BELIEVE IT OR not, the new NX450h+ is the first plug-in hybrid model in Lexus’s 30-odd-year history. It’s surprising not only because the key brands that Lexus competes against – Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo – have sold plug-in hybrids for years, but also because Lexus was the trailblazer for regular hybrid technology among premium manufacturers back in the mid-2000s.
Assuming the battery is charged up, this BMW X3-sized SUV operates just like a fully electric car. That means smooth, quiet, and fairly nippy acceleration up to motorway speeds and beyond (a maximum of 83mph). The petrol engine is summoned into life only if you use the very lowest reaches of the accelerator petrol, and you won’t need to do that unless you’re trying to overtake on a short stretch of road or launch away from a roundabout as quickly as possible.
Officially, the NX can manage up to 43 miles on pure battery power – farther than its key rivals, the Audi Q5 50 TFSIe and X3 xDrive30e. Of course, it’s unlikely to go that far in real-world driving, but 30-35 miles – enough for the majority of commutes – should be achievable if you take it easy and the weather isn’t too chilly.
When the battery does eventually run flat, the 2.5-liter petrol engine under the bonnet fires into life. You can hear this happening and you also notice a small amount of vibration through the seat, but that’s mainly because of the contrast to the experience when running in full electric mode. Only when you put your foot down hard do things become a bit raucous.
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