Miles of California smiles, and never stopping for gas
After a summer of family road trips in different hybrid SUVs in Florida and California, we finished on a high note: the Lexus hybrid crossover NX300h. Because it is classified as a crossover and not a full sized SUV, I worried about our family of four having the space and comfort to drive around Southern California without our luggage at our kids’ feet.
Who the Lexus NX300H Is For
- Buyers seeking a fuel efficient SUV
- Those wanting luxury and technology features at an entry level luxury price (about $41,000)
- Those wanting a superior hybrid engine on the market
- Singles, couples or small families
- Buyers who are transitioning out of a large SUV but still want the style and flexibility of an SUV
- Buyers who want all the top technology features in a new car
The Perfect Balance of Fuel Efficiency and A Spacious Interior
The Lexus NX300h is sleek, sporty, and angular. Another luxury hybrid crossover I drove this summer felt like a crossover that had been flattened from top to bottom: the floor to ceiling height of the car from the outside didn’t look like an adult could sit up in it, and once inside, the car’s width felt like it was shrinking. The Lexus wins for efficiency of space in its interior without ever feeling like a compact SUV.
I was surprised at first to see the bold, contrasting interior leather seats, called NuLuxe, that were both tan and black, reminding me of vintage spectator shoes. After the first days of driving around with my kids, I considered this design genius: lighter colored leathers to create a greater sense of openness and to absorb less heat in the sunlight, with black leather and carpeting to help hide the wear and tear of driving child passengers.
My Favorite Hybrid Engine Driving Experience
Lexus’ hybrid engines are in a league of their own. Other luxury models I have driven recently can’t boast the same seamless transition at traffic lights. The engine moves back and forth between gas and electric modes with grace and silence. Other luxury hybrid models I have driven felt like the car stalled suddenly at a light. It was an unnerving feeling I never got used to. Lexus benefits from incorporating all of the industry leading technology and design that have gone into parent company Toyota’s models.
We spent the week driving round trip from Los Angeles to San Diego without ever needing to fill the car up with gas. We certainly could have gotten better fuel economy from a Prius than the 35city/30 highway miles per gallon the NX300h got, but then again, we wouldn’t be in a Lexus.
Enough space for families?
As a compact crossover the Lexus NX300h does not have a third row seat, though the back seat is spacious enough to seat three comfortably – making it adequate for 5 passengers. The cargo space (almost 17 cubic feet) fit our road trip needs: a stroller, two large suitcases, and two kids roll-aboard suitcases fit with adept packing. It could also easily hold eight bags of groceries. There is cargo flexibility, too; with the back row folded down total cargo area is almost 57 cubic feet. The model comes with a cover for the cargo area, but I found it to be cumbersome so I removed it at the first chance. Some people can keep a nice, clean cargo area, but we fill every cubic inch with random stuff that appears from mysterious sources. So I’m pretty sure anyone looking in the window to see if there’s anything worth stealing in our cargo space would be frightened off.
Luxury features to keep you sane, not just pampered
Has this happened to you? It’s 11 p.m. and you just took a shuttle to a theme park parking lot. One child is crying and the other is passed out, you’re so tired you can’t feel your feet and you realize you forgot which row you’re parked in. You and your spouse each think it is a different one, and of course you’re not negotiating this with grace.
Or you just landed from a business trip and you want to hurry home before your kids’ bedtimes. When you left, you were racing for your flight because your son refused to put on a sweater that felt too “sweater-y.” So you reach the airport lot and go blank on where you parked.
If you are a Lexus Enform customer ($250 a year for many remote car features) you’re in luck.
Lexus Enform can operate many of a car’s features from the driver’s phone, including remote start and climate control to warm or cool the car before you get to it.
The Lexus Enform navigation screen also features a series of additional apps like Open Table, Yelp, Pandora, and Movietickets.com to make those spontaneous Saturday night dinner and movie ideas easier. Drivers can link these apps with the account on their phones for safer access.
Technology that even a normal person can use
The many tech features of the car are pretty luddite friendly. Among the easy to use features that I liked were:
- The menu screen controlling music, phone, and navigation works with a swipe of the touch pad, really no different than a smart phone. This also means no fingerprints on the infotainment screen.
- The armrest compartment contains a Qi wireless phone charging pad that works with Android phones to charge while resting. Apple iPhone users can purchase a case to make it compatible with this convenient feature.
- Parking and reverse driving screens were pretty fancy compared to a simple camera image. Red, yellow, and blue grid lines superimposed on the screen, which reminded me of those you see on football fields on TV, were supposed to help me see where I was headed while in reverse, but I never had a chance to use them. Though they would be ideal for parallel parking in downtown Boston where I live.
Comparison Shopping: What you get for your money and what else you should consider
It’s easy to appreciate the entry level luxury price of the NX300h and the fuel savings it offers, too. With a starting price of about $39,000 it offers nearly every luxury option, however navigation and a moon roof are not standard.
I didn’t find the NX to feel noticeably smaller than the RX, however the RX engine is more powerful, 8 cylinders, but it gets less fuel efficiency than the NX. If I didn’t need an SUV with a third-row SUV, I would consider the NX300H; it’s a bargain for a luxury hybrid and about $10,000 less than the RX.
If I hadn’t yet reached or had already concluded the chapter in my life where a third row is essential, this is a car I would buy. While cruising down the California freeways, we called my in-laws and told them they should get one.
What We Loved about the Lexus NX300H
- The black and tan two-tone upholstery that kept seats cool in the sun with a dark floor to hide wear and tear.
- Fuel efficiency for an SUV
- The multiple tech features that were intuitively easy to learn
- The smooth transition between modes of the hybrid engine
What You Need to Know
- Starting at $39,720 for FWD and $41,310 for AWD
- Heated front seats and navigation systems are options, not standard
- 4-Year Warranty/50,000 Miles
- 6-year Powertrain Warranty/70,000 Miles
- Seats 5 comfortably
Although Lexus provided this car for the purposes of review, these opinions are entirely my own.