2022 Lexus NX 450h+ Road Test: A notch better than good enough

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At first glance, you may think the spec sheet and its position in Lexus’ lineup tells the prospective buyer almost everything they need to know about the marque’s mid-level crossover. And a short stint behind the wheel of a heart-of-the-lineup model confirms it: the NX is exactly what it needs to be to fill a profitable hole in the Lexus lineup. But there's a bit more nuance to the NX nameplate that bears closer inspection. There's one version we’d suggest is best to simply avoid, and that's the base-level NX 250 with its meager 203-horsepower engine, which serves adequately for the Toyota RAV4 that shares much of its mechanicals with the NX but isn’t befitting of a luxury badge.

Which brings us to the one real standout model that we’d recommend above all others. The NX 450h+ (a truly clunky naming convention that will come up again) adds a plug and an extra dose of power to the NX that pushes this one particular version across the good-enough line and into actual desirable territory. It’s an awfully nice little crossover. And we literally mean little, but more on that later.

The 2022 Lexus NX 450h+ is comfortable, boasts all the modern technology you’d expect from Toyota’s premium brand, and is pleasantly powerful while also managing to be efficient. With its plug-in powertrain, a full battery results in an EPA-estimated 37 miles of electric range, and we found that figure just about spot on in our own testing. To our eyes, it looks better than the last NX, though in a nondescript blobby sort of way in every direction other than straight ahead, in which case it’s pinched and spindly just like every other Lexus you’ve seen in the last decade.

With 304 total horsepower, the plug-in NX 450h+ is quite a bit more powerful than the 240-horsepower NX 350h hybrid (as opposed to the gasoline-fueled and turbocharged NX 350 minus the lowercase h). That’s power you can truly feel from behind the wheel. The torquier plug-in powertrain of the 450h+ scoots the ‘ute from 0-60 in in 6.0 seconds flat, according to Lexus. The 350h does the deed in a comparatively leisurely 7.2 ticks (in case you’re wondering, Lexus says the non-h 350 scores a 6.6). Mid-range power from the 450h+ is quite satisfying as well, again buoyed by the strength of its powerful electric motors front and rear.

Even with its strong powertrain, the NX 450h+ is no performance vehicle. Its suspension errs on the side of compliance over flat cornering, and its steering is appropriate for a luxury crossover, by which we mean light and direct but never sporty or particularly communicative. Putting the vehicle into Sport or Sport+ firms up the ride and steering, if that’s something the driver feels is desirable. Normal felt about right to us, considering the NX’s mission statement.

The redesigned NX’s interior boasts a much more modern look than the model it replaced, which had been on sale since the 2015 model year. Lexus’ latest touchscreen infotainment system presents a simple user interface, and we’re happy to report that the old touchpads and mice of Lexus’ past have been dumped. We liked the big 14-inch screen in the 450h+ we drove; lower models come standard with a much smaller 9.8-inch unit. We do wish there were more user-definable screens since there’s so much real estate available, but at least the infotainment is snappy and reliable.

We found ourselves irritated by the unmarked buttons on the steering wheel that control functions viewed through the head-up display. You’d probably get used to them after a while if you owned the NX, but they certainly aren’t user-friendly at first. We’ll also note the inner door handles — we don’t talk about such handles often, since up until recently they’ve always just worked the way everything expects them to work — that can both electronically release the door latch with a press or mechanically do the same with a double pull. Lexus has reasons for this, particularly because they are supposed to disable opening when a person or object is in the blind spot, but we’re not convinced they are actually an improvement in the real world as opposed to tech for tech's sake.

Back to the NX’s size. It’s a little bit larger than the old NX, but it’s still cramped inside. There isn’t much cargo space and the back seat feels small and sort of cave-ish due to the exterior design. A comparison of spec sheets confirms that the NX is measurably smaller than all of its rivals, but for a couple there’s still plenty of room up front and certainly enough space for a weeklong getaway.

The biggest problem we have with the NX 450h+ is that, for 2023, it costs a whopping $14,600 more than the NX 350h. It’s a better overall package, with more power and potentially greater efficiency for owners that keep the battery pack topped up, but is it nearly $15,000 better? That’s obviously a question for each potential buyer, but our own personal pocketbooks are quivering at the thought.

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