I’m in a bit of a dilemma. I know that when I talk about luxury mid-size SUVs, the first names to pop up in your head are the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC or even the Audi Q5. But why is that? Whys is it that when someone is looking to buy their next SUV, they completely gloss over the brand name Lexus? I, for one, was curious to find out the answer to these questions! And what better to decode this mystery than to do it with the all-new Lexus NX 350h.

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Looks of the NX 350h

Is it a bad looking SUV? I certainly do not think so! Your eyes are instantly attracted to all the sharp body lines that the NX350h carries. It honestly feels like the designers went crazy on the design with a Japanese Katana! It looks highly futuristic and stands out from the other sea of luxury mid-size SUVs. Unlike many other automakers, Lexus has managed to neatly blend in the imposing front grille into the other design elements of the vehicle. Quite honestly, it was not like the NX 350h was a bad looking car before, but post this facelift, Lexus has managed to accentuate the overall design of the NX 350h and make it a head-turner.

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Unlike its competitors, which offer oodles of chrome to satisfy most Indians, the NX 350h has moved away from that trend and instead offers all the exterior trim pieces in black, making this hybrid SUV look a lot more sinister, which trust me most of us would appreciate. However, I must point your attention to one key element of the car we were reviewing, which is that we had the keys to the NX 350h in its F-Sport trim. Compared to the other variants, what Lexus offers additionally is the F-Sport badges on the front fenders a revised front and rear bumper to enhance its sporty appeal. Lastly, it is offered in 20-inch F-Sport wheels finished in black.

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So you’d think that it doesn’t come loaded with features? But that isn’t the case either! On the exterior, you have these 3-eye projector headlamps with distinctive looking L-shaped DRLs. Like I mentioned before, the 20-inch alloy wheels and a very futuristic looking lightbar that runs across the width of the rear tailgate. So it isn’t like Lexus has skimped out with the NX 350h!

Interiors of the NX 350h

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Now, if it isn’t bad on the outside, it’s pretty natural that you will automatically presume that it is not up to mark on the inside, but oh, you couldn’t be more wrong! Step inside the NX 350h, and you are greeted with high-quality materials and soft-touch leather all around the interiors. Also, how can you miss out on this new 14-inch infotainment screen that offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard! Furthermore, you also have a customizable digital driver’s display and, more importantly, a head-up display that shows a lot of information that a driver would require. Honestly, Lexus states that they have introduced the Tazuna concept to their interior design, which in layman’s terms means that all the controls are extremely easily accessible to the driver without having to distract themselves while driving.

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One such example of this concept is the touch-sensitive steering controls which detect where the driver is touching the steering wheel controls and displays operational guidance on the colour head-up display. Moreover, Lexus wins a lot of extra brownie points since they still offer physical controls for your AC controls and volume knob, which is becoming rarer and rarer in modern-day cars! Lexus offers two more standout features: the NX 350h offers an electric door release, which is unique to this segment but feels like a gimmick. But what doesn’t feel like one is the 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio system that most audiophiles would really appreciate.

Driving Dynamics 

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So it isn’t bad on the outside, and it isn’t bad on the inside! Does that mean the NX 350h might be like a boat to drive? Not entirely so, this hybrid SUV comes equipped with a 2.5-litre in-line 4-cylinder motor sending power to the front wheels while the electric motor sends power to the rear wheels. The NX 350h produces a combined power figure of 240hp while and produces 239Nm, and is mated to a 6-speed e-CVT gearbox. A while ago, I got the opportunity to drive the Lexus ES 300h, and in that with a full tank of fuel, I did nearly 700 kilometres, so you can only imagine how much further I can go with the 55-litre tank capacity that the NX 350h offers. While I can’t give you the real-world fuel economy figures, I can say that Lexus claims to offer 22km/l. Still, in reality, that might not be the case, and you will get a more realistic number of 11-12 km/l, which still isn’t bad! Now because this is a hybrid, you can drive on pure electric mode alone for 50-60 kilometres which could make most people’s commute quite eco-friendly.

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On a bad patch of road, one can presume that with these low profile tyres, the ride might be extremely harsh, and yes, I must admit that the ride quality feels ever so slightly stiff and sometimes doesn’t feel extremely comfortable. But that is most likely due to the large tyres and not the suspension itself. As we had the F-Sport variant with us, which offers performance dampers and adaptive variable suspension on the front and rear, which makes the NX 350h quite fun to drive around corners but on bad patches of road, you would be desiring a smaller tyre or maybe a little softer suspension. Before we talk more about the engine, I must admit that when you push the NX 350h, due to the e-CVT gearbox, you do hear quite a lot of engine noise on the inside, it doesn’t have the rubber band effect it like before but that being said your overall NVH levels aren’t quite bad because you cannot hear a lot of road noise or tyre noise even with the big tyres.

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Let’s move on to talk about the engine performance. With 240bhp on tap, it feels sufficient to make your daily drives fun, but if you want something faster, you do have to look elsewhere. Since I only drove the F-Sport variant, I can say that with the adaptive suspension, the NX 350h does take corners quite well and holds its ground, urging the driver to push the SUV ever so slightly and the brakes to have quite a good bite to them as well. But in all honesty, is that really what someone buying this car would do? When driving it around the city, would one really push the car? Most people buying this car would drive it on the highways, or they drive around town, and for that, the NX 350h feels reasonably sufficient as it feels refined and comfortable.

Verdict

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After spending an entire day with the all-new NX 350h, I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that you guys watching the video are not really keen on your next car being a Lexus. I understand that certain downsides to the brand, such as Tier 2 cities and even tier 1 cities, do not have plenty of Lexus service centres, so getting the vehicle serviced could become a task.

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But for now, let’s just focus on the NX 350h, it will have to tread down a treacherous path as it will have to go head-to-head against its competitors, but with a price tag of Rs 64.9 lakh to Rs 71.60 lakh, it just might bring a Katana to a sword fight!. Japan and Germany sat at opposite ends of the table during World War I, and it seems like they are about to engage in a fierce battle, yet again. Although this time around, we are speaking in strictly automotive terms.

Specifications

Engine: 2.5-litre in-line 4-cylinder with an electric motor
Power: 240hp
Torque: 239Nm @4300rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed e-CVT
0-100km/h: 7.7 seconds

Price: Rs 71.60 (ex-showroom, India) (As tested)

For: Looks, Refinement, Fuel efficiency
Against: Ride Quality, Interior space

To read about the launch of the Lexus NX 350h, click here.