Used 2015 Lexus NX 300h Review
Edmunds expert review
The 2015 Lexus NX 300h hybrid is a distinctive entry in the compact luxury crossover segment, boasting excellent fuel economy, impeccable cabin quality, eye-catching styling and a surprisingly sporty driving experience.
What's new for 2015
Not only is there an abundance of compact luxury crossovers on the market now, it's hard to pick one we wouldn't recommend. It also just got a bit harder, thanks to Lexus and its entry with the generally impressive all-new NX. However, while the regular turbocharged version struggles to stand out appreciably from its rivals when it comes to fuel economy and performance, the 2015 Lexus NX 300h hybrid version certainly does.
Perhaps to no one's surprise, the company that is almost synonymous with luxury hybrids has produced by far the most fuel-efficient luxury compact crossover. Through its combination of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and multiple electric motors powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack, the NX 300h is capable of returning a Lexus-estimated 32 mpg combined with all-wheel drive. The only other hybrid in the segment – the Audi Q5 – manages 26 mpg combined, while diesel-powered entries (the other fuel-efficient alternative) are in that same ballpark. This fuel economy advantage does come with a trade-off, however. The NX 300h is one of the slowest vehicles in its class -- alternatively fueled or otherwise.
There are reasons to consider the 2015 Lexus NX beyond either of its appealing powertrain options (the turbocharged NX 200t is review separately). It has similar dimensions to the Q5 and other competitors like the Acura RDX, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60, but clever packaging has resulted in better-than-average rear seat legroom. It also boasts bold design outside and in, with exemplary cabin construction and a long list of the latest high-tech entertainment, convenience and safety options.
Unfortunately, the NX 300h's cargo area is significantly lacking. Maximum cargo capacity is among the lowest in the segment, but its dramatically raked liftgate makes it even less versatile than its measurements would suggest. Its capacity with the rear seats in place is the worst in the segment, so if you have a family or need more versatility than what is essentially offered by most wagons, the NX is probably not for you. Lexus' bigger RX 400h hybrid would be the best family-friendly hybrid alternative, but it's as different in style, driving dynamics and overall personality to the NX as the larger luxurious Lexus ES sedan is to the smaller, sporty IS.
In other words, if you're single or a couple without kids, the 2015 Lexus NX 300h is a new compelling entry in a segment admittedly filled with other compelling entries. If your priority is to find the most fuel-efficient of those, though, your choice might have become a lot easier.
Trim levels & features
The 2015 Lexus NX 300h is a five-passenger, compact luxury crossover SUV. It is technically available in a single trim level, but there is a non-hybrid NX 200t version that is reviewed separately.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED foglights and running lights, rear privacy glass, heated mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, cruise control, driver-selectable vehicle dynamics settings, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats (with two-way driver lumbar), 60/40-split-folding and reclining rear seats, "NuLuxe" premium vinyl upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a cargo cover and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Standard electronic features include a 7-inch display screen, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Siri-based voice controls and readouts for iPhones, the Display Audio electronics interface and an eight-speaker sound system with HD and satellite radio, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB/iPod audio interface.
Other packages are also available, though availability can vary by region, so you'll want to check with your local dealer. The Premium package adds 18-inch wheels, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, a sunroof and heated and ventilated front seats. The Luxury package also includes those items plus a power liftgate, automatic wipers, a tow package, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel and wood trim. A power-folding rear seat can be added to the Luxury package.
The Navigation package obviously includes a navigation system, but also adds the Remote Touch electronics interface, two additional speakers, voice control, various Lexus Enform smartphone-integrated apps and a special smartphone app that allows you to remotely control and monitor various vehicle functions.
Stand-alone options include the 18-inch wheels, a blind-spot warning system (includes rear cross-traffic alert), front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control (includes a pre-collision warning and vehicle preparation system), upgraded LED headlights, a power liftgate, a sunroof, heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel and a wireless charging tray for Qi-compatible phones.
