feet of cargo room—more than the Honda Fit.
From the driver’s seat, the NX fits like a glove. The seat has just the right amount of bolstered support and softness, and the ergonomics of steering wheel and dash controls put everything within easy reach. To operate the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment and navigation system, all we had to do was rest our right arm on the armrest and work the laptop-like mousepad at our fingertips. There’s even an optional charging plate that can wirelessly power up a smartphone.
Despite its small size, the NX rolls like the luxury vehicle it is. The suspension eats up bumps, and the cabin is so quiet that, in some models, Lexus pipes in engine noise to compensate. The rear seats were wide enough to squeeze in three adults, although our taller members wished for more headroom.
What’s Missing? The trend to spec small windows in the name of design gets out of hand in the Lexus. Rear-seat passengers will be hard pressed to enjoy the views.
The Verdict: A hybrid that’s a pleasure to drive on slippery, chewed-up tarmac.