2020 Lexus NX 300h
By Jakob Hansen, 6/14/2021
Lexus’s baby SUV takes the center stage.
The modern SUV is far different from its rugged origins it once came. Where once we longed for ground clearance and suspension travel, we now seek adaptive cruise and cooled seats. While the desire for increased ride height and a dominating road feel are still very much present in our vehicle search, the way we go about it has drastically changed. No other vehicle more perfectly represents our evolution from the rugged SUVs of before to the comfortable cruisers they are today than the 2020 Lexus NX 300h.
Imagine yourself in your perfect place of bliss. The environment is just right for your mind to meld into a calm sense of security, like a child holding her blanket. The air is warm and clean, your ears take in aural bliss, and your body sinks into the seatback like butter forming to a warm piece of toast. The perfect environment to sink your hard-worked back into after a long day’s work.
This is the cabin of the 2020 Lexus NX 300h. Nothing else matters.
The BMW rushing to his next sales call cut you off? Fine, good sir, enjoy your spot in traffic one car ahead. The Audi trudging next to looks noticeably concerned, the driver surely thinking of some irrelevant task she surely cannot fix while driving. Why bother?
The world buzzes around you as you find your bliss; the car chiefly driving itself. Lean back into the NuLuxe leather seat –let the world rush by as you soak in your solitary moment of bliss on the throughway.
The interior of the Lexus NX 300h Iis where is truely lulls you into a bliss not commonly achieved in today’s motor vehicles. The cloud-like qualities of Cadillacs from long ago have not been recreated in a vehicle for some time, yet the Lexus finds a way to create such an environment, in their own unique way.
The ride is stiff, yet comfortable. The suspension easily soaks up the worst of the road imperfections but doesn’t leave the driver with a lack of connection to the road.
The steering is able to transmit all the road data the driver needs to take accurate readings of the road surface, without being faced with the harsh nature of our dilapidated road system.
The seats are soft, supportive, and Lord, the leather is wonderful to the touch. A baby’s bottom fails to compare to the suppleness of the NuLuxe leatherette. The heated and cooled functions are capable of both burning bare skin and turning the sun to a white dwarf. Just as I like it.
Truly, the comfort of this vehicle is what takes it to the next level. The engineers at Lexus had one thing in mind, and that is the care of your bottom. And boy, do they care for your bottom.
To be fair, this obsession with comfort may have left some things to be desired. For those of you seeking a “sporty” riding SUV, please feel free to turn your attention elsewhere. The Lexus may technically have a “sport mode”, though I for the life of me I cannot decipher why.
What’s more, the neverending quest for comfort lead the design team to conflict with the need for space. The always-within-reach dashboard is wonderful for relaxed driving and easy-touch climate controls, yet the in-your-face dash leaves little room for breathing. Unique to the US market is an ever-expanding need for space. Space, in and of itself, is considered a luxury. Creating the sense of a spacious cabin is a crucial element in luxury design, and one that Lexus, unfortunately, drastically missed the mark on.
The drivetrain of the 2020 Lexus NX 300h is of particular interest to a vast majority of you. The hybrid drivetrain means the Lexus is aiming at high efficiency, and the package does not fail to deliver. The EPA estimated 33 mpg city and 30 mpg highway are not terribly far off from the number that we saw.
During our time with the NX 300h, we saw varied numbers. At first, the economy figures were, to say, abysmal. Averaging in the teens to low 20’s. This was, of course, due to our heavy right foot and want to test the nature of the beast. After gaining an understanding of the nature of the car and starting to drive like those adults that we should be, we started to see normal fuel economy figures. We were never able to match the EPA’s ambitious ratings, which is disappointing in a hybrid, though we were able to average into the high 20’s with careful driving.
The combination of the comfortable ride and lackadaisical drivetrain means even hotheads such as myself pleased to drive like a grandpa, and to think nothing less of it. The relaxed feel to the vehicle convinces you to drive in bliss, even when you want to drive fast.
What’s most interesting of the Lexus, however, was its traction control system. It is, undoubtedly one of the best in the game right now. The point and shoot nature means you simply keep the wheel where you want to go, and you are able to mash the pedal as far as you want into the floor, the Lexus figures out the rest for you. Even pulling a Michigan turn, or U-turn for you non-midwestern folk, you are able to floor it The intelligent system is capable of launching you and the 4,100 lb machine without any wheel spin. Truly, a testament to the genius engineers at Toyota/Lexus. You may not want to drive the NX 300h like a hooligan, but if you decide to mash it into traffic, it’s got you covered.
As much as I wish I could avoid this discussion, it is evident that it is more and more relevant to this post. The infotainment is both the best, and worst, on the market today.
The system itself runs flawlessly. Not once did it freeze, error-out, or even lag behind out quick movements. The layout is simple enough to figure out after a short learning curve, and the logical pathways make sense to even the worst of our dev team (you’d be surprised how lacking some of those computer guys and gals are when the system doesn't involve a mechanical keyboard and 65 gigs of Ram).
The navigation is simple, clearly laid out and easy to use when using the voice function. The map isn’t as sophisticated at avoiding traffic as some of the phone apps available today such as Waze, but nothing is. I swear they have road wizards running their software.
The sound quality of the Mark Levinson 835-watt Premium Surround Sound was excellent, and the split-screen mode made it simple to switch between the two most common infotainment tasks of your choice.
So where’s the poo, Robin? Where’s the poo?
The problem lies in the touchpad. Oh, the infamous Lexus touchpad. Lexus refers to it as Remote Touch, and has tried to make it work since before Obama was in office.
To be fair, they have refined the system to operate nearly perfectly, and yet, we’re still here talking about it.
The issue with the system is it absolutely requires the driver to look at the screen when using it. After some time, you may eventually grow used to the systems tactile feedback, and may be able to accurately navigate the system with minimal loss of road focus, but we were not able to get to that point. Many functions were avoided while driving, just to save ourselves from removing our eyes from the road for long periods of time.
Lexus has resolved much of the issue by raising the screen as close to eye-level as possible and moving it toward the driver, but the issue still persists and is something Lexus still has yet to fully figure out.
Lexus has been developing and perfecting comfort since the LS400 was first brought to US shores. The brand has changed and evolved over time, and has even completely changed goals at some points, but has always at the base of the brand chased perfected luxury.
The NX 300h is still not the perfect luxury hybrid SUV we would love for it to be, yet it is still a solid step for anyone looking to roll around town in bliss.