Performance & mpg
The 2015 Lexus NX 300h features a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain that combines a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a pair of electric motor/generators supplied by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Together, they produce a maximum output of 194 horsepower. Opting for all-wheel drive (versus front) adds a third electric motor that sends power to the rear wheels for added all-weather traction.
In Edmunds performance testing, an all-wheel-drive NX 300h went from zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds. That's a decent time for a hybrid, but compared to regular luxury crossovers it's pretty slow.
On the other hand, fuel economy should be by far the best in the segment. EPA testing estimates the NX 300h delivers 33 mpg combined (35 city/31 highway) with front-wheel drive and 32 mpg combined (33/30) with all-wheel drive. The latter is 6 mpg combined better than an Audi Q5 Hybrid.
Every 2015 Lexus NX 300h comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and a front passenger cushion airbag that prevents occupants from submarining under the seatbelt and off the seat. A rearview camera is also standard, along with Lexus Enform Safety Connect telematics that includes automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle location and an emergency assist button. Optional features include a blind-spot monitoring system with cross-traffic alert, as well as a lane-departure warning system and a frontal pre-collision system (included with adaptive cruise control) that warns of a possible collision and can automatically apply the brakes in the event of driver inaction.
In Edmunds brake testing, the NX 300h came to a stop from 60 mph in 118 feet, which is several shorter than average.
The 2015 Lexus NX pegged the crash-test ratings of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, scoring a top rating of "Good" in the agency's small-overlap and moderate-overlap frontal-impact tests; it also scored the top rating of "Good" in side-impact, rollover performance and whiplash protection from its front seats.
If you're expecting the NX 300h to drive like a smaller version of the RX, you're either going to be disappointed or pleasantly surprised. The ride is a bit firmer, the steering is more responsive, and body motions are more controlled when driving around turns or going over bumps and dips. There is a sense of connection between the car and driver that is not present in Lexus' other SUVs. That is a characteristic shared between the two NX models, but they obviously diverge when it comes to power delivery.
Instead of the NX 200t's punchy and smooth turbocharged four-cylinder, the NX 300h features the sort of hybrid driving experience with which current owners of Toyota or Lexus hybrids should be familiar. That includes quiet, all-electric propulsion when accelerating from a stop that lasts for a duration largely determined by how gingerly or energetically you feel like accelerating. Either way, the gasoline engine will at some point seamlessly kick in. Should you call for more energetic acceleration, expect loud droning noises and not a lot of thrust to back it up. The 300h may be fuel-efficient, but it certainly isn't quick, and indeed most rival SUVs -- even alternatively powered ones -- accelerate with more gusto.
The NX's cabin isn't quite as radical as the exterior is, but it nevertheless exudes a cool, modern vibe that won't be mistaken for anything else in the segment. Construction is absolutely top-notch, with materials that look and feel rich -- especially in the available two-tone color schemes. Soft leather lines the seats and passenger-side dash, as well as the padded areas that thoughtfully cushion the center console to keep your legs from whacking against a hard surface. Details like contrast stitching, wood trim and a modern analog clock are tastefully applied.
The high-mounted climate controls are easy to reach and see, while other secondary controls are intuitive. The infotainment controls are less so, however. The standard Display Audio system utilizes a knob-and-screen system similar to Mercedes' COMAND system. We haven't had a chance to try it, but a majority of NX models are likely to leave the dealer lot with navigation and thus the latest iteration of Remote Touch. Various menus and icons are selected with a console-mounted touchpad (like a laptop's). There is haptic feedback through that pad when you click something, but in general, we find that using Remote Touch draws too much of your attention from the road.
Rear passengers in the NX should find a generous amount of space, at least compared with most other compact luxury crossovers. Cargo space is skimpy, however, even if the NX 300h avoids the typical hybrid problem of significantly reduced cargo capacity over a traditionally powered version. Its 53.7 cubic feet of total volume may be about equal to the similarly constricted Mercedes GLK and just a few cubes shy of an Audi Q5, but its raked liftgate seems to make it less versatile than even its modest volume number would suggest. That's driven home by its 16.8 cubic feet with the seats raised, making it less spacious than its compact crossover rivals.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